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Dr. MICHAEL MOSLEY: Why the 5: 2 diet reversed my diabetes

Actual scientific breakthroughs are incredibly rare, so I have the privilege of witnessing firsthand, which I am sure will prove to be revolutionary

Actual scientific breakthroughs are incredibly rare, so I have the privilege of witnessing firsthand, which I am sure will prove to be revolutionary

We often read about newly discovered “miracle” medicines or “game-changing” health technology. But in reality, few have an impact on the world.

Actual scientific breakthroughs are incredibly rare, so I have the privilege of being a first-hand witness that I am sure will turn out to be revolutionary.

I am convinced that research by my friend Professor Roy Taylor and his colleagues from the University of Newcastle will change the way we treat the biggest health problem of our time – type 2 diabetes. These groundbreaking scientists have shown that this deadly condition, which affects around four million Britons, can be put into remission with a fast weight loss diet.

Now, in his new book, Living without diabetes, Prof. Taylor reveals the science behind his discoveries and how you can do the same at home.

In this week’s You magazine you will find an indispensable taste of Prof Taylor’s simple three-step eating plan. There are more than 20 delicious, low-calorie recipes to make the diet much easier to swallow.

Before Prof. Taylor’s discovery, it was thought that this urgent health problem – affecting twice as many people as 20 years ago – could not be reversed. It was a lifelong disorder and inevitably progressive. Complications include an increased risk of heart disease, dementia, amputation, blindness and renal failure. People would be advised to take tablets and hope for the best. But thanks to a groundbreaking study, called DiRECT, conducted by Prof Taylor and his colleague Professor Mike Lean at the University of Glasgow, we now know that this does not have to be the case.

I was so impressed with their research that I used it as inspiration and adjusted it somewhat for my Eight-week blood sugar diet where I ate 800 calories a day for 12 weeks. I am happy to say that it has helped thousands of readers to remedy their diabetes so far.

This approach is predicted to cause a seismic change in the way doctors treat the condition, saving the NHS millions of pounds.

A recent study showed that an 800-calorie diet could lower the annual treatment costs for type 2 diabetes. Currently, each patient’s treatment costs around £ 2,800 each year, which is about ten percent of the annual NHS budget. But dietary interventions, such as those developed by Prof Taylor, cost just over £ 1,000 per patient.

I would like to explain how I got to know Prof Taylor – both personally and professionally – and show you how, if you have raised blood sugars – and perhaps are on the point of diabetes – you can make them back to normal with a fast weight loss diet. I should know – I’ve been there …


My first meeting with Professor Taylor, in June 2014, followed my own fight with type 2 diabetes.

As I wrote earlier in this newspaper, I was diagnosed with the condition eight years ago after a routine blood test.

My doctor said that there was nothing else to do but take medication. I would start with the much-prescribed metformin, but there was a 50-50 chance that I would be forced to inject myself with insulin within a decade. Of course I was shocked.

My father had developed type 2 diabetes in the late 1950s and despite medication he died of complications from that disease, including heart failure. I didn’t want to follow his example, so I looked for answers elsewhere.


Almost four million Britons have type 2 diabetes, but it is still a hidden disease.

One in four people in the UK who don’t know yet and sometimes they only find out if they have a screening for NHS above 40. About one in three adults has prediabetes, with blood sugars being abnormally high but not yet in the diabetes range.

With prediabetes there are no symptoms – it is usually picked up by a random blood test. Unless it is treated, many will continue to develop diabetes, but if you lose weight, especially around the gut, you will greatly reduce the risk.

Professor Taylor’s three-step diet (on pages 31 to 46 of You magazine) may help …

I soon came across research that showed the benefits of something that was little known at the time, called intermittent fasting. It was about limiting calories for part of the week and led to my discovery of a new approach to weight loss, which I called 5: 2. For those who are not yet familiar with it, it means that you only reduce calories two days a week.

Over the course of two months, I lost nearly a stone and a half – and my blood sugar levels returned to normal, where they have since gone. This turned out to be the inspiration for my first international bestseller, The Fast Diet, with journalist Mimi Spencer.

Despite this success, I still did not fully understand the science behind my health transformation. Then I read about Prof Taylor’s work. It was very logical, so I went by train to his research center at the University of Newcastle to find out more.

He explained that the reason I had developed the condition in the first place was that I had accumulated too much fat around my gut over the years. This fat began to clog my liver and pancreas, so they no longer worked properly. These organs are vital for regulating blood sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s system to regulate blood sugar levels goes wrong.

Prof. Taylor, who is an honorary endocrinology adviser at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, has also introduced me to something he called “the personal fat threshold.” This is partly the reason why some people can become enormously overweight without developing diabetes, while others can have a healthy weight and still get diabetes.

Your personal fat threshold is largely determined by your genes – having a close family member with diabetes, like I did, puts you at a much higher risk.

But there was good news. He had conducted studies that showed that most people could reduce their blood sugar levels to non-diabetic levels by losing just one gram of fat from their pancreas. To do that, they had to lose about ten percent of their body weight. Then Professor Taylor told me about an upcoming test called DiRECT – which would prove to be hugely important.


Together with Mike Lean, professor of human nutrition at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and supported by a multi-million pound grant from the Diabetes UK charity, Prof Taylor recruited nearly 300 type 2 diabetes patients.

Half were asked to follow a rapid weight loss approach to treatment and the other half received standard NHS care. Patients in the weight loss group received a strict 800-calorie-per-day eating plan for up to 12 weeks, consisting of three meal-replacement shakes.

The first findings, published at the end of 2018, were sensational. Those who ate 800 calories a day for 12 weeks lost an average of one and a half stones – and the weight stayed away for more than a year.


I am not the only Mosley who was inspired by the work of Prof Taylor. My middle son Jack, who is now a physician at the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire, was so interested in the work of the professor that he decided to do a research project where he would try to find out why some DiRECT participants took the weight could hold off, while others could not.

Under the leadership of Professor Taylor himself, Jack conducted numerous interviews with people who had completed the diet.

Their answers were fascinating.

Proud of overcoming the disease, stimulating mood with regular exercise and having fun buying new, smaller clothing were all effective motivating factors.

Close band: Dr. Michael Mosley depicted with his sons, from left, Alex, Jack and Dan

Close band: Dr. Michael Mosley depicted with his sons, from left, Alex, Jack and Dan

Close band: Dr. Michael Mosley depicted with his sons, from left, Alex, Jack and Dan

But one of the most important factors in maintaining weight loss was support from family and friends.

All participants were confronted at some point with emotional challenges – injury, family tragedy or the loss of a job, for example.

Going through a low patch often led to comfort food.

The main difference between unsuccessful and successful dieters was that while the former returned, the latter did not.

And those who were most successful were the participants with the greatest support from family and friends.

It was crucial that someone encouraged them through difficult times.

For comparison: the control group lost on average just over 2 pounds. In addition, half of the 800 calorie patients put their diabetes in remission. Their blood sugar levels returned to normal without medication. Only four percent in the control group succeeded in achieving this.

A follow-up study was published last year and the 800 calorie group impressively managed to hold off most of the weight.

Although they took much less medication, they also continued to have lower blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure than the control group.

In the group receiving standard NHS care, two had strokes, one had an amputation and the other unfortunately died of complications from the disease.

Other research has tested different versions, for example exchanging some calories in shakes for a small portion of vegetables to increase the gut-friendly fiber.

The results of the DiRECT study were so promising that NHS leaders announced that more than 5,000 patients will be offered a rapid weight loss program, starting in April.

We used to be told: take pills and hope for the best. One man changed all that

We used to be told: take pills and hope for the best. One man changed all that

We used to be told: take pills and hope for the best. One man changed all that

As Prof. Lean told me: “For years we have been telling type 2 diabetes patients to take the pills and not worry.

“It’s time to tell them that this is a serious illness with annoying complications, especially if you develop it in your 40s or 50s. But the good news is that with the right help, many people can now shoot at it. “


Another good news is that you don’t have to be part of a medical study to see these phenomenal results – thousands of people have had great success with these types of programs.

If you do it at home, the circumstances are of course different. For example, in the DiRECT study, patients were asked to consume special shakes for meal replacement. These shakes can be very useful, especially when you start. But you can also do it with real, solid food.

A small study conducted by researchers at Oxford University randomly assigned 33 obese patients with type 2 diabetes to a diet with 800 calories per day or standard care.

Patients received advice from health professionals – including ideas for recipes – and prepared meals for themselves at home.

After three months, those with the 800 calorie diet lost an average of one and a half stones and saw large drops in their blood sugar levels.

Just like in the DiRECT study, many were able to get rid of their medication.

There are many more recipes that stay within the 800 daily calorie limit on my website, thefast800.com.

But what if a fast weight loss diet is not for you? Any diet that loses enough weight to unclog your pancreas will almost certainly help. “Enough” usually means ten percent of your body weight – or at least 22 pounds if you are overweight.

A tried and tested method for losing weight more slowly is through the 5: 2 diet, as I did.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet five days a week and stay away from sweet, greasy things such as chocolate and chips. Then hold it for two days at 800 calories.

In a recent Australian study with 137 patients with type 2 diabetes, those on a 5: 2 diet managed to maintain an average weight loss of about a stone over the course of a year, leading to major improvements in blood sugar levels. The participants who were the most diligent withheld an average of 1 pound.

In Professor Taylor’s three-step plan in the You magazine, he recommends using three small and healthy meals daily for long-term weight retention and 100 calories of vegetables for extra fiber. The specially prepared recipes contain imaginative things that you can do with vegetables that will help the process.

Today, he recommends a total limit of a slightly stricter 700 calories, to make room for a strange cup of tea – which we know the British have a hard time living without.

If you can do this, great. But many struggle with this, knowing that they will be tempted by the occasional weekend of takeaway or chocolate bar.

So some people find it easier to hold on to a 5: 2 diet because it leaves room for the strange treat. Of course, make sure it is really occasional.

Living without diabetes, by Professor Roy Taylor, is published by Short Books, for £ 9.99.