Men do so love a linguistic distinction. Heaven forfend my husband should go on a diet like the rest of us scale quakers. No, he refuses to admit he's on anything as mundane and instead insists he is 'fasting' with its higher connotations of horse hair shirts and spiritual enlightenment. Whatever, so long as it shifts the fleshy goitre under his chin.
In his defence he has indeed been fasting for the last five months, the Christmas goitre is merely the after effects of spirited seasonal feasting.
Intermittent fasting has been sweeping the nation since early autumn, when the BBC's Horizon screened a fascinating documentary presented by Dr Michael Mosley in which he explored the health benefits that new scientific research has revealed about restricing one's daily calorie intake.
The 5:2 diet as it has become known is a bit of a misnomer, it's goal is better health and longevity and not just looking good on the beach. It takes its name from the protocol of fasting for two days a week and eating normally for the remaining five. In this instance fasting for men comes in at 600 calories per day and 500 for women. My husband has embarked on this because of health problems which exist in his family history, and as he figures, he has nothing to lose (except a few meals) and everything to gain.
In America, during the Great Depression, when food was scarce the overall longevity did not drop as might have been expected but actually rose by six years. Why? The key appears to be in the reduction of a growth hormone called IGF-1 which we require when we are growing, however high levels as we become older lead to biological ageing, cancers and diabetes. Reducing your IGF-1 switches on DNA repair genes and reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.
Fasting, according to scientists, is also exceptionally good for the brain, with some arguing that it is the equivalent of a gym workout for the body. Calorie restriction may delay mental deterioration connected with ageing by stimulating the growth of new brain cells. This is believed to be a throwback to ancient man as when hungry he had to use all of his mental resources to figure out a way to source or trap food in order to survive.
If you'd like to learn more about it I recommend picking up a copy of The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer but there are already numerous other books on the subject of the 5:2 diet on Amazon.
Just remember this is a lifestyle choice, not a short term 'diet' fix.