Move over, followers of the Atkins diet, Mediterranean diet and vegan plans.
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A new diet book -- one that promotes fasting two days a week by drastically cutting calories and then eating normally the other five days -- is catching on with dieters, but it already has its British author unexpectedly on the defensive.
The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy and Live Longer With the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting (Atria Books, $24), by British physician Michael Mosley and writer Mimi Spencer, is No. 46 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list. Mosley stars in an upcoming three-part PBS series. The first part, Eat, Fast and Live Longer With Michael Mosley, airs April 3.
The diet has a following in the United Kingdom, including some cardiovascular surgeons, TV journalists, chefs and celebrities.
But the book is generating a bit of controversy on this side of the pond. Obesity experts in the USA say the diet may be hard for many people to adhere to, and more research needs to be done to determine if it's safe and effective. And one U.S. researcher doesn't like how her work was used to support the diet.
"I am a scientist at heart, and I do not remotely claim that this is the be-all and end-all," Mosley says. "It's just the beginning of something interesting. People need to try it for themselves and see if it works."
Mosley, 55, who works for the BBC as a medical journalist, says that when he first read about intermittent fasting, he was skeptical about benefits, too. "Nothing in my medical training had prepared me for this," he says. Although most of the world's great religions advocate fasting for faith purposes and some for health reasons, it seemed drastic and difficult to him.
But then Mosley had some medical tests done and discovered he had some risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, and he was a bit too heavy. "My doctor recommended I go on medication for high blood sugar and high cholesterol. She predicted that in 10 years I would be on eight different medications. I decided I wanted to find a different way."
So he asked his boss at the BBC if he could use himself as a "guinea pig" to explore the science behind life extension, which focuses on calorie restriction and fasting.
Based on his review of the research, he created what he calls the "5:2 diet." Five days a week, he eats normally; two days a week, he eats 600 calories. For women, he recommends 500 calories on the fasting days. That would be about two poached eggs on a slice of whole-grain toast and a bowl of raspberries for one meal, and roasted salmon with green beans and cherry tomatoes for another.
'One meal, if you fancy'
Daily caloric needs vary depending on gender, age, height and physical-activity level. An older sedentary woman might need only 1,600 calories a day to maintain her weight, while an active younger man might need 3,000.
Mosley divides his calories on the fasting days into two meals -- breakfast and lunch. "You can have it all in one meal, if you fancy. I found I was really quite irritable if I didn't have breakfast."
If people eat 500 or 600 calories on the two fasting days each week and don't
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