1. In this scoping review, Christian Orthodox Church (COC) fasters had healthier blood lipid profiles during and after COC fasting periods.

2. Additionally, COC fasters had no nutritional deficiencies despite their restricted food intake during the fasting periods.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Christian Orthodox Church (COC) fasting periods resemble the traditional Greek diet which consists of a vegetarian diet that includes fish and seafood. Though there is good evidence for the Mediterranean diet on preventing and improving the symptoms of metabolic syndrome (MetS), there is limited evidence on how COC fasting affects MetS. As a result, the present scoping review aimed to explore the association between COC on various aspects of human health and MetS risk factors.

Of 1204 identified articles, 20 (n=1226) publications between January 1990 and March 2020 were included. Studies originated mainly from different areas within Greece. Studies were included if they were published in English or in Greek, and if they included anthropometric measurements and metabolic markers. Studies were excluded if the religion investigated was not COC and if reported measurements were not health related. PRISMA guidelines were followed. Fasting periods varied between 1 and 103 total days of fasting. Various dietary assessment methods were used in each publication (e.g., 24hr dietary recall, weighed food records, and food frequency questionnaires). The primary outcome of the study was the impact of COC fasting on MetS risk factors.

Results demonstrated that fasters’ diets were comprised of low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate, and high-fiber foods. Despite restricted food intake, fasters did not exhibit deficiencies in essential amino acids. Furthermore, fasters exhibited improvement in MetS risk factors, evidenced by healthier blood profiles, systolic blood pressure, body weight, and body mass index during and following fasting periods. However, the study was limited by the low number of included studies, and the quality of the studies included, with over half lacking a control group. Nonetheless, the results of this study provide initial evidence that the COC fasting dietary pattern may be beneficial in decreasing the MetS score.

Click to read the study in Nutrition Research Reviews

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