Rishi Sunak's 36 hours fast: Medical experts reveal benefits and side effects

What is the purpose of Rishi Sunak's 36-hour fasting and can it help you with health problems? Read below to find out how 5:2 diet effects your body.

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Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak's 5:2 diet regime is analyzed by experts. Ritika Samaddar who is the regional head of the Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, and Dr Priyanka Rohatgi who practices as a chief nutritionist both analyzed the results for this ratio of fasting.

PM Rishi Sunak's diet 

Sunak revealed during an interview on January 30, that he fasted for 36 hours, between Sunday 5 pm and Tuesday 5 am. He stuck to the diet of “water, tea, and calorie-free drinks”. During last year's podcast, he disclosed that he skipped breakfast to keep a 12 to 14 hour gap between eating windows. This intermittent fasting style is considered more rigorous.

How does 5:2 diet reduce body weight?

Ritika Samaddar reveals “The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for five days per week, then restricting your calorie intake to 300–500 calories on the other two days. That minimal energy is coming from the low calorie beverages and fluids he has during this window. Faced with such a calorie deficit, the body starts breaking its fat tissue reserves to fuel itself up, resulting in weight loss."

Benefits of 5:2 diet

Samaddar explains that this diet ratio helps the body to detox itself and the body gets a chance to rest and recover. She further states “This healing phase gives insulin a rest and improves its sensitivity and efficiency. Therefore, this routine could help those who are overweight and in the prediabetes stage reverse their condition. Besides, it also reduces inflammation, the trigger for cardiovascular and gut issues.”

Dr Priyanka Rohatgi conveyed that losing weight through this diet regime helps to “activate autophagia, a natural process to clear damaged cells and promote regeneration of healthy cells. This protects you against heart disease, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. It also helps you regulate cholesterol levels.” 

Side Effects of 5:2 diet

There are many unpleasant side effects of intermittent fasting such as fatigue, hunger, irritability, insomnia, decreased concentration, constipation, nausea, and headaches. Dr Rohatgi has disclosed that most side effects subside within a month. 

Samaddar warned “You shouldn’t go overboard on non-fast days. Sunak says he loves sweets and likes pastries. Fasting should not be followed by binging." Here she emphasizes that dieting also needs to be practiced in balance otherwise it is of no use. Dr Rohatgi seconded this idea as she explained, “Going too long without eating might actually encourage your body to start storing more fat in response to starvation."

Longer duration without food, such as 24-, 36-, 48- and 72-hour fasting periods, can be dangerous. Both feel that extreme regimes are not sustainable in the long term. They believe that seven to eight hours of sleep and moderate intensity exercise are more beneficial. Samaddar empathizes that such diets should not be followed by those under the age of 25, pregnant women, people with co-morbidities, and individuals on medication. 

Samaddar says such diet regimes should not be attempted at all by youngsters under the age of 25 and pregnant women, both of whom have a higher calorie requirement. “Neither should people with co-morbidities or those on medication,” she adds.

Both of the experts conveyed that extreme regimens like these are not sustainable. They suggested that sleeping seven to eight hours, correcting your diet, and intensity exercise are more beneficial.