Background: Ramadan involves one month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. In this meta-analysis, we aimed to determine the effect of Ramadan fasting on weight and body composition.
Methods: In May 2018, we searched six databases for publications that measured weight and body composition before and after Ramadan, and that did not attempt to influence physical activity or diet.
Results: Data were collected from 70 publications (90 comparison groups, 2947 participants). There was a significant positive correlation between starting body mass index and weight lost during the fasting period. Consistently, there was a significant reduction in fat percentage between pre-Ramadan and post-Ramadan in people with overweight or obesity (-1.46 (95% confidence interval: -2.57 to -0.35) %, p = 0.010), but not in those of normal weight (-0.41 (-1.45 to 0.63) %, p = 0.436). Loss of fat-free mass was also significant between pre-Ramadan and post-Ramadan, but was about 30% less than loss of absolute fat mass. At 2⁻5 weeks after the end of Ramadan, there was a return towards, or to, pre-Ramadan measurements in weight and body composition.
Conclusions: Even with no advice on lifestyle changes, there are consistent-albeit transient-reductions in weight and fat mass with the Ramadan fast, especially in people with overweight or obesity.
Keywords: Ramadan; body composition; body weight; intermittent fasting.