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13 November 2012
Ramadan diet delivers weight loss, metabolic benefits

An experimental diet where carbohydrates are eaten mostly at dinner beneficially changes the secretion patters of the hormones responsible for hunger as well as those associated with metabolic syndrome, say researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Reporting their findings in the journal Obesity, the researchers say the carbs-at-night plan could help dieters maintain their ideal weight over the long term, and reduce risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study, carried out over six months, examined the experimental diet's effect on the secretion of three hormones:

  • Leptin, considered to be the satiety (fullness) hormone, whose level in the blood is usually low during the day and high during the night;

  • Ghrelin, considered the hunger hormone, whose level in the blood is usually high during the day and low during the night; and

  • Adiponectin, considered the link between obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, whose curve is low and flat in obese people.

The researchers found that the changed carb timing led to changes in daylight hormonal profiles in favor of the dieters: the satiety hormone leptin's secretion curve became convex during daylight hours with a nadir in the late day; the hunger hormone ghrelin's secretion curve became concave, peaking only in the evening hours; and the curve of adiponectin, considered the link between obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, was elevated.

Importantly, the new dietary pattern also led to lower hunger scores, as well as better anthropometric (weight, abdominal circumference and body fat) and biochemical (blood sugar, blood lipids) outcomes compared to the control group.

''The idea came about from studies on Muslims during Ramadan, when they fast during the day and eat high-carbohydrate meals in the evening, that showed the secretion curve of leptin was changed," explained study leader Zecharia Madar. ''The findings lay the basis for a more appropriate dietary alternative for those people who have difficulty persisting in diets over time."

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Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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