Fasting during Ramadan is safe and may lower blood pressure temporarily

The reductions in blood pressure are a result of a metabolic change.

Ramadan fasting is practiced by hundreds of millions every year. During this month, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset.

Fasting during Ramadan changes to diet and lifestyle dramatically. A new study from the Imperial College London scientists determined the effect of Ramadan fasting on blood pressure.

Their study suggests that fasting during Ramadan is safe and may lower blood pressure – at least temporarily – for both healthy people and those with hypertension.

These are the findings of the LORANS study (London Ramadan Study). LOANS combines a review of existing blood pressure studies during and after religious fasting in Ramadan and an observational study of 85 people fasting during Ramadan.

Scientists noted, “Temporarily fasting may be a safe and effective way to lower blood pressure temporarily, but further research is needed to determine if regular fasting is effective on a longer-term basis.”

Study author Dr. Rami Al-Jafar from the School of Public Health at Imperial said“Despite key differences, the effect of Ramadan fasting is comparable to the effect that we saw in some papers published on intermittent fasting. Fasting could be beneficial for people who suffer from hypertension as well.”

The study involved 85 participants between the ages of 29 and 61 from five mosques in London. Scientists measured their systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure before and after Ramadan. Participants were also asked to keep food diaries for three days before and during Ramadan.

For the second part of their study, scientists combined 33 studies (including 3,213 people) conducted in Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, looking at blood pressure before and after Ramadan fasting.

In the 85 people from London, the study found an average reduction of 7.29 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 3.42 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure in the days after Ramadan. In the review of other studies, the researchers found reductions of 3.19 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 2.26 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.

Dr. Al-Jafar and his colleagues speculate that the reductions in blood pressure result from a metabolic change that happens after eight to 12 hours of fasting when the body begins burning ketones rather than glycogen. Change in gut flora during Ramadan is another possibility. 

Prior studies have suggested that calorie restriction can improve cardiovascular risk factors, as well as insulin sensitivity.

Journal Reference:
  1. Rami Al‐Jafar et al. Effect of Religious Fasting in Ramadan on Blood Pressure: Results From LORANS (London Ramadan Study) and a Meta‐Analysis. DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.120.021560

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