Battle of the diets - The Alkaline vs the 5:2

Both diets claim to shed pounds within a week.

Can either of the hot new regimes make the pounds melt away?

The Alkaline Diet

What is it?

Gwyneth Paltrow is a devotee of the Alkaline Diet

The Honestly Healthy Alkaline Programme. With celebrity devotees including Victoria Beckham, Kirsten Dunst and Gwyneth Paltrow, the Alkaline diet is hotter than ever. Think Atkins for 2013. The programme involves eating mainly alkaline foods in order to keep the body's pH between 7.35 and 7.45.

How does it work?

Our blood is slightly alkaline, with a normal pH level of between 7.35 and 7.45. The theory behind the alkaline diet is that our diet should reflect this pH level as it did in the hunter-gatherer days when we ate fewer acid-producing foods such as grains, fish, meat, poultry, dairy and salt.

Alkaline diet followers believe that a diet high in acid-producing foods disrupts this balance and promotes the loss of essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium. This imbalance is thought to make people prone to illness and gaining weight.

The ultimate aim is to eat 70 per cent alkaline foods and 30 per cent acid foods, meaning you can still have some of the so-called ‘bold’ foods, such as pasta and rice.

What do the experts say?

They’re not 100% convinced. “The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body's ideal pH balance to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet," says British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Rick Miller. "The diet's premise is to increase alkalizing foods, such as fruit and vegetables, and reduce your intake of acid foods such as meat, salt, and refined grains. Well, that's pretty much what we consider as healthy eating anyway and if you're overweight, of course it will probably help you shift some pounds."

What’s the reality?

Fans of this diet say the fact that it's un-faddy makes it easier. But the regime warns against any "very acid-forming" foods, such as starchy grains and vegetables, all dairy products, meat, fish and shellfish. You can also forget about indulging in coffee, tea, sugar, fizzy drinks including soda and tonic water and alcohol. Monitoring your pH levels isn't very glamorous either – you have to test your urine.

PROS: Not only will it help you shift the pounds, it’s said to heal a wide range of ailments including diabetes, cancer, arthritis and slows the ageing process. Fans also say it will help prevent headaches, bloating, heart disease, muscle pain and insomnia.

CONS: Be careful of the way you cook your vegetables. Raw spinach is alkaline, but when you cook it, it becomes acidic. This means learning about the acid content in every single morsel you consume.

 

 

 

 

5:2 Diet

What is it?

Scheduled fasting, basically. You eat normally for five days and severely restrict your calories for the other two – 600 calories for men and 500 for women. It's up to the dieter how they divide them up on your diet days. The rest of the time, you eat what you want.

How does it work?

The rationale behind it centres on the effects of fasting on levels of a hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1). Restricting the calories you consume, so the theory goes, lowers blood levels of IGF-1, which can be dangerous in adulthood, protecting you against some major diseases. The sheer simplicity of the diet has no doubt had a hand in its phenomenal success.

What do the experts say?

Despite the claims that it helps people lose weight, increases their life spans, improves cognitive function and protects against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's, the medics say that none of this has been effectively proven.

"Yes, there's some work on the effects of intermittent fasting on ageing and cognitive decline, but almost all these studies involve rodents, not humans, and the work on preventing diseases took place in laboratory conditions, with no guarantee of successful real-world outcomes," Miller adds.

What’s the reality?

So far, there are conflicting reports about the diet – to put it simply, it’s both easy and hard. On fasting days, it's hard not to give into snacks, but the rest of the time, you can eat what you want so there's no guilt.

PROS: Weight loss is very nearly guaranteed. People have reported losing up to 12lbs in two weeks.

 

CONS: Reduced energy levels on fasting days and unless you increase your water consumption on your diet days, you risk wreaking havoc with your digestive system, in particular, constipation.

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