How that semi-enforced ‘Ashtanga diet’ might be really good for you

Ever hear of the 5:2 diet?

Well, you may be following it, nevertheless. And scientists are now investigating whether, and how, it may be really, really good for you.

We found out more at NPR’s food blog, The Salt:

But what if the payoff for a 16-hour fast — which might involve skipping dinner, save a bowl of broth — is a boost in energy and a decreased appetite?

This is what we’ve experienced as we’ve tried out the so-called 5:2 diet. It’s an intermittent fasting approach that, as we’ve reported, has been popularized by booksby British physician and television broadcaster Michael Mosley. The diet calls for two days per week of minifasting where the aim is to go a long stretch, say 14 to 18 hours, without eating. During these two fasting days, you also eat only about 600 calories, give or take.


It’s not really weight loss we’re interested in (though, admittedly, we ate and drank too much over the holidays).

The fascination is what researchers say may be the broader benefits. Scientists are looking into how fasting may help control blood sugar, improve memory and energy and perhaps boost immunity.


Mark Mattson, a researcher at the National Institute of Aging, says when we go without food, the body uses up its stored glucose, the basic fuel for the body, and starts burning fat.

Mattson is interested in what happens to the brain — in terms of memory and learning — when the body starts to burn fat for fuel. And he’s been studying animals, mainly mice, for clues.

During fasting, he says, fat can convert to compounds called ketones, “which have beneficial effects in making neurons more resistant to injury and disease.” He’s planning a study in people to evaluate what effect intermittent fasting may have on brain health.

And, as Eliza has reported, scientists are also studying how intermittent fasting may help boost immunity, perhaps by making cells more adaptive to stresses such as injury and disease.

There’s more at the link.

What caught our attention was the idea of its involving skipping dinner or, maybe put in a more healthy way, having an early dinner. Like quite a few Ashtanga practitioners we know do. Dinner by 5 p.m., early to bed, early to rise, practice … and maybe get to eating around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.

Or about 16 hours later.

Our experience with this was mostly during our two trips to India, particularly the first one. Did it help improve out focus? Hard to tell, given all the extra variables with traveling in India. But maybe.

And it may be another of those Ashtanga routines that, just coincidentally, turn out to be really good for you.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “How that semi-enforced ‘Ashtanga diet’ might be really good for you”

  1. One of my favorite quotes (although there are a lot of variations) is from Alexander Suvorov, a Russian general from the 1790s: “Keep your head cold, your feet warm and your stomach hungry.” I’ve been doing a 36-hour fast (Saturday night to Monday morning) every week since 1989. When I read about intermittent fasting, I added skipping breakfast and lunch on Wednesdays. I can’t say it’s good for weight loss but it really is invigorating. It makes my perceptions sharp and my mind seems very clear. I feel like my body takes that opportunity to do some maintenance.

    Unrelated: I meant to alert you to an article I read on the BBC website a couple of weeks ago but wasn’t sure how to contact you on it. It was about how Sanskrit has survived in one town in India. You can probably search the BBC News website if you’re interested.

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