A group of proteins called tropomyosins regulates the body's sensitivity to insulin. Higher levels of these proteins increase the effectiveness of insulin — making it easier for cells to get glucose from the blood for energy. By improving insulin sensitivity, tropomyosins help reduce the severity of insulin resistance. The pancreas does not have to produce as much of the metabolic hormone.
Insulin resistance leads to metabolic disorders like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity. Thus, maintaining healthy levels of tropomyosins may help prevent the onset of disorders associated with an unhealthy diet rich in bad fats and sugars.
Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine investigated the beneficial effects of dawn-to-sunset fasting and tropomyosins. They published the results of their experiment in the medical journal Gastroenterology. (Related: Bad eating habits that cause weight gain.)
The BMC researchers conducted a pilot study with a small group of healthy individuals. The participants were Muslims who embarked on the month-long practice of fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The participants fasted from dawn to sunset each day. They did not eat or drink anything for 15 hours straight and repeated this for 30 days.
The researchers took blood samples from the participants before the latter began their religious fast. They acquired new samples during the fourth week of Ramadan and also got blood a week after the fasting period ended. Analyses of the participants' blood samples found elevated levels of tropomyosin 1, 3 and 4. The proteins supported the health of cells associated with the body's response to insulin. Tropomyosins also helped repair any damage to those cells.
The BCM researchers said that tropomyosin 3 fulfilled a vital role in improving insulin sensitivity. The protein helped the body's cells access and use blood sugar more effectively, therefore reducing glucose levels in the blood. They reported that the tropomyosin gene protein products increased during the trial period between the start of the fast and the follow-up analysis one week after Ramadan. They found similar results for tropomyosin 1 and 4 as well.
The BCM pilot study offered hope for people who struggled to control their weight to avoid the onset of obesity and other diseases. It suggested that fasting might help them achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity is a global concern that continues to get worse every year. The World Health Organization warned that more than 650 million people around the world have the condition. Obese people are more likely to develop various kinds of health conditions. Reducing their weight to a healthy amount is paramount.
The results of the BCM study indicated that feeding and fasting might influence the production and use of proteins that help reduce insulin resistance. The timing of meals might be a critical factor for the consideration of patients with health issues related to obesity. The duration between each meal might also play into the matter.
The next step for the BCM research team is to expand the size of their pilot study. They plan to include participants with metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). By comparing the results for those unhealthy individuals with the data on healthy counterparts, the researchers hope to learn if the tropomyosin levels also increased for them.