Background: Orthodox fasting (OF), a periodical vegetarian subset of the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to exert beneficial effects on human health. Athonian fasting is a pescetarian OF variation, where red meat is restricted throughout the year. Previous studies have examined the OF nutritional synthesis and health impact in general population fasters (GF) and Athonian monks (AM), separately. This is the first study to comparatively evaluate the characteristics and effects of this nutritional pattern between the two populations, with a special interest in cardiometabolic risk factors.
Methods: 43 general population male fasters (aged 20–45 years) and 57 age-matched male monks following OF were included in the study. Dietary intake data were collected in both groups during a restrictive (RD) and a non-restrictive (NRD) day. Nutritional, cardiometabolic and anthropometric parameters were compared between the two cohorts.
Results: AM presented lower daily total caloric intake for both RD (1362.42 ± 84.52 vs 1575.47 ± 285.96 kcal, P < .001) and NRD (1571.55 ± 81.07 vs 2137.80 ± 470.84 kcal, p<.001) than GF. They also demonstrated lower Body Mass Index (23.77 ± 3.91 vs 28.92 ± 4.50 kg/m2, P < .001), Body Fat mass (14.57 ± 8.98 vs 24.61 ± 11.18 kg, p = .001) and Homeostatic Model Assessment for Insulin Resistance values (0.98 ± 0.72 vs 2.67 ± 2.19 mmol/l, P < .001), compared to GF. Secondary hyperparathyroidism (Parathyroid Hormone concentrations: 116.08 ± 49.74 pg/ml), as a result of profound hypovitaminosis D [25(OH)D: 9.27 ± 5.81 ng/ml], was evident in the AM group.
Conclusions: These findings highlight the unique characteristics of Athonian fasting and its value as a health-promoting diet. The impact of limitation of specific vitamins and minerals during fasting warrants further investigation.
05 Sep 2020 - 09 Sep 2020