Christian Orthodox Church (COC) fasting is characterized by periodic abstinence from animal foods (including dairy products). We found that, despite this, older individuals adhering to COC fasting for decades did not differ in bone mineral density, bone mineral content, or prevalence of osteoporosis at five sites from non-fasting controls.
The present observational study investigated whether adherence to COC fasting, characterized by periodic abstinence from animal foods (including dairy products), affects bone health and the prevalence of osteoporosis in older individuals.
Participants were 200 men and women, of whom 100 had been following the fasting rules of the COC for a median of 31 years and 100 were non-fasters, all aged 50 to 78 years. Participants underwent measurements of bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) at the lumbar spine, right hip, left hip, right femoral neck, and left femoral neck; completed a 3-day food intake record and food frequency questionnaire; and provided blood samples for biochemical measurements.
Fasters did not differ from non-fasters in demographic characteristics, anthropometric measures, BMD, BMC, or prevalence of osteopenia or osteoporosis at any of the five sites measured (P > 0.05). Fasters had lower daily calcium intake than non-fasters (median 532 vs 659 mg, P = 0.010), daily protein intake (0.67 vs 0.71 g/kg, P = 0.028), and consumption of dairy and soy products (10.3 vs 15.3 servings per week, P < 0.001). Groups did not differ in serum calcium, vitamin D, or urea concentrations.
Despite lower calcium intake and lower consumption of dairy and soy products, older individuals adhering to COC fasting did not differ in BMD, BMC, or prevalence of osteoporosis from controls. Thus, periodic abstinence from dairy and, generally, animal products does not seem to compromise bone health in older individuals.
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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; Professor Emeritus of the School of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dimitrios Tselegidis; Archimandrite Nikodemos Skrettas-Plexidas; and Archpriest and Professor of the School of Pastoral and Social Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Athanasios Gikas for their help in collecting the study sample. We also thank Hieromonk Archimandrite Eulogios Tsalapatanis for information about COC fasting.
The study protocol was approved by the Bioethics Committee of the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, and the study was conducted according to the Declaration of the World Medical Association of Helsinki (1989). Each participant was informed about the aims, benefits, and potential risks of the study and signed a consent form before data collection and blood sampling.
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Rodopaios, N.E., Mougios, V., Konstantinidou, A. et al. Effect of periodic abstinence from dairy products for approximately half of the year on bone health in adults following the Christian Orthodox Church fasting rules for decades. Arch Osteoporos 14, 68 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11657-019-0625-y
- Bone mineral density
- Christian Orthodox Church fasting
- Vitamin D