The Pesco-Mediterranean diet is largely plant-based and many studies have proved its benefits over the last few years.
There’s a reason why humans are classified as opportunistic omnivores. As a 2019 study in Ecology and Evolution points out, humans have derived nutrition from both plant and animal sources throughout their evolutionary history and usually adapted to ecological changes by tailoring their diet according to what was easily available. The human digestive tract is marked by the presence of both sucrase (an enzyme found in herbivores) and proteases (also known as peptides, found in carnivores), which is the mark of a true omnivore.
Despite this adaptability and remarkable evolution, humans continue to be conflicted about which diet is the best for their health, especially where their heart health is concerned. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology states that even though the ideal human diet for optimal heart health poses a dilemma, a Pesco-Mediterranean diet with a time-restricted eating window like in intermittent fasting can have huge cardiovascular benefits. The authors also clearly indicate that such a diet is hypothetical and randomised control trials will be needed to establish the benefits. Here’s everything about the study you should know.
The omnivore’s dilemma thanks to many diet choices
The study points out that there are many diet options with their own purported benefits that present humans all over the world with the omnivore’s dilemma: “Which diet should I follow to get the best health benefits?” Plant-based diets and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets (no animal-based foods except eggs and dairy) don’t have any negatives as such and cover all the nutritional categories you need. Vegan (no animal-based food) and vegetarian diets are known to lower your body mass index and improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
But, on the other hand, veganism can result in nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B12, high-quality proteins, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and calcium. So many nutritional deficiencies are bound to negatively affect your cardiovascular system. And the biggest problem with non-vegetarian diets — no matter which part of the world they originate in — is the overconsumption of meat, particularly highly processed meat from animals raised in inhumane conditions and often treated with hormones and antibiotics. This makes a person following a purely non-vegetarian diet more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.
Why seafood matters
The study proposes the Pesco-Mediterranean diet as a solution to this omnivore’s dilemma. This diet is largely plant-based and many studies have proved its benefits over the last few years. It is one of the healthiest and easily sustainable diets and can be adapted to suit specific needs like weight loss when combined to create the Keto 2.0 diet. This plant-rich diet promotes the consumption of nutrient-dense foods like olives, tree nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and has seafood as its main source of protein.
Seafood, with a combination of olive oil, forms the predominant fats in this diet. They are known to be sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and are very heart-healthy. Fish and seafood are sources of lean proteins and are known to improve heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, cognitive function and psychological wellbeing. The Mediterranean diet because of seafood and plants as its key components has been proved by many studies to prevent cardiovascular disease and mortality, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic syndrome, depression and overall cancer mortality.
Balancing Mediterranean diet with intermittent fasting
When it comes to combining the beneficial Mediterranean diet with intermittent fasting, the researchers behind the study argue that the earliest homo sapiens did not have a constant supply of food or a “three meals a day plus snacks” diet option. They had to face seasonal scarcity and struggle for food, and were therefore used to time-restricted eating patterns quite like those in intermittent fasting.
This predisposition to fast for 12-16 hours every day has been genetically passed down to modern humans, the study says and reiterates that this is the reason why the adoption of intermittent fasting has been shown by many studies to reduce systemic inflammation and the risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
The researchers behind this study recommend the adoption of a Pesco-Mediterranean diet combined with intermittent fasting for 12-16 hours every day (with an eating window of 8-12 hours) for optimum health benefits and especially for improved heart health.
For more information, read our article on Heart disease.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.