A randomised controlled trial of the 5:2 diet

Peter Hajek, Dunja Przulj, Francesca Pesola, Sarrah Peerbux, Hayden McRobbie, Anna Phillips‐Waller, Natalie Louise Bisal, Katie Myers Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


Objective The 5:2 diet is a popular intermittent energy restriction method of weight management that awaits further evaluation. We compared the effects of one-off 5:2 instructions with the effects of one-off standard multicomponent weight-management advice; and also examined whether additional behavioural support enhances 5:2 adherence and efficacy compared to one-off instructions. Methods Three hundred adults with obesity were randomised to receive a Standard Brief Advice (SBA) covering diet and physical activity (N = 100); 5:2 self-help instructions (5:2SH) (N = 100); or 5:2SH plus six once-weekly group support sessions (N = 100). Participants were followed up for one year. Results Adherence to 5:2SH was initially high (74% at 6 weeks), but it declined over time (31% at 6 months and 22% at one year). 5:2SH and SBA achieved similar weight-loss at six months (-1.8kg (SD = 3.5) vs -1.7kg (SD = 4.4); b = 0.23, 95%CI:-0.79-1.27, p = 0.7) and at one year (-1.9kg (SD = 4.9) vs -1.8kg (SD = 5.7), b = 0.20, 95%CI:-1.21-1.60, p = 0.79), with 18% vs 15% participants losing ≥5% of their body weight with 5:2SH and SBA, respectively at one year (RR = 0.83, 95%CI:0.44-1.54, p = 0.55). Both interventions received positive ratings, but 5:2SH ratings were significantly higher. 5:2SH had no negative effect on fat and fiber intake and physical activity compared to SBA. Compared to 5:2SH, 5:2G generated a greater weight loss at 6 weeks (-2.3kg vs -1.5kg; b = 0.74, 95%CI:1.37-0.11, p = 0.02), but by one year, the difference was no longer significant (-2.6kg vs -1.9kg, p = 0.37; ≥5% body weight loss 28% vs 18%, p = 0.10). Conclusions Simple 5:2 advice and multicomponent weight management advice generated similar modest results. The 5:2 diet did not undermine other health behaviours, and it received more favourable ratings. Adding initial group support enhanced 5:2 adherence and effects, but the impact diminished over time. Health professionals who provide brief weight management advice may consider including the 5:2 advice as an option.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0258853
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Hajek et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Dive into the research topics of 'A randomised controlled trial of the 5:2 diet'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this