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Fish-Based Mediterranean Diet Plus Intermittent Fasting Key to Heart Health: Study

A Mediterranean diet with protein gained from fish and other seafood, as well as intermittent fasting could be the key to better health, according to research revealed Monday.

(CN) — A Mediterranean diet with protein gained from fish and other seafood, as well as intermittent fasting could be the key to better health, according to research revealed Monday.

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers set out to find a regiment that offered the health benefits of a plant-based diet without the difficulties that sometimes come with vegetarian or vegan lifestyles.

"Although humans are omnivores and can subsist on a myriad of foods, the ideal diet for health remains a dilemma for many people," said lead author James O'Keefe, director of preventive cardiology at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, in a statement.

"Plant-rich diets reduce cardiovascular disease risk; however, veganism is difficult to follow and can result in important nutrient deficiencies. On the other hand, many people in modern Western cultures over-consume meat, particularly highly processed meat from animals raised in inhuman conditions. We propose the pesco-Mediterranean diet as a solution to this 'omnivore's dilemma' about what to eat."

The Mediterranean diet is plant based, typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and olive oil. It also includes moderate portions of fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products, and very limited in red meat. 

According to multiple studies, the diet has shown the potential to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, depression, and even the chance of migraines. The researchers suggest combining the diet with a pescatarian diet, which uses fish as the main source of protein.

“A meta-analysis of five prospective dietary studies found that compared to regular meat-eaters, coronary artery disease mortality was 34% lower in those following a pescatarian diet,” the researchers said in a statement.

In the cardiologists’ proposed pesco-Mediterranean diet, they recommend using extra-virgin olive oil instead of other fats such as butter. The researchers said extra-virgin olive oil has shown to decrease bad cholesterol while also elevating good cholesterol. 

To fill out additional dietary need for fats, they recommend tree nuts, citing a clinical trial that showed “a daily serving of mixed nuts resulted in a 28% lower risk of heart disease.”

"There is no clear consensus among nutrition experts on the role of dairy products and eggs in heart disease risk, however we allowed for them in the pesco-Mediterranean diet," O'Keefe said. 

"Low-fat yogurt and cheeses are preferred; butter and hard cheese are discouraged due to a high concentration of saturated fats and salt,” he added. “Eggs contain beneficial nutrients and can be a healthy substitute for red meat; however, we recommend no more than five yolks be consumed per week."

In addition to the diet, the doctors recommended the practice of intermittent fasting, the practice of “limiting daily intake of calories in a specific time window (usually between eight to 12 hours) each day” which has shown to “reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.”

"Our ancient ancestors did not have access to an unlimited supply of food throughout the year. Nor did they routinely eat three large meals, plus snacks, daily. Focusing on fresh whole foods, along with fish, bestows a range of health benefits, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular health. The pesco-Mediterranean diet with daily time-restricted eating is an ideal cardioprotective diet," O'Keefe said.

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