Dawn-to-sunset fasting shows potential as new treatment for obesity, related conditions

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 of a high-fat, high-sugar diet, according to a new study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and published in the journal Gastroenterology.

According to the study abstract, the pilot study included 14 healthy individuals who fasted with no food or drink for 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, researchers said in a statement, 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.

Obesity affects over 650 million people worldwide, placing them at risk for any number of health conditions, according to the World Health Organization. Feeding and fasting could potentially have a significant impact on 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, researchers said.

The research team is currently in the process of expanding their research to include individuals with metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to determine whether results are consistent with those of the healthy individuals. Researchers say they believe this dawn-to-sunset fasting method may offer a cost-effective intervention for those struggling with obesity and other related conditions.