Fasting in this context means willingly refraining from any kind of food or drinks, from dawn to dusk for the Islamic faith of observing Ramadan.
Fasting aids in weight management, controlling blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, improved brain function among other advantages.
Muslims worldwide practice compulsory fasting on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar as prescribed in the holy book of Quran.
“Ramadan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind and a clear guidance and judgment (so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong). Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (Q 2:183)
According to experts, there is a connection between diet and health during fasting. “Ramadan isn’t always thought of as being an opportunity to lose weight because the spiritual aspect is emphasized more generally than the health aspect. It’s a great chance to get the physical benefits as well.” Says Dr. Razeen Mahroof, an anesthetist from Oxford University
13 health benefits of fasting
Weight loss. Dr. Mahroof says the use of fat for energy during fasting assists in weight reduction. It preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level. Also, weight loss results in better control of diabetes, obesity and reduces blood pressure. Note: don’t overeat iftar time; when breaking the fast in the evening, as this causes weight gain.
Dr Osman Haraare adds that, with less weight, the impact of cardiovascular disease is likely to be reduced for individuals performing fasting. He warns of consumption of samosa with much oil for breaking the fast.
Detoxification. In most cases, people consume processed food. Such food will be stored in fat and fasting enhances the burning of these fats. “A detoxification process also occurs, because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body,” says Dr. Mahroof.
Control addiction. Fasting reduces the intake of substances like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other abused substance that are not healthy during the day. Addicts will be in a better position to adjust to the new eating pattern.
Insulin control. Studies published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and The Journal of Nutrition in 2003 showed that mice forced to fast every other day, while eating twice the normal amount of food on non-fasting days, had better insulin control, neuronal resistance to injury, and other health indicators than mice fed calorie-restricted diets.
Improves metabolism. Fasting for hours will help the digestive system to rest and burn more calories, improving healthy bowel movement.
“Every time you eat a meal, the energy — mainly glucose — goes into your liver and is stored in the form of glycogen. It is essentially never depleted in people who eat three meals a day unless they do extended, vigorous exercise. So when you fast for 10 to 12 hours, at that point ketones which as a very good energy source for cells throughout your body and brain are produced from fats. In fact, many labs are finding, have a number of beneficial effects on the brain, including enhancing learning and memory and a kind of an anti-anxiety effect or antidepressant effect”, reveals Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging.
Good eating habits. Some people, due to the nature of their work have poor eating habits. Most probably family members will have iftar together in the evening and suhoor (breakfast).
Better brain function. Fasting enhances the production of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein, which helps the brain from certain diseases. BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. This protein also protects the brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Enhances good skin. Fasting helps clean toxins from the skin and regulate body functioning like the kidney and liver.
Peace and tranquillity. Fasting condemns social evils and any kind of crime.
Regulation of blood sugar. During fasting, glucose is broken down to provide energy to the body which in turn decline the production of insulin. Production of Glucagon facilitates breaking down of glucose, and this will ultimately help in controlling blood sugar level in the body.
Controlling blood pressure. Having fat in the body may sometimes cause a condition called Atherosclerosis – the clogging of arteries by fats. During fasting, such fats are broken down to produce energy. Metabolic rates and production of some hormones like adrenaline are reduced, thus controlling blood pressure.
The lowering level of cholesterol. Reduced levels of cholesterol prevent health complications of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. A team of cardiologists in the UAE found that people who observe Ramadan enjoy a positive effect on their lipid profile, which means there is a reduction of cholesterol in the blood.
“After the protein and carbohydrates are exhausted, the body uses the stored fats. This in turns reduces the cholesterol level in the body. This happens only when you eat certain portion of food and not consuming everything due to the pangs of hunger after a day’s fasting”, says Dr. Abdi Farah.
Nutrient intake. When fasting, metabolism is improved and eventually the body will absorb more nutrients. Fasting enhances the production of a hormone called adiponectin that allow muscles to absorb important nutrients.