New DFG research grant: “Ramadan during pregnancy: effects on health and fertility across the generations”

We received a research grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG) to the amount of € 225 850 for our research proposal “Ramadan during pregnancy: effects on health and fertility across the generations”. This research grant provides an extension of the successful earlier DFG-funded project “Ramadan during pregnancy and its effects on the health of the child throughout its life course” which led to several publications in leading scientific journals.

The prenatal phase is known to have long-run implications on health. Fetal programming theory describes how exposures to environmental circumstances during critical developmental phases set off adaptations that result in permanent changes to an organism’s physiology. One example of such environmental circumstances is intermittent fasting such as many pregnant women do during Ramadan. Our previous research showed that this often leads to adverse health effects on the offspring throughout their life.

We furthermore found suggestive evidence that prenatal circumstances might lead to epigenetic changes. This is something that we will now investigate further. In the new project, we will investigate the implications of potential epigenetic changes caused by in utero exposure to Ramadan. These are first, that prenatal Ramadan exposure may lead to altered fertility among the offspring (e.g. a rapid maturation leading to an earlier onset of fertility) and second, that health outcomes of the grandchildren of women observing Ramadan during pregnancy may be affected.