Fashionable fasting diets used by celebrities were actually invented by monks and hermits in the Middle Ages, it has been revealed.
There is a direct link between the 5:2 and DODO diets followed by stars such as Beyoncé and Benedict Cumberbatch and the spiritual eating devised hundreds of years ago to cleanse the mind and body.
Andrew Jotischky, Medieval History Professor at Lancaster University, is the author of ‘A Hermit’s Cookbook’ which has recipes from the Middle Ages including stew and bread soup.
The monks’ healthy, simple diet and their fasting habits are almost exactly the same as today’s celebrity weight loss plans, says the professor.
The idea behind the 5:2 diet is to eat normally for five days, while fasting on the other two days.
It is suggested that the dieter limits themself to 500 calories for two non-consecutive days a week.
However, they are given a free reign on their choice of food for the other five days.
Some studies suggest fasting once or twice a week can also protect the brain against illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The DODO - or Day On Day Off diet - follows a similar theory.
The lecturer in Lancaster University’s History Department has produced a detailed look at fasting and diet in the Middle Ages.
He believes the way the monks found, prepared and ate their food contains lessons that can - and are - being used in modern life.
Professor Jotischky said: ‘Hermits went out and found their food in the wild or grew it themselves.
‘In that respect they were very similar to some of today’s chefs, like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who use the same approach to prepare their dishes.
‘And of course, fasting played a major part in their lives. For them it was a spiritual act rather than a way to lose weight, but it made them very aware of the nature of food and eating.
‘As we have seen with recent dieting fads, we still look at fasting as a way of cleansing and improving our minds and our bodies.
‘There are great similarities between the hermits’ and monks’ diets and today’s current trendy weight-loss regimes.
‘The way they ate has a very modern dimension, and the superiority of home-grown and locally picked food is an argument they would have been very familiar with.
‘They would also be familiar with the debate over concerns over “food miles”. Monks and hermits gathered their food from nature.
Modern day hermit? Professor Jotischky says that hermits foraged for food in the wild or grew it themselves - much like some of today's chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
‘They also recognised the virtue of a diet of simple food that needed little or no preparation.’