Study of 30-day Ramadan fast shows promising implications for timing and duration between meals
Fasting from dawn to sunset for 30 days increased levels of proteins that play a crucial role in improving insulin resistance and protecting against the risks from a high-fat, high-sugar diet, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2019. The study, which was based on the fasting practices of Ramadan, a spiritual practice for Muslims, offers a potential new treatment approach for obesity-related conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
“According to World Health Organization data, obesity affects over 650 million people worldwide, placing them at risk for any number of health conditions,” said Ayse Leyla Mindikoglu, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas. “Feeding and fasting can significantly impact how the body makes and uses proteins that are critical to decreasing insulin resistance and maintaining a healthy body weight. Therefore, the timing of and duration between meals could be important factors to consider for people struggling with obesity-related conditions.”
The pilot study included 14 healthy individuals who fasted (no food or drink) approximately 15 hours a day from dawn to sunset for 30 days during Ramadan. Researchers collected blood samples from the individuals before beginning the religious fast, again at the fourth week of fasting, and then one-week post-fasting. Resulting blood samples showed increased levels of tropomyosin (TPM) 1, 3 and 4, proteins that have a role in maintaining healthy cells and cell repairs important to the body’s response to insulin.
TPM3 plays a key role in increasing insulin sensitivity, which allows the cells of the body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. Findings from the study showed a significant increase in TPM3 gene protein products between the initiation of the fast and the test one week afterwards. Similar results over that period were found for TPM1 and TPM4 gene protein products.
“We are in the process of expanding our research to include individuals with metabolic syndrome and NAFLD to determine whether results are consistent with those of the healthy individuals,” said Dr. Mindikoglu. “Based on our initial research, we believe that dawn-to-sunset fasting may provide a cost-effective intervention for those struggling with obesity-related conditions.”
This work is partly supported by NIH Public Health Service grant P30DK056338, which funds the Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center and its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This work is also partly supported by a Dora Roberts Foundation Grant and an unrestricted gift for direct clinical research from David R. and Gladys P. Laws.
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