The 5:2 Diet Could Help Make Your Body More 'Resilient To Stress', Study Reveals

A new study has found that the ever popular 5:2 diet could actually help make your body more resilient to stress.

The diet, which has been endorsed by the likes of Miranda Kerr and Hugh Jackman, involves eating normally for five days a week and then fasting for two days of the week

It has also previously been linked with increasing life expectancy, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as improving cholesterol levels.

Researchers from the University of Florida set out to discover if fasting causes cells to become more resilient to damage in the absence of weight loss.

They did this by testing the effects of fasting on 24 healthy individuals.

Participants took part in two three-week treatment periods of intermittent fasting and intermittent fasting with antioxidant (Vitamins C and E) supplementation.

During this time, researchers detected a "marginal increase (2.7%) in SIRT3 expression due to the intermittent fasting diet".

Michael Guo, a co-author of the study and student at Harvard Medical School explained: “We found that intermittent fasting caused a slight increase to SIRT 3, a well-known gene that promotes longevity and is involved in protective cell responses.”

Through fasting every other day, the study revealed that the cells in the body make more copies of the SIRT3 gene, which in turn helps to prevent free radical production and improve cellular repair processes.

Another interesting finding from the study, which was published in the journal Rejuvenation Research, is that there was a significant decrease in levels of circulating insulin.

Scientists reveal that is important because when we become less sensitive to insulin, we are at risk for diabetes.

Additionally, with those who fasted while taking daily supplements of Vitamin C and E, the benefits usually associated with fasting disappeared completely.

Douglas Bennion and Martin Wegman, who are both MD-PhD students at University of Florida as well as co-authors of the study, believe that this is because "the cells were relatively sheltered from experiencing any oxidative stress that may have been caused by fasting every other day".

The cells didn’t respond by increasing their natural defenses and improving their sensitivity to insulin and other stress signals, which suggests that low levels of environmental stress from things like fasting could be good for the body.

Another interesting point they made is that antioxidant supplements could actually prevent the body's normal healthy cellular responses.

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But before you hail the 5:2 diet as a stress-busting miracle, it's worth taking note of the risks. Speaking to BBC Good Food, nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens reveals that pregnant and breast-feeding women, as well as diabetics on medication, should seek medical advice before trying the diet.

"Furthermore, this sort of diet can be unsafe for teenagers and children who are likely to miss out on crucial nutrients needed for growth and may be at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits," she says.

The diet can be especially tough at the beginning, with some people reporting low energy levels, poor concentration, headaches and dizziness on fasting days.

Torren's advice is that if you do choose to follow the diet then make sure that your non-fast days are "packed with nutritious options, including fruit, veg, wholegrains and lean protein such as chicken, fish, turkey and dairy foods".

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