Fasting Could Serve as New Treatment Method for Obesity

MAY 21, 2019
Patrick Campbell
Empty plateA study, based on the fasting practices of Ramadan, has helped investigators identify a potential new treatment for obesity-related conditions.

The study, which was presented at Digestive Disease Week 2019, found that dawn to sunset fasting 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. 

“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,” explained Ayse Leyla Mindikoglu, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. 

Investigators sought to determine whether fasting would induce tropomyosin (TPM) 1, TPM3, and TPM4 gene protein products in healthy subjects. TPM3 plays a key role in glucose homeostasis by increasing insulin sensitivity, facilitating glucose uptake in white adipose tissue, and remodeling insulin-induced actin. Additionally, it is protective against high-fat diets.  TPM1 and TPM4 gender encode for proteins that bind cytoskeletal actin that plays a key role in insulin responsiveness. 

Investigators conducted a pilot study in healthy subjects who fasted 15 hours a day for 30 days during Ramadan, which is a period of spiritual fasting for Muslims. A total of 14 subjects between the ages of 21 and 62 years old.were included in the study — 13 of the subjects were men. Blood samples were collected before beginning the religious fast, at week 4, and 1 week after fasting. Significant fold changes in expressed gene protein products were assessed by volcano plot analysis.

After analyses, investigators found that blood samples showed increased levels of tropomyosin 1, 3, and 4. A significant log2 fold increase was noted in TPM3 gene protein products (5.753, P=0.000) one week after completion of 30-day dawn to sunset fasting compared with the level at the start of 30-day dawn to sunset fasting. Investigators also noted a significant log2 fold increase in TPM1 (3.821, P=0.029) and TPM4 (3.403, P=0.035) gene protein products one week after completion of 30-day dawn to sunset fasting compared with the level at the start of Ramadan.

Investigators wrote that their findings suggest fasting could be a new treatment approach for obesity, metabolic syndrome, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD). They noted that additional studies are needed to determine the impact of 30-day dawn to sunset fasting on obesity, metabolic syndrome, and NAFLD. 

“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,” Mindikoglu said. “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 study, titled “Dawn to sunset fasting for 30 days induces tropomyosin 1, 3 and 4 genes in healthy volunteers: its clinical implications in metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” was presented at DDW 2019 in San Diego, CA. 

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