When I was a studying nutrition, there was a simple incontrovertible rule: “If the number of calories eaten exceeds the number of calories expended, you will put on weight”.
That was the answer to life, the universe and obesity. A calorie is a calorie, basic physics with which no-one can argue. However, as we looked around us, the question emerged – if this equation is so simple, then why has overweight and obesity continued to rise worldwide, with nearly 2/3 of all adults in the UK in these categories, while overall energy intakes have barely changed? As a famous Professor of mine said "Although the equation is simple, what happens within in the body is far more complicated and is not fully understood".
New and exciting research is starting to unravel this mystery, and one of these amazing research threads is showing that WHEN you eat calories may be as important as HOW MANY you eat. Research in this area has been growing and was recently highlighted on the BBC2 programme Trust me, I'm a Doctor which is fronted by a team of medical presenters, including Dr Michael Mosely.
You may know that Michael trained as a GP, but then went straight into broadcasting, first producing then presenting documentaries.
I first came across him when I saw his Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, which aired back in 2012, and followed his own personal journey into the use of fasting to reduce risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, a condition he has recently been diagnosed with. The programme highlighted some fascinating new research, and led Dr Mosely to come up with The 5:2 Fast Diet, an effective programme to lose weight and reduce risk of chronic disease by reducing your intake of calories to a quarter of their normal value twice a week (e.g. 500 to 600 calories), while allowing you to eat freely for the remaining 5 days. This diet has become very popular because of its simplicity and because it is easy to maintain in the long term.
Back to the new research. In the programme, normal volunteers were split into two groups. Both groups were told to eat their usual diet as normal, no change in foods, portions or calories. The only difference was that the test group were asked to eat their breakfast 90 minutes later than usual, and their dinner 90 minutes earlier than usual, thereby increasing the daily time when they weren't eating (between dinner and breakfast the next morning) by 3 hours. Same calories, so nothing will change right? Wrong. The test group actually lost more weight and lost more body fat than the control group JUST by changing the timing of this meals in this way. Amazing!
So, what's going on in the body? Click here here to read my full blog post on this article.
#calories #weightloss #thefastdiet
Dr Rafe Bundy PhD is a Nutritionist with 20 years experience. He helps people maximise their health and wellbeing, lose weight, and manage existing health conditions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org