A recent Scientific Reports study investigated the lipidomic changes during Ramadan diurnal intermittent fasting (RIF) among obese individuals.
Study: Ramadan intermittent fasting is associated with ameliorated inflammatory markers and improved plasma sphingolipids/ceramides in subjects with obesity: lipidomics analysis. Image Credit: Odua Images/Shutterstock.com
Lipids are one of the main components of the human body that have multiple physiological functions, including cellular signaling and energy storage.
Lipidomics analyses are performed to study lipid metabolism in humans, which provide important insights into disease manifestations.
Ceramides (Cer) constitute a lipid family comprising sphingosine and a fatty acid. These lipid molecules travel throughout the bloodstream via low-density lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins are significantly associated with multiple cardiometabolic disorders, inflammatory processes, insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Therefore, these lipid molecules are used as biomarkers and therapeutic targets.
Obesity is linked with a significant accumulation of toxic lipid metabolites in tissues not designed to store lipids, such as the heart, pancreatic cells, and the liver. Specific ceramides (e.g., Cer d, and phosphatidylcholine (PC) 16) have been identified that enhance the risk of CVD.
During fasting, individuals do not drink or eat for a particular period of time. Religious, spiritual, and specific health-related behaviors drive fasting. Several studies have indicated intermittent fasting (IF) is a safe and cost-effective approach to promote health improvements.
This dietary pattern has positively affected aging, cardiometabolic dysfunction, neurodegenerative diseases, and vascular problems.
Prior studies have investigated different types of IF, including fasting-mimicking diet, time-restricted eating/feeding, periodic fasting, and alternate-day fasting. Due to religious beliefs, adult Muslims follow IF during the ninth month of the lunar calendar, known as Ramadan.
During Ramadan, Muslims undergo a unique dry and diurnal fasting pattern for 29–30 consecutive days. This fasting lasts from predawn to sunset.
In this period, liberal eating is allowed during the night hours without restrictions on any food. Based on previous studies on the metabolic switches caused by IF, significant lipidomic modifications could be associated with Ramadan.
About the study
The current study investigated the lipidomics changes associated with the practice of RIF. The lipidomic changes were evaluated regarding sphingolipids, ceramides, and inflammatory markers. The lipid profile during RIF was systematically compared between healthy and obese individuals.
The current prospective study was conducted during Ramadan between June 2016 and July 2016. Data was collected one month before the start of RIF (baseline data) and again at the end of Ramadan. The average fasting duration was around 15 hours.
No dietary restriction, physical activity, or any other lifestyle changes were recommended to participants. Since females undergoing menstrual cycles are excluded from Ramadan fasting, fasting days for female participants were around 23-25 days.
Healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 60 were recruited. Participants with any chronic or metabolic diseases were excluded.
A total of 57 adults were included in the cohort, with a majority being male participants (70%). The mean age of the participants was 38 years, and their body weight was around 88 kg. Approximately 40% of the participants were obese, and 60% were overweight.
This study observed that RIF was associated with decreased body mass and fat mass, irrespective of changes in calorie intake. Furthermore, RIF was robustly linked with a reduction in plasma total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), and diglyceride (DG).
IF during Ramadan also led to a decrease in plasma sphingosine, sphinganine, sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), and sphinganine-1-phosphate (Sa1P). Notably, this form of IF caused a reduction in plasma sphingomyelin (SM) and dihydrosphingomyelin (DhSM) but not ceramide and dihydroceramides (DhCer) species. RIF also caused attenuation of inflammatory markers.
The current study did not document any significant alterations in lipid flux. More research is required to comprehend the cellular pathways linked to lipid flux fully.
This observational study indicates that IF could be an effective strategy to manage being overweight and obesity-associated impairments, particularly linked to dysfunctional lipid metabolism and systemic inflammation. It must be noted that both these factors significantly affect cardiometabolic multimorbidity.
Previous studies have revealed that anthropometric and biochemical alterations caused by Ramadan fasting persist for up to one month after the end of the fasting period.
This study has several limitations, including the observational nature of the study and the lack of an experimental control group. The lack of appropriate data imposed a difficulty in uncovering the causality of the study observation.
Despite the limitations, this study demonstrated that RIF is significantly associated with improvements in sphinganine SM, DhSM lipid species, plasma sphingosine, overall lipid profile, and inflammatory markers.
Taken together, RIF could be a cost-effective intervention that could positively alleviate cardiometabolic problems in overweight or obese people.