Calorie-restricting diets don’t work, claims Dr Jason McKeown

The diets, endorsed by a host of celebrities, have risen in popularity in recent years as people desperately try to battle the bulge.

But the 5:2 diet, and other calorie-restricting regimes, don’t work in the long-term and are simply a waste of time and money, an expert today claimed.

However, Dr Jason McKeown, an Irish neuroscientist, explained how getting a trim figure is near-on impossible through cutting back calories.

He told MailOnline: ‘By all means, try dieting – but don’t blame whatever scheme you’ve bought into when it doesn’t work.’

Dr Jason McKeown, an Irish neuroscientist, explained how getting a trim figure is near-on impossible through cutting back calories

Dr McKeown, of the University of California San Diego’s Brain and Cognition Centre, argued brains have been ‘programmed to feel comfortable’ when weight increases.

But the brain, particularly the ‘mission control’ hypothalamus, defends that higher range when someone seeking to lose weight tries to diet.

‘Unfortunately our junk-food heavy diets have reset our brains and made this range higher – hence our bulging waistlines,’ Dr McKeown added.

‘Stimulating the hypothalamus in your brain can help you overcome this issue and help you achieve a leaner, healthier more athletic physique.’

It comes after Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, stressed back in March that ‘Britain needs to go on a diet’.

His comments came alongside a Government drive to slash portion sizes of some of the nation’s most popular foods, including pizzas and ready meals.

Officials are aiming to cut calorie consumption by 20 per cent by 2024. Eating too many calories is a known driving cause of obesity.

Figures suggest around half of Britons are on a diet at any one time – mostly women.

Beyonce has previously praised the 5:2 diet (pictured at Coachella festival earlier this month)

The trendy diets, endorsed by a host of celebrities, including the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, have risen in popularity in recent years


Thousands of Britons are making up bizarre reasons to avoid having to go to the gym, a poll suggests.

The survey of 2,000 adults found 82 per cent admit crafting an excuse to skip the weights at least three times a week.

‘I need to do some housework’ was used by a fifth of respondents, while ‘I need to Netflix and Chill’ was the go-to for 10 per cent.

The poll, commissioned by fitness app Esquared, found ‘it’s too much hassle’ was the most popular excuse, used by a third of people. And four per cent even admitted they told friends how they would ‘prefer to social stalk’ their ex-partner than go to the gym.

Esquared said ‘some people are Olympic-level excusercisers’.

Several diets have tapped into calorie-cutting, including the 5:2, made famous by medic and journalist Dr Michael Mosley. It involves eating normally for five days a week and then on two days a week cutting intake severely to just 600 calories a day.

Various medical studies have backed it up and found it can work – but Dr Mosley has previously admitted no studies have yet been published proving that intermittent dieting leads to long-term weight loss.

Speaking last year, Dr Mosley said: ‘On the 5:2 I lost 9kg and reversed my diabetes. The TV presenter Phillip Schofield told me that it has become a way of life for him.

‘I’ve read in the press that it has been embraced by celebrities such as Beyoncé, Benedict Cumberbatch, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck and Christie Turlington.

‘I have also had messages of thanks from thousands of people, ranging from, “I lost 40lb and a year later the weight is still gone” to “I can now take my jeans off without undoing them and I am happy to do so if anyone wants to watch!”‘

Several diets have tapped into calorie-cutting, including the 5:2, made famous by medic and journalist Dr Michael Mosley

And a study carried out in Manchester in 2017, which involved more than 100 women, found those on the 5:2 lost nearly twice as much fat as those allocated a standard diet.

But Dr McKeown said calorie-fasting diets are unlikely to work in the long-term. ‘It’s not me saying calorie-restricted diets are unlikely to succeed, it’s millennia of human evolution.’

Dr McKeown added: ‘Our brains control our weight, our metabolism and our hunger levels.

‘Specifically, studies over the last fifty years have consistently shown that the hypothalamus is “mission control” for our weight.

‘And our brains have both a very clear view of how much we should weigh and the ability to override attempts to weigh less.

It involves eating normally for five days a week and then on two days a week cutting intake severely to just 600 calories a day

‘This is why when people go on a diet and lose a certain amount of weight they often plateau and then, in the majority of cases, see their weight creep back up again.’

Dr McKeown, who also holds a role at the Queen’s University of Belfast, added this is usually a sign that their ‘brain is unhappy with the new lower weight’.

He said: ‘We all know that one person who can eat whatever they want and not put on weight, well scientifically they are programmed that way.

‘All of us have range of weight at which our brain is happy.

‘This range is negatively influenced by a poor, high sugar diet – which nudges the range up. The only way to influence weight in the long-term is to reset the range.’

Dr McKeown is the founder and chief executive of Modius – a gadget that stimulates the hypothalamus.

It does this by sending low-level electrical pulses to the vestibular nerve, located close to the skin’s surface behind the ear.

The stimulation is interpreted by the brain as the body being more physically active, triggering the hypothalamus to reduce fat storage.

Dr Monah Mansoori, a GP in west London and regular contributor to Sky News, BBC News and ITV’s This Morning said: ‘Neurotechnology may sound a little sci-fi but is steadily becoming better understood as a common modality for targeting health issues and increasingly for weight-loss.

‘As GPs we often see patients trying and failing on calorie restricted diets alone, added to which they often lose motivation and have difficulty maintaining any weight loss they do achieve.

‘For some people it just isn’t as simple as eating less and moving more, so harnessing technology which can improve weight-loss outcomes is certainly an area of great interest and there is over 50 years of research showing us that the brain plays a huge part in weight loss.’


Dr McKeown said he was pulling in his stomach in the left picture. He shows of the results of the Modius device on the right

Dr Jason McKeown claims he tested out a spare prototype of Modius and it dramatically reduced his body fat percentage.

The keen rugby player who said his diet was ‘alright’ was surprised to find out from a full body scan by a team from Ulster University that his body fat was 21 per cent.

‘We had a spare so rather than let it go to waste, I decided the to try it out myself… proof in the pudding and all that,’ he said.

‘I assumed that the scan results would show I was in peak physical condition.

‘Turns out I was actually carrying quite a bit of excess fat. More than one fifth of my entire body was pure, unadulterated fat.

‘It was all terribly embarrassing… my job was doing research on weight loss!’

So Dr McKeown used the weight loss neurostimulation – which involves two wires that are applied to the skin behind the ears, delivering electrical impulses through little sticky pads.

‘For about the first month I really didn’t notice anything happening… maybe my appetite was slightly less… it was hard to tell,’ he explained.

‘But ten weeks later I was definitely leaner. My belt buckle was moving in the ‘good’ direction! On average I was doing three sessions a week.’

He claimed when he tried it again for a TV documentary a year later his new body fat was 12.5 per cent.

‘The previous year my total fat mass was 18.3kg… this dropped by 8kg. That’s a 44 per cent reduction in one year.

‘I feel super healthy, which is great – and I don’t want to let that slip away.’

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