A study has found that people prefer being given information on the 5:2 diet compared with standard GP weight management advice – but there was little difference between the two in weight loss over the course of a year.
Researchers compared providing usual weight loss advice around staying active and portion control as well as being given resources such as the NHS Change 4 Life booklet with some brief advice on how to do the 5:2 diet which involves sticking to 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days in 300 adults.
A third cohort who were advised about the 5:2 diet – made popular by Dr Michael Mosley in a BBC Horizon programme in 2012 and subsequent book – and also offered a six-week series of group support sessions.
The researchers, who carried out the trial in a community-based weight loss service in Tower Hamlets found that group support for the 5:2 approach led to better weight loss over the first six weeks but by one year there was no significant difference between the three groups.
After one year 15% of those who had received standard advice had lost at least 5% of their body weight, compared with 18% in those who received information about the 5:2 diet and 28% who had the information plus group support.
Yet when asked to rate each intervention, participants in the 5:2 diet group were more likely to recommend the approach to others or be willing to continue with their diet.
A larger trial may have been able to find some clearer differences in the borderline findings, the team from Queen Mary University of London said in PLoS ONE.
But they said while all groups achieved modest results, it could be argued that one-year weight loss of at least 5% in 15%-18% of participants is not negligible and that the 5:2 advice was more favourable to patients and is also much simpler and easier to deliver than guidance on complex lifestyle changes.
Both standard weight loss advice and guidance on the 5:2 diet, which included some examples of what meals could look like on the low-calorie days were done in 20 minute sessions.
Dr Katie Myers Smith, chartered health psychologist and senior research fellow at Queen Mary, 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.’
It comes as GP practices are paid £11.50 per referral under a new weight management enhanced service which launched in July this year.