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10 most popular diets reviewed by professionals - from 5:2 to WeightWatchers & Slimming World

With so many diet options to choose from, it can be hard to find a weight loss plan to suit you.

As part of the NHS Choices website, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) took a look at the pros and cons of some of the most popular diets and dieting methods around - and gave their verdict. Here is what they said:

The 5:2 diet

The 5:2 diet is based on a principle known as intermittent fasting (IF) – where you eat normally for five days a week and fast on the other two days. On top of losing weight, fans claim the 5:2 diet can improve lifespan and brain function, and protect against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

However, evidence on the effectiveness of the 5:2 diet is limited when compared with other types of weight loss techniques. One 2010 study found women placed on a 5:2 diet achieved similar levels of weight loss to women on a calorie-controlled diet, and were also less likely to develop chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. There is some evidence that the 5:2 model may help lower the risk of certain obesity-related cancers, such as breast cancer.

Pros:

Sticking to a regimen for two days a week is more achievable than seven days, so you are more likely to persevere with this way of eating and successfully lose weight. Two days a week on a restricted diet can lead to greater reductions in body fat, insulin resistance and other chronic diseases.

Cons:

The non-restricted days do not mean unlimited feasting. While you don’t need to be as strict about your calorie consumption, you still need to make healthy choices and be physically active.

Skipping meals could make you feel dizzy, irritable, give you headaches and make it hard to concentrate, which can affect work and other daily tasks. Other reported side effects are difficulties sleeping and daytime sleepiness, bad breath, and dehydration.

BDA verdict:

The 5:2 is a simple way to reduce calorie intake. There are lots of versions of this diet, with some less safe than others. Many studies on intermittent fasting are short-term, involve small numbers of subjects, or are animal-based. If you choose to follow it, choose an evidence-based plan based on healthy, balanced eating and written by a dietitian. It’s vital for your health to avoid nutritional deficiencies, dehydration and overeating on non-fast days. Never attempt to delay or skip meals if you are pregnant, have had, or are prone to eating disorders or diabetes.

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