Your Health Checkup: The Benefits of Combining the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet with Intermittent Fasting

Studies have shown benefits of both the Mediterranean Diet and intermittent fasting, so why not combine these two ideas for even better health?

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“Your Health Checkup” is our online column by Dr. Douglas Zipes, an internationally acclaimed cardiologist, professor, author, inventor, and authority on pacing and electrophysiology. Dr. Zipes is also a contributor to The Saturday Evening Postprint magazine. Subscribeto receive thoughtful articles, new fiction, health and wellness advice, and gems from our archive. 

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I have previously written about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, as well as the positive health impact of intermittent fasting. A new diet, the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet with Intermittent Fasting, logically combines the benefits of both approaches.

This recent publication makes the point that many of us — me included — over consume animal products and ultra-processed foods that are high in saturated fats and chemical additives, and low in nutritional value. In observance of complete transparency, I love a grilled hot dog smothered in sauerkraut and swimming in mustard, and revel in that illicit culinary feast once a month.

The authors explain that strict veganism can cause nutritional deficiencies that can lead to anemia and loss of muscle and bone density. They suggest a compromise consisting of a plant-rich diet with vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and extra-virgin olive oil, along with fish/seafood — so fins, not four-legs. Beverages include coffee, tea, and water.

Again, to be completely transparent, I would add two-legged creatures (chicken) to this diet and a glass or two of red wine.

The new addition from the Pesco diet to the typical Mediterranean diet is intermittent fasting that confines eating to an eight-hour period preceded by fasting for 12 to 16 hours each day. The logic here is that fasting uses up the body’s stores of carbohydrates and sugars, forcing a metabolic switch to burn fatty acids from fat cells, which improves cellular function and insulin control of blood sugar.

So, for example, one would eat only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Some studies suggest fasting 12 hours would be beneficial (but probably not as beneficial as 16 hours), so eating could occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. It probably doesn’t matter when you fast as long as you do it for 12 to 18 hours.

The authors make the point that when choosing fish, it is best to eat those likely to contain low concentrations of mercury such as salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and anchovies, all of which have high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, the beneficial nutrient in fish. Scallops, shrimp, lobster, oysters, and clams do not have the same high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids but remain lower in mercury.

Another piece of advice concerns not overcooking the fish that may result in charring or burning, which can create carcinogenic compounds. Rather, target internal temperatures to be 145oF, or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily from the bone.

The benefits from the Mediterranean diet are significant, especially for cardiovascular health and longevity. Adding time-restricted eating from the Pesco- Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on consuming fish and seafood as the principal sources of animal protein provides another dimension that the authors propose as an ideal cardioprotective diet. It should be noted that this is not offered as a weight loss diet. Other approaches are required to lose weight.

As with all things scientific, the Pesco-Mediterranean diet needs to be tested and proven in controlled randomized prospective trials, yet to be done.

Featured image: Marcin Malicki / Shutterstock

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