Metabolic consequences of fasting during Ramadan in pregnant and lactating women

Hum Nutr Clin Nutr. 1983 Jul;37(4):283-94.


In studies in a rural West African village it was observed that all lactating women and 90 per cent of pregnant women fasted throughout the period of Ramadan. The metabolic consequences of this fasting were studied by measuring serum glucose, free fatty acid, triglyceride, beta-hydroxybutyrate, alanine, insulin, glucagon and T3 levels at 0700 h and 1900 h in 22 pregnant, 10 lactating and 10 non-pregnant, non-lactating women. Results were also compared with overnight-fasted values obtained outside Ramadan. Values for the lactating women were not significantly different from the non-pregnant, non-lactating controls despite the additional metabolic stress of lactation. Ramadan-fasted (1900 h) glucose values from women in late pregnancy (3.01 +/- 0.11 mmol/l) were significantly lower than all other groups (P less than 0.01) and were 15 per cent (P less than 0.01) lower than overnight-fasted values from similar subjects. Ramadan-fasted free fatty acid and beta-hydroxybutyrate levels were significantly higher (P less than 0.05) and alanine values were significantly lower (P less than 0.05) in late than in early pregnancy. It is concluded that the phenomenon of 'accelerated starvation' occurs when women in late pregnancy fast during Ramadan. The possible consequences of this failure to maintain glucose homoeostasis are discussed with reference to the poor outcome of the actual pregnancies studied.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Adult
  • Africa, Western
  • Alanine / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Fasting / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydroxybutyrates / blood
  • Islam
  • Lactation*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Pregnancy*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hormones
  • Hydroxybutyrates
  • Lipids
  • Alanine
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid