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Effects of Ramadan and Non-Ramadan Intermittent Fasting on Body Composition: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Correia, JM; Santos, I; Pezarat-Correia, P; Silva, AM; Mendonca, GV

Jan 26, 2021

Frontiers in Nutrition, vol. 7, Frontiers, 2021. Frontiers,

Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity for body-composition improvement purposes. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to summarize the effects of Ramadan vs. non-Ramadan IF on parameters of body composition. We conducted a comprehensive search of peer-reviewed articles in three electronic databases: PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science (published until May 2020). Studies were selected if they included samples of adults (≥18 years), had an experimental or observational design, investigated any type of IF and included body composition outcomes. Meta-analytical procedures were conducted when feasible. Sixty-six articles met the eligibility criteria. We found that non-Ramadan IF is effective for decreasing body weight (−0.341 (95% CI [−0.584, −0.098], p = 0.006), body mass index (−0.699, 95% CI [−1.05, −0.347], p < 0.001), and absolute fat mass (−0.447, 95% CI [−0.673, −0.221], p < 0.001). When contrasting pre- post-intervention data on fat-free mass between treatments and controls, group-differences were non-significant (p > 0.05). Conversely, we observed a significant increase in fat-free mass when comparing pre- to post-intervention in a within design fashion (0.306, 95% CI [0.133, 0.48], p = 0.001). Finally, despite being accompanied by dehydration, Ramadan IF is effective in decreasing body weight (−0.353; 95% CI [−0.651, −0.054], p = 0.02) and relative fat mass (−0.533; 95% CI [−1.025, −0.04], p = 0.034). Ramadan IF seems to implicate some beneficial adaptations in weight management, although non-Ramadan IF appears to be more effective in improving overall body composition.

Key Points
• Both Ramadan and non-Ramadan intermittent fasting are effective on fat mass and body weight losses.

• Fat mass loss is more pronounced with non-Ramadan intermittent fasting and this type of intermittent fasting, combined with exercise training, leads to higher decreases in body mass index.

• Non-Ramadan intermittent fasting may be well-suited for eliciting small increases in fat-free mass, particularly under circumstances involving the simultaneous control of caloric intake.

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Ramadan, Intermittent Fasting, Body Composition, Body Weight, Exercise, BMI

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