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Bone status of young adults with periodic avoidance of dairy products since childhood


Proper nutrition throughout childhood and adolescence is crucial for normal bone development. We investigated whether adherence to Christian Orthodox Church fasting is characterized by periodic avoidance of animal foods (including dairy products), since childhood affects stature or bone health in young adults. This cross-sectional study included 200 healthy men and women, aged 18–35, of whom 100 had been following religious fasting for a median of 14 years, starting at the age of 10, and 100 were non-fasters. Measurements included body height; bone mineral density and bone mineral content at the lumbar spine, right hip, left hip, right femoral neck, and left femoral neck; prevalence of bone fracture; serum biochemical parameters; food and nutrient intake; and physical activity and smoking habits. Fasters did not differ from non-fasters in anthropometric measures (including height), bone mineral density and content, or prevalence of low bone mineral density at any of the five sites measured; number of bone fractures; or serum calcium or 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations (P > 0.05). Fasters had lower daily calcium and protein intakes, as well as lower dairy consumption than non-fasters. Groups did not differ in physical activity, and fasters smoked less than non-fasters.

Conclusion: Despite lower calcium intake and lower dairy product consumption, individuals adhering to religious fasting since childhood did not differ in height, bone mineral density and content, or prevalence of fractures from controls. Therefore, periodic abstention from dairy and, generally, animal products since childhood does not seem to compromise bone health in young adults.

What is Known:
Bone health is an important determinant of overall health and longevity.
Proper nutrition throughout childhood and adolescence is crucial for normal bone development.
Adequate intake of dairy products is considered important due to their high calcium content.
What is New:
Young adults with limited calcium intake and dairy product consumption, due to adherence to the fasting rules of the Christian Orthodox Church since childhood, do not differ in height or indices of bone health from non-fasting controls.

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Bone mineral content


Bone mineral density


Christian Orthodox Church


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We are grateful to Metropolitan Varnavas of Neapolis and Stavroupolis, Thessaloniki; Metropolitan Georgios of Kitros, Katerini, and Platamon; Hieromonk Father Luke Kipouros of Holy Trinity Monastery, Panorama, Thessaloniki; Nun, Melani Chatzipatera, Mother Superior of Assumption of Virgin Monastery, Panorama, Thessaloniki; Professor Emeritus of the School of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dimitrios Tselegidis; Archimandrite Nikodemos Skrettas-Plexidas; and Archpriest Athanasios Gikas; Professors of the School of Pastoral and Social Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, for their help in collecting the study sample.

Author information

N. Rodopaios conceptualized and designed the study, collected data, analyzed data, drafted the initial manuscript, and critically reviewed and revised the manuscript.

V. Mougios analyzed data, drafted the initial manuscript, and critically reviewed and revised the manuscript.

A-A Koulouri designed the study and collected data, and critically revised the manuscript.

E. Vasara collected and analyzed data, and critically revised the manuscript.

S. Papadopoulou and Dr Skepastianos collected data, and critically revised the manuscript.

E. Dermitzakis and Hassapidou provided essential materials data, and critically revised the manuscript.

A Kafatos conceptualized and designed the study, coordinated and supervised data collection, reviewed and critically revised the manuscript.

All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Correspondence to Nikolaos E. Rodopaios.

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Communicated by Mario Bianchetti

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Rodopaios, N.E., Mougios, V., Koulouri, A. et al. Bone status of young adults with periodic avoidance of dairy products since childhood. Eur J Pediatr (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00431-019-03542-1

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  • Adulthood
  • Bone mineral density
  • Calcium
  • Childhood
  • Christian Orthodox Church fasting
  • Dairy