Palestinian women stand in front of a window decoration of Islam’s crescent moon and star on the eve of Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan in the West Bank city of Jenin. – AFP/Getty Images
By Asma Ali Zain
Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan affects cholesterol levels positively while leading to changes in the body that may also impact health, according to a new study presented recently.
A new medical study undertaken in the UAE by a team of cardiologists led by the chief interventional cardiologist at American Hospital Dubai, working with volunteers has shed new light on the subject by examining changes to cholesterol levels (a key indicator and risk factor for heart disease) during Ramadan. The findings of the study were presented at the recent World Cardiology Conference hosted in Dubai.
“This is especially important in a region where there is a high incidence of obesity and diabetes.”A Muslim fasting during Ramadan must abstain from food and drink from Fajer time (just before sunset) to Maghreb (sunset) for one lunar month. These changes in the eating schedule would be expected to affect the lipid profile (the measure of cholesterol in the blood) and there have been several small studies that showed some effects of Ramadan fasting on lipid profile but there was no consistent result. The objectives of the UAE study were to examine the effects of fasting during Ramadan on the lipid profile. Dr Omar K. Hallak, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at American Hospital, and a member of the medical team leading the UAE study, commented: “This UAE study to examine the effects of Ramadan fasting on lipid profile provides the evidence that the change in habits and eating patterns during the Holy Month have a positive effect on cholesterol despite an increase in Body Mass Index amongst the sample.
Dr Hallak added: “Cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years in adults over the age of 20 and more frequently for men over 35 and women over 45.” Thirty-seven adult volunteers were recruited to the study in the UAE, all of whom were willing and fit to fast during Ramadan.
Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure (BP) and lipid profile (blood test to measure cholesterol) were all measured two weeks before Ramadan. The same measurements were then repeated a second time during the fourth week of Ramadan, and then a third set of measurements were taken three weeks after the end of Ramadan. There are two forms of cholesterol — LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL (‘good’ cholesterol). The LDL can build up on the walls of the arteries and increase the chance of getting heart disease. The lower the LDL cholesterol number, the lower the risk.
The study concluded that for the UAE group, during the fasting month of Ramadan, the average LDL decreased and the average HDL increased, resulting in a significant improvement of the HDL/LDL ratio in spite of the increased BMI.