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Research Paper on Fasting in Ramadan - Intermittent, Long-Term Fasting Reduces Inflammatory Markers in the Body

Posted by abuiyaad on Monday, February 09, 2009
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This is a study done on the effects of fasting on the inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation refers to the immune response triggered within the body in response to a variety of states, conditions and triggers. Factors that determine the levels of inflammatory processes in the body vary and include nutrition, lifestyle, fitness, stress and presence of harmful substances in the body (toxins, harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi etc.). It is now being understood that the degree of inflammatory response in the body underlies the development of disease conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

We'll look at the paper and make some brief comments:

The Paper

Fehime B. Aksungara (a), Aynur E. Topkayab (b), Mahmut Akyildizc (c) Interleukin-6, C-Reactive protein and Biochemical Parameters during Prolonged Intermittent Fasting. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:88-95 Vol. 51, No. 1, 2007. (DOI: 10.1159/000100954)

Departments of (a) Biochemistry, (b) Microbiology and (c) cardiovascular Surgery, Maltepe University, School of medicine, Istanbul, Turkey

Key Words

  • Ramadan
  • Fasting
  • Interleukin-6
  • C-reactive protein
  • Homocysteine
  • High-density lipoprotein
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folate


Background: It is well known that nutritional habits, sleeping patterns and meal frequency have profound effects on maintaining human health. Ramadan is a religious month for Islam, during which Muslims do not eat and drink during the daylight hours. The duration of restricted food and beverage intake is approximately 12 h/day for 1 month, which makes ramadan a model of prolonged intermittent fasting. Methods: In order to evaluate the effects of long-lasting modifications of food intake on inflammatory markers and biochemical parameters 40 healthy volunteers of normal weight [20 females aged between 20 and 38 years, 20 males aged between 23 and 39 years, body mass index (BMI) <25 kg/m2] who fasted during ramadan and another 28 healthy age- and BMI-matched volunteers (14 males, 14 females) who did not fast participated in the study. Venous blood samples were taken 1 week before ramadan, during the last week of ramadan and 3 weeks after ramadan. Serum interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, vitamin B12, folate, total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels were measured. Results: No significant changes were observed in serum total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL levels. TC/HDL ratio (HDL risk factor) was decreased during and after ramadan in both genders in the fasting group while there were no changes in the nonfasting group. IL-6 (p < 0.001), CRP (p < 0.001) and homocysteine (p < 0.01) levels were significantly low during ramadan in the fasting subjects of both genders when compared to basal values (1 week before Ramadan). Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that prolonged intermittent fasting in a model like ramadan has some positive effects on the inflammatory status of the body and on the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as homocysteine, CRP and TC/HDL ratio.


  • The researchers were testing for specific inflammatory markers such as Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and homocysteine, the degree of their presence indicates the degree of inflammation, and also LDL, HDL and TC (total cholesterol).

  • Those fasting showed decreased inflammatory markers, as well as a decreased TC/HDL ratio (what this ratio means needs explanation, perhaps in another article) - establishing a tangible benefit. The TC/HDL ratio is now used as a better "risk indicator" over the LDL ("bad cholesterol") and TC ("total cholesterol) markers on their own. It is important to note that "risk factors" do not equate to causation. The saturated-fat and cholesterol hypothesis as a prime causative factor in arteriosclerosis (hardening and blocking of arteries) is incorrect. After many long decades of research (fudging about and trying to make data fit into the flawed "saturated-fat" hypothesis) prominent researchers into these issues (such as those at the cardiovascular Institute in Massachussets, where the original Framingham studies were done) are admitting that higher levels of HDL in the blood (which push the TC/HDL ratio down) are what matter (i.e. are beneficial) and that levels of LDL and TC levels on their own "have little influence".

  • As Muslims, we do not need to know the wisdoms or benefits behind legislated actions in order to act upon them. Whoever claims as such is misguided. This is similar to the one who claims,with respect to imaan that the asl (foundation) is to assume doubt, and then to convince oneself with intellectual proofs for having imaan in Allaah - as is the way of the misguided Mu'tazilah and contemporary groups reflecting the "intellect over revelation" paradigm. Both claims are misguided and false. Rather, one acts upon the legislated actions because they are legislated. The knowledge of the wisdoms and benefits of the legislated actions are not required for attaining the actual rewards (and possible worldly benefits) associated with such actions. However, in some cases, knowledge of some aspects of the wisdom and benefits of certain actions may come to light. The actions of fasting (obligatory or voluntary) are performed not with the intention of the realization of their worldly benefits, but for the seeking of reward and attainment of taqwa.

  • Good health and absence of disease is not a complicated, difficult matter inshaa'Allaah. Eat wholesome nutritious foods, balanced in quality and quantity (i.e. eat moderate amounts of real, whole foods) instead of living on treated, sterilized, processed, refined, "fortified" junk that has little to no nutritional value, and the many health problems will be prevented or resolved fairly easily. Inshaa'Allaah this issue will be expanded upon in other articles.

  • On the basis of studies similar to these and many others (that look at reducing food intake), you will often find advice coming from specialists in nutrition and metabolism, that by reducing the amount that one eats by a third (i.e. reducing total calorific intake), a significant increase in the lifespan can be achieved.

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