People prefer information on the 5:2 diet than standard GP weight management advice despite both interventions achieving similar modest weight-loss results, a new study suggests.
The trial is the first randomised evaluation of the 5:2 diet, a popular type of intermittent fasting regime, researchers say.
The diet is a weight-loss method whereby people restrict their eating on two non-consecutive days a week and then apply sensible eating on the remaining days.
Over the course of a year, scientists studied the long-term effects of providing 5:2 diet instructions compared to traditional weight-loss advice in 300 UK adults with obesity.
We found that although the 5:2 diet wasn’t superior to traditional approaches in terms of weight loss, users preferred this approach as it was simpler and more attractive
Dr Katie Myers Smith
They found that long-term weight loss was similar for those who received 5:2 diet or standard weight management advice.
Eighteen percent and 15% of participants, respectively, lost at least 5% of their body weight in one year.
According to the study, when asked to rate each intervention, those on the 5:2 diet were more likely to recommend it to others or continue with the regime.
Previous evidence suggests peer support could be important for encouraging dieters to adhere to and realise the effects of the 5:2 diet.
In order to test this, the researchers studied the impact of a weekly support group in addition to the simple advice.
They found that while face-to-face support initially generated better early effects and improved adherence to the 5:2 diet, these effects weakened over time.
Researchers suggest the findings indicate that providing brief advice on the 5:2 diet could extend the options clinicians can offer to patients.
Based on these findings, GPs may consider recommending the 5:2 diet as part of their standard weight management advice
Dr Katie Myers Smith
Dr Katie Myers Smith, chartered health psychologist and senior research fellow at Queen Mary University of London said: “Here we’ve been able to provide the first results on the effectiveness of simple 5:2 diet advice in a real-life setting.
“We found that although the 5:2 diet wasn’t superior to traditional approaches in terms of weight loss, users preferred this approach as it was simpler and more attractive.
“Based on these findings, GPs may consider recommending the 5:2 diet as part of their standard weight management advice.”
In the study, traditional weight management advice on diet and exercise consisted of a 20-minute session where an advisor explained the programme to patients.
They went over key tips provided in supporting materials including the British Heart Foundation guides Facts Not Fads and Get Active, Stay Active, the NHS Change 4 Life series of booklets and a leaflet listing local resources for exercise.
Participants in the 5:2 group were given a leaflet on restricting their caloric intake on two non-consecutive days a week, with examples of meals containing the required amount of calories, and pointers to additional online support as part of an individual 20-minute session.
Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and led by Queen Mary University of London, the study is published in Plos One.