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Mediterranean Diet Plus Intermittent Fasting: Does It Work?

intermittent fasting

So a new diet trend is rising and it’s called Intermittent Fasting and the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, but in case you’re skeptical whether it works or not, then just keep reading this article to find out.

Heart disease is one of the most common illnesses in the United States, and it also happens to be one of the most deadly. What you eat is the biggest determinating factor in your cardiovascular health, and a new study that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology revealed that one particular diet – the Pesco-Mediterranean diet – done in tandem with intermittent fasting show a significant risk reduction of heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that heart disease kills 1 out of every 4 individuals in the United States each year and is also the among the highest cause of death among adults in America.

Why this is a Heart-Healthy Diet
What is a Pesco-Mediterranean diet? Well, it includes a lot of plants, nuts, whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil. It’s almost vegan had the fish and other seafood not been part of it, but still it is very healthy. It also restricts how much dairy products and eggs you consume to a healthy amount. According to a new research, this type of diet reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, and some cancers. The reason behind this is because the Pesco-Mediterranean diet has more inclusive high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (aka “good” cholesterol) in its meals, while excluding low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol).

A meta-analysis was done of 5 different dietary research revealed that the pescatarian diet significantly dropped the coronary artery disease mortality rate to 34% when compared to the usual meat-based diet. Incorporating the Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting further reduced this percentage, which means the Pesco-Mediterranean diet is an absolute win for those who will follow it.

Dr. Anjali Dutta, cardiologist, New York-Presbyterian Medical Group in Queens, New York said that because the Pesco-Mediterranean diet emphasizes on the consumption of fish and/or seafood as the primary source of protein, as well as recommending sufficient intake of plants, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil; the human body will most likely absorb nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium which are responsible for decreased incidence of metabolic syndrome, and as result prevent heart disease.

Nicole Roach, a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital has said that a Mediterranean-based diet potentially has lower calories, sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat compared to other diet plans. There are almost zero processed foods in the Mediterranean diet and by following this diet (plus doing intermittent fasting), you can expect to see positive results like increased good cholesterol, decreased bad cholesterol, lowered blood pressure (among other things). Another health benefit this diet program gives is weight loss. In fact, you’re more likely to lose weight in this diet than spending lots of hours in the gym and the best thing about it is that you won’t have to sacrifice your favorite foods while you’re at it.

Dutta also said that a diet rich in nuts like the Mediterranean diet not only provides a good source of protein, but also improves insulin sensitivity, vascular reactivity, and a reduction in inflammation. Then there’s extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). This oil which is also called “green gold” has been the subject of multiple scientific studies for decades now and researchers found that it has the ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels, which can significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Consumption of fish and seafood, especially when they’re consumed fresh, is believed to reduce heart disease due largely in fact to omega-3 fatty acids. When you incorporate intermittent fasting to the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, you essentially have a miracle of epic proportions. Dr. Michael E. Ford, an internist at New York-Presbyterian Medical Group in the Hudson Valley also said that a Pesco-Mediterranean diet is so far apart from the typical American diet that is over-reliant on animal protein from processed foods.

How Intermittent Fasting Can Help

But there’s another crucial part of the research that demands attention (which is why we keep mentioning it throughout the article) – intermittent fasting. The study discovered that by including intermittent fasting to the Pesco-Mediterranean diet it significantly lowers the risk of heart disease. Intermittent fasting is the practice of limiting the consumption of calories in a specified time frame that you can do either every day or each week. When you follow this diet, you must only eat between either 8 and 12 hours each day or pick out a few days each week that you will consume very little calories.

Research shows that there is a link between intermittent fasting and the reduction of inflammation. When inflammation is absent in the body it prevents diseases like diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Arielle Leben, MS, registered dietitian at NYU Langone Health noted that one of the benefits of pairing the Pesco-Mediterranean diet with intermittent fasting is that it encourages people to eat real foods, instead of the non-healthy alternatives that usually contain large amounts of added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats, which can have a negative health impact on your body. Keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not for everyone and there has never been a scientifically-backed proof that this fasting method is more effective for weight loss than the usual limiting caloric intake method.

However, there is evidence that seems to indicate that it can improve cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and inflammation. It can also be a pivotal strategy to use in your weight loss aims, as it cuts daily calorie consumption down by as much as 60% and forces the body to use up the stored fats instead of using glucose as your body’s primary metabolic fuel that comes from the food you eat. Scientists have long suspected that intermittent fasting creates the necessary conditions that improve heart health with the main catalyzing factor being a reduced inflammation in the human body. In this sense, the proposed mechanism of benefit is the same as the Pesco-Mediterranean diet and the whole foods plant-based diet.

People who have insulin-dependent diabetes, osteopenia, anemia, or a history of eating disorders are cautioned to not follow the Pesco-Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting right off the bat, because their blood glucose level are not normal and it could harm them seriously if they’re not careful. You may need to talk to your endocrinologist or primary care physician first before adopting any diet program that you think may have some health benefits for you.

Seafood as Key Component of the Mediterranean Diet
Countries located near the Mediterranean Sea will naturally adopt fish and seafood diet and over the Millennia these types of food have indeed became a staple and important components of the Mediterranean diet. There are epidemiological studies that confirm the cardioprotective properties of fish due to the omega-3 fatty acids from it. A meta-analysis of 16 different group researches with 422,786 observations that centered on dietary fatty acids and CVD risk discovered that there was a 13% reduced risk when the extreme consumption of omega-3 fatty acids was compared.

There is also a collection of similar research from 16 countries reported that plasma or adipose tissue levels of omega-3 fatty acids were linked to a reduced risk of fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease comparing extreme quintiles. Based on these studies, experts found out that higher fish consumption has a link to reduced risk of heart failure and a reduction in the incidence of metabolic syndrome (fried fish will not likely have similar health benefits).

The recommendation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 2015 – 2020 is that adult Americans eat fish and/or seafood at least twice a week, which sums up to 8 – 10 ounces of fish/seafood weekly consumption, and that they hope Americans will replace red meat, poultry, or eggs with fish/seafood as a source of protein. The American Heart Association recommended in a 2018 Science Advisory that Americans should eat around 1 – 2 seafood meals per week in order to lower the risk of developing congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and sudden cardiac death. They even said that seafood should replace unhealthy foods in your diet.

Time-Restricted Intermittent Fasting

Time-restricted eating is a controlled and monitored type of intermittent fasting that requires you to follow certain food restrictions in order to lower caloric intake and take your meals usually between 6-12 hours each day. By religiously doing intermittent fasting have some positive effects on the human body (intra-abdominal adipose tissue decreases dramatically and the production of free radicals is also minimized). This elicits powerful cellular responses that improve glucose metabolism and reduce systemic inflammation, and may also reduce risks of diabetes, CVD, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers found that after the human body undergoes a 12-hour overnight fast the insulin levels are ideally low and glycogen stores have been depleted. While the human body is in this state, it sends signals all over and command the adipose cells to give up their fatty acids to use it as metabolic fuel instead of glucose. Under these conditions the body’s insulin sensitivity is improved. Although it doesn’t show any significant improvement on weight loss than the widely known standard caloric restriction, time-restricted eating does appear to enhance cardiovascular health even in non-obese people. Intermittent fasting may also contribute in lowering your blood pressure and heart rate when at a state of rest, as well as improve autonomic balance with augmented heart rate variability.

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