What difficulties did you have while fasting?

Orthodox fastingThose who fast live longer

Service in the Marienkirche of St. Mary in the Athens suburb Glyfada. Orthodox images of saints adorn the walls, there is a smell of incense. Around three hundred believers follow the service, mostly older people, but also many young families. For example Manos Vourvachis with his wife and two children. He tries to go to church as often as possible, says the 45-year-old topographer. And of course he will keep to the coming Lent:

"We fast forty days before Easter every year. It is a question of faith, but also a tradition. We learned about fasting from our parents and are trying to keep it up. Especially now that we have children of our own. Because ours Actions will be remembered more than our words. "

For the 49-year-old Diamando it is exactly the opposite. The slim woman with the short black hair does not want to give her last name. Diamando works as a cleaner in downtown Athens, is on her lunch break, she doesn't go to church often, she says, and she doesn't fast either. But this time her two daughters absolutely want to adhere to the Orthodox Lent:

"My daughters are sixteen and seventeen years old. I think it's a trend among young people, because their friends will also fast. I believe this tradition and belief gives our children support. They have so much pressure to perform in school and get the families' financial difficulties as well. So it is good for them to set a goal. And if they can do it, they can be proud of themselves! "

Seafood and snails are allowed

Lent before Easter is just one of several in the Orthodox church year. In total, people fast around one hundred and eighty days a year, although not all fasting periods are the same, explains Andonis Kafatos, professor emeritus for preventive medicine and nutrition at the University of Crete.

"So for six months we have no meat, no dairy products and no eggs. Fish, on the other hand, is allowed to be eaten more often, for example during the fasting period before Christmas. The big difference to the vegan diet is that seafood and fast food are allowed. This is how the body gets." also important nutrients that are only or mainly to be found in products of animal origin, such as vitamin B12 or unsaturated fatty acids and essential amino acids, without which life expectancy falls! "

Andonis Kafatos has been scrutinizing the diet of the Greek population for decades. Several studies show that people who fast according to the rules of the Orthodox Church lived much healthier lives than those who don't, he says:

"Those who fast have a lower risk of getting chronically ill: the risk of developing osteoporosis is reduced, as is the risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. The results of the studies show that very clearly. And we have found that People who fast have a 38 percent lower risk of becoming depressed. Although we don't really know here: Is it the belief that helps people emotionally or the diet? Probably both are the case. "

However, a single fast is not enough for the positive effects on physical and mental health. The test subjects are rather people who have consistently fasted according to the Orthodox church year since childhood. And even on days when you are not fasting, you should pay attention to a balanced diet, according to the preventive physician:

Half a kilo of beef a day

Andonis Kafatos: "We published the case of a colleague at the University of Crete to make this clear to our students as well: The colleague fasted during all the fasting periods of the Orthodox Church. The rest of the year, however, he ate half a kilo of beef and one and a half times a day The result: He had a heart attack when he was fifty-five. When he told me about his diet, I said: If you hadn't fasted, you would have had the heart attack ten years earlier. "

For the church, this health aspect does not play a role in observing Lent, says Pastor Konstantinos Vartholomäos. After all, the aim of fasting is not to live healthier, so the Orthodox clergyman, one could also do that with a generally balanced diet. No, the goal of fasting is different:

"We fast to practice celibacy and to prepare for Holy Communion. And fasting alone is not enough. It is much more important that we improve our behavior. That we are good to our fellow men, that we participate in church life Repent and commit the sacrament of Confession. This is the only way to properly prepare for Holy Communion at Easter. This is the only way to really prepare for Holy Communion and the Resurrection of Christ. "