WHAT WOULD you say if I told you that you could profoundly cut your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer? Significantly decrease your risk for Alzheimer's disease, too? And, better yet, that you could do all this without spending a single dime?
Wrong. All that and more may be possible simply by following the sage advice of Dr. Michael Mosley, a British medical journalist and co-author of The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting.
The "Fast Diet" is all the rage in Britain and could take flight here as well. A documentary about Mosley, "Eat, Fast, Live Longer," airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday on WHYY-TV 12.
I recently chatted with Mosley about his discovery, arrived at through self-experimentation and scientific research, that intermittent fasting is the superior method for achieving abundant health and longevity. The method is known as the 5:2 diet - five days of eating and drinking whatever you want and two days of fasting (consuming no more than 500 calories for women, 600 for men).
You choose your fasting days - they don't have to be consecutive - and there's no set menu except meeting the calorie requirement in Mosley's method. He has said that a 500- or 600-calorie limit is about a quarter of a regular day's food consumption.
When he fasts, Mosley drinks lots of plain black tea and miso soup.
"This started because I was not feeling well last year," Mosley told me. He was surprised to learn from his doctor that "I was suffering from high blood sugar, high cholesterol and [had] visceral fat inside my gut."
Mosley's concern was amplified by family history. "My father had died at age 73 of complications from diabetes," he said. "Now I was prediabetic. I knew something had to change."
So, he went on a personal journey and discovered that, paradoxically, less food was indeed the secret to more life. According to Mosley, when we fast, "The body goes into repair-and-recovery mode when it does not have to work on storing the food being consumed."
Scientific research supports this, and when you consider that our early ancestors lived a feast-or-famine existence, it all makes sense, right?
Astonishingly, though not significantly overweight, the 55-year-old, 5-foot-11-inch doc lost 20 pounds in a mere nine weeks following the 5:2 diet. He also decreased his blood sugar by 50 percent and significantly improved his cholesterol and body fat levels.
Could this simple dietary intervention change your life? Could a few days of fasting jolt your body into better health?
I believe it can!
For years, I have followed the work of CR Society International, which promotes the CRON (Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition) diet. I've also done some self-experimentation with positive results.
The intermediate-fasting 5:2 diet is like a modified calorie-restriction program that is perhaps a more palatable plan for most.
Of course, the critics say that it's all a bunch of hooey, another passing fad - pass the nachos!
But, perhaps, with any luck, this rudimentary and free method of self-healing will take off here and lead to a radical transformation in our nation's health.
Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears Wednesdays.