Ramadan fasting can help decrease insulin resistance and maintain a healthy body weight, a study suggests.
Researchers showed that the practice of fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan – that involves abstinence from food and water from dawn to sunset – may increase levels of proteins that improve insulin resistance and protect against the risks from a high-fat, high-sugar diet.
The research, presented at the Digestive Disease Week 2019 in the US, 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, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine in the US.
“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,” said Mindikoglu.
“Therefore, the timing of and duration between meals could be important factors to consider for people struggling with obesity-related conditions,” Mindikoglu said.
The study included 14 healthy individuals who fasted 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 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,” she said.