I first became interested in intermittent fasting when I discovered, through a random blood test, that I had type 2 diabetes. The doctor said that I needed to go on medication. This was a nasty shock because my overweight dad had developed diabetes in his fifties and died of diabetes-related illnesses at the relatively young age of 74.
I didn’t want to go down the same path. So I set out to find out if there was a drug-free way to ‘cure’ my diabetes, and that’s when I first heard about the idea of periodically fasting for both weight loss and better general health. It sounded so interesting that I persuaded the BBC to let me make a science documentary about it called Eat, Fast, Live Longer, with myself as the guinea pig.
I tested a number of different forms of intermittent fasting before settling on the 5:2. Using that approach, I managed to lose 9kg and get my blood sugars back to normal, without medication. Then, a few years later, I came across some startling new research being carried out by Professor Roy Taylor, a diabetes specialist at Newcastle University.
He told me the main reason I had managed to knock my diabetes on the head was that I had lost a lot of weight, fast. He had done studies showing that, if you lose over 10% of your body weight (which I had), the fat is drained from your liver and pancreas, and your body is restored to its former health.
When we first met, Roy had just started a big trial, hoping to prove that an 800-calorie-a-day rapid weight loss diet would not only lead to massive weight loss but also help most patients with type 2 diabetes come off all medication and restore their blood sugars to normal. This was revolutionary stuff, as most doctors believe that type 2 diabetes is incurable and the only way to treat it is with drugs.