Why a seafood-based Mediterranean diet, plus intermittent fasting, is ‘ideal’ for heart health

A Mediterranean diet that limits meat consumption to fish and seafood and includes intermittent fasting may be “ideal for optimizing cardiovascular health,” according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Today, many people overconsume animal products, often-processed meats high in saturated fats and chemical additives,” wrote lead author James H. O’Keefe, MD, director of preventive cardiology at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, and colleagues. “Alternatively, strict veganism can cause nutritional deficiencies and predispose to osteopenia, sarcopenia and anemia. A logical compromise is a plant-rich diet with fish/seafood as principal sources of animal food.”

The recommended diet consists of “vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil with fish/seafood and fermented dairy products.” Water, coffee and tea are the suggested beverage choices, alcohol is limited to red wine with a meal and intermittent fasting should last from 12 to 16 hours each day.

The inclusion of some dairy products was allowed after Keefe and colleagues considered numerous options.

“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 Peso-Mediterranean diet,” O’Keefe said in a statement. “Low-fat yogurt and cheeses are preferred; butter and hard cheese are discouraged due to a high concentration of saturated fats and salt. 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.”

Keefe also detailed the decision to include intermittent fasting, noting that “our ancient ancestors did not have access to an unlimited supply of food throughout the year.” The “most popular” form of intermittent fasting includes eating two meals, not three, in a given day. Fasting for a 16-hour window and then eating for an eight-hour window is common, though more research is needed to confirm which schedule results in the best outcomes.

The full analysis is available here.