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Sunday 21 December  
Is fasting during Ramadan good for your health?
Chaalan Charif's picture
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Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Is fasting during Ramadan good for your health?

Published on : 22 August 2009 - 2:32pm | By Chaalan Charif (Photo: RNW)
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With the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, the annual debate starts up about the effect of fasting on the health. It is accepted that fasting is not a good idea for sick people. But does it benefit those in good health, or is it merely a religious practice that has nothing to do with one’s well-being?
 
Muslims are only expected to fast if they are healthy adults. Sick people, whether suffering from temporary or chronic disease, are exempt. Many scholars of Islamic sharia law say fasting is prohibited if it is harmful.
 
The Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying: "Fast so as to be healthy". Some Muslim scholars have been trying to get support from doctors to prove the health benefits of fasting. Each year, much of the Islamic media covers the benefits of fasting during Ramadan, and the hazards for sick people if they try to do without food.

Psychological benefits

Dr Muhammad Alabdooni, the chairman of the Dutch Moroccan Physicians Association, maintains there is no scientific proof that Islamic fasting is physiologically beneficial, but says it may benefit psychological health:              

"Positive aspects of fasting in Ramadan are related to relaxation that happens due to worship, which increases in the holy month. These worship practices give a feeling of psychological and physical relaxation."

 
On the other hand, Dr Alabdooni explains that fasting has some negative effects on health, but he doesn't consider these very serious.

"Effects of fasting on a healthy person are limited. Negative effects are inconveniences, especially in the early days of Ramadan, such as headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, etc."
 
No scientific study

Dr Alabdooni says this is the prevailing opinion of the medical profession, at least in the Netherlands. He admits that no scientific study has been conducted to date on the effects of Ramadan fasting on healthy people:

"Studies have focused on sick people, particularly on chronic-disease patients. There are a lot of studies in this area, but they haven't given any attention to the effects on healthy bodies."
 

Effects on health

Dr Albdooni has never been interviewed in the media about Ramadan fasting, but his immediate acquaintances often quiz him about the effects of the practice on their health. He explains the risks associated with the sort of fasting people practice nowadays - abstaining totally from food and drink during daylight hours, and then eating a wide range of food after sunset. Most people who come to him with questions admit to eating excessively in short bursts during Ramadan.
 
"Many people agree with me when I say fasting these days produces results that are not intended by Ramadan fasting. They recognise that they eat large amounts of sugar and fat after breaking their fast, and this leads to them putting on more weight instead of losing it, the effect fasting is expected to achieve."
 
Dr Alabdooni remains non-committal about the doctors who appear on Arab TV channels during Ramadan to talk about the health benefits of fasting, preferring to let them decide for themselves what they say. However, he does believe the medical and religious professions should be strictly separated:

"Doctors are not religious scholars or preachers, they should always be aware of the limits of their profession".

Related content

Discussion

Anonymous 30 June 2014 - 4:40am / Canada

Adverse Effects of Islamic Fasting (http://wikiislam.net)
Conclusion
Intermittent and prolonged fasting is generally not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Depriving the body of water and essential nutrients by dividing and postponing meals to irregular intervals does nothing to limit consumption. In-fact it causes a host of health, performance and mood disorders. Fasting is not normally prescribed for the well being of human beings. Instead, it is commonly understood that eating healthy, smaller-portioned meals, interspersed throughout the day is far better in maintaining a well-balanced diet and far more forgiving on a person's metabolism. Any claims that prolonged and intermittent fasting contributes to the well-being of an individual's health are misleading, based on the scientific studies that prove otherwise. If the Islamic argument in favor of fasting is that “we fast because Allah commanded us to do so," then it is obvious that Allah is not a nutritionist or a dietitian because the negatives definitely outweigh the positives.
Medical fasting can have health benefits. However, Medical fasting differs from Islamic fasting, and contrary to popular Muslim beliefs, Islamic fasting, unlike Medical fasting, has numerous adverse effects. Health effects include heat stress, dehydration, migraines and, for lactating women, the nutritional make-up of their milk, amongst others.
Effects on Health[edit]
In a recent study done on the Arab world, diseases linked to cholesterol and diabetes increased by 27.65% because of overeating.[3] Non-compliance with prescribed treatment regimens is common during Ramadan. [4] Other health effects include:
Dehydration[edit]
One study finds that incidences of dehydration increase during the month of Ramadan:
Migraines[edit]
Migraines are three times more common during Ramadan, affecting an estimated 90 million Muslims:
Tachycardia, Severe Headaches, Dizziness, Nausea, Vomiting and Circulatory Collapse[edit]
The following study was carried out on Turkish Muslims in Germany who were involved in heavy and manual work. 'Moderate to severe health disturbances' including severe dehydration were found in such laborers during Ramadan:
Weight Fluctuation[edit]
The following study takes a look at the significant fluctuations in the weight of individuals that occurs during the month of Ramadan, primarily as a result of the metabolic changes that occur in the body.
Daytime Drowsiness, Alertness and Cognition[edit]
Naturally, a fast would indicate that individuals are ingesting less food. But the following two studies reveal that the decrease in the number of meals that are eaten directly disturbs normal sleep habits and thereby increases daytime drowsiness.
Increases the toxicity of commonly used medication[edit]
Fasting has been found to significantly change drug metabolism and deplete crucial chemicals in the liver needed to detoxify medication.
Paracetemol (also called acetaminophen) is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat day to day pain such as headaches or gastrointestinal pain, this is the very same pain that is likely to be encountered by a fasting individual. Therefore, a significant risk arises when someone who has been fasting takes this common medication (among many others).

Anonymous 30 June 2014 - 4:40am / Canada

Adverse Effects of Islamic Fasting (http://wikiislam.net)
Conclusion
Intermittent and prolonged fasting is generally not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Depriving the body of water and essential nutrients by dividing and postponing meals to irregular intervals does nothing to limit consumption. In-fact it causes a host of health, performance and mood disorders. Fasting is not normally prescribed for the well being of human beings. Instead, it is commonly understood that eating healthy, smaller-portioned meals, interspersed throughout the day is far better in maintaining a well-balanced diet and far more forgiving on a person's metabolism. Any claims that prolonged and intermittent fasting contributes to the well-being of an individual's health are misleading, based on the scientific studies that prove otherwise. If the Islamic argument in favor of fasting is that “we fast because Allah commanded us to do so," then it is obvious that Allah is not a nutritionist or a dietitian because the negatives definitely outweigh the positives.
Medical fasting can have health benefits. However, Medical fasting differs from Islamic fasting, and contrary to popular Muslim beliefs, Islamic fasting, unlike Medical fasting, has numerous adverse effects. Health effects include heat stress, dehydration, migraines and, for lactating women, the nutritional make-up of their milk, amongst others.
Effects on Health[edit]
In a recent study done on the Arab world, diseases linked to cholesterol and diabetes increased by 27.65% because of overeating.[3] Non-compliance with prescribed treatment regimens is common during Ramadan. [4] Other health effects include:
Dehydration[edit]
One study finds that incidences of dehydration increase during the month of Ramadan:
Migraines[edit]
Migraines are three times more common during Ramadan, affecting an estimated 90 million Muslims:
Tachycardia, Severe Headaches, Dizziness, Nausea, Vomiting and Circulatory Collapse[edit]
The following study was carried out on Turkish Muslims in Germany who were involved in heavy and manual work. 'Moderate to severe health disturbances' including severe dehydration were found in such laborers during Ramadan:
Weight Fluctuation[edit]
The following study takes a look at the significant fluctuations in the weight of individuals that occurs during the month of Ramadan, primarily as a result of the metabolic changes that occur in the body.
Daytime Drowsiness, Alertness and Cognition[edit]
Naturally, a fast would indicate that individuals are ingesting less food. But the following two studies reveal that the decrease in the number of meals that are eaten directly disturbs normal sleep habits and thereby increases daytime drowsiness.
Increases the toxicity of commonly used medication[edit]
Fasting has been found to significantly change drug metabolism and deplete crucial chemicals in the liver needed to detoxify medication.
Paracetemol (also called acetaminophen) is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat day to day pain such as headaches or gastrointestinal pain, this is the very same pain that is likely to be encountered by a fasting individual. Therefore, a significant risk arises when someone who has been fasting takes this common medication (among many others).

Pakistani 27 June 2014 - 9:20am / Pakistan

Much or most of organized religion is divisive – driving wedges between people – “us vs. them” mentality – “we are chosen by a ‘god’ and are ‘god’s people’” – "They are heathens and are going to hell" -- "My god is better than your god"

Anonymous 27 July 2013 - 7:05pm / ghana

Fasting in Ramadan allows the digestive system, the engine of the body, to rest from the normal demands of processing and breaking down food, freeing up system resources to cleanse and purify the body of accumulated toxins, thereby allowing more effective healing and tissue repair.
Fasting in Ramadan keeps the body healthy and youthful (provided one does not overindulge when breaking fast).

mary 25 May 2012 - 8:39pm / india

Having food early in the morning and skipping breakfast, lunch and then then have plenty of food in the evening is good?

Anonymous 25 July 2013 - 1:43am / India

Muslim fasting is really terrible for health, and nonsense. Yes we need to fast in order to cleanse our body parts especially for liver. But u need to drink plenty of water, fasting with waster is the right way, fasting without water is nonsense

Ahmed Fouad 7 July 2012 - 7:07am / Egypt

Yes fasting is very important to refresh your body and your soul
Muslims (adults who are healthy)stop eating,drinkng,smoking and sex completely from dawn to sunset after that they breakfast but not with plenty quantity.

For scintific benefits please read:
http://www.quranandscience.com/legislative/185-medical-aspects-of-islami...

for religious benefits please read:
http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/a/ram_benefits.htm

Anonymous 20 July 2012 - 8:35am / UAE

A website called qurandscience.com hardly convince me... I think I will stick to non-religious, and therefore objective, sources for my persuation. Even tho I do not doubt that there are benefits to ramadans fasting.

mary 25 May 2012 - 8:37pm / india

is fasting good for health?

Goodman 23 July 2012 - 7:37am / singapore

Hi Mary,
From your name I make it that you are a Christian. Your Lord Jesus fasted too, please ask him whether fasting is benificial to health. He may reply you through " holy ghost". Peace to you.

Mohsin 24 January 2012 - 6:12pm / India

Jasmin.... If u really want to know abt muslims, Christians and judaism brothers, I would request you to make a research on the word Paramporul said in vedas(RIG). Once ur done with that you may know what other religion teach. Its all the same there is no such thing called religion and the books were given not to seperate each other then to do the best practices which will suit all humans. Since the message was sent by god so many times and been collapsed there was another messenger sent and abt quran god sd himself that this is the last revelation and it will not be collapsed until the qyamah(Judgement Day).

A common man 5 August 2011 - 4:15pm / India

Medically speaking, is fasting in Islamic way, that is, abstaining all intakes including water from dawn to dust for 13 to 14 hours will have negative effect on the health of even normal persons? Yes or no. Please let me have an impartial answer.

alistortelini 18 October 2010 - 11:05am / reply

Any viable plan for the future must be based on universal coverage, and the "2010 plan" guarantees every American enrollment in a basic health plan of his or her choice (not necessarily a health maintenance organization). Like automobile insurance, healthcare coverage would be required.

KIBIRIGE 4 October 2010 - 8:09am / UGANDA

I NEEDED MORE OF THE SCIENTIFIC BENEFITS OF FASTING.

girl 18 September 2010 - 1:58pm / india

what is the scientific good thing about fasting on the 13, 14 15?pls let me noe as fast as possible

Leone2-0 21 August 2010 - 10:42am

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed on those before you so that you may learn self-restraint [2:183]

Revelations in following order:
Revelation to Adam, Suhuf Ibrahim (Scrolls of Abraham), the Tawrat (Torah or Pentateuch) of Moses, the Zabur (Tehillim or Book of Psalms) of David, and the Injil (Gospel) of Jesus, the holy Qur’an (Quran) of Muhammad (S.A.W).

Fasting not only has spiritual benefits but it also has immense physical benefits as well. The medical community acknowledges that regular fasting flushes toxins from the body, thus purifying it.

Intermittent fasting (IF): A specific form of IF is alternate day fasting (ADF), which is a 48-hour routine typically composed of a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period. (ADF is also sometimes referred to as every other day (EOD) fasting, or sometimes every other day feeding (EODF).

David (PBUH) fasted every other day. 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr Ibn Al-'As narrated: "Allah's Apostle (PBUH) said to me: 'The most beloved fasting to Allah was the fasting of (the Prophet) David, who used to fast alternate days. And the most beloved prayer to Allah was the prayer of David, who used to sleep for (the first) half of the night and pray for one third of it and (again) sleep for a sixth of it."Sahih Al-Bukhari

Leone2-0 21 August 2010 - 10:41am

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed on those before you so that you may learn self-restraint [2:183]

Revelations in following order:
Revelation to Adam, Suhuf Ibrahim (Scrolls of Abraham), the Tawrat (Torah or Pentateuch) of Moses, the Zabur (Tehillim or Book of Psalms) of David, and the Injil (Gospel) of Jesus, the holy Qur’an (Quran) of Muhammad (S.A.W).

Fasting not only has spiritual benefits but it also has immense physical benefits as well. The medical community acknowledges that regular fasting flushes toxins from the body, thus purifying it.

Intermittent fasting (IF): A specific form of IF is alternate day fasting (ADF), which is a 48-hour routine typically composed of a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period. (ADF is also sometimes referred to as every other day (EOD) fasting, or sometimes every other day feeding (EODF).

David (PBUH) fasted every other day. 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr Ibn Al-'As narrated: "Allah's Apostle (PBUH) said to me: 'The most beloved fasting to Allah was the fasting of (the Prophet) David, who used to fast alternate days. And the most beloved prayer to Allah was the prayer of David, who used to sleep for (the first) half of the night and pray for one third of it and (again) sleep for a sixth of it."Sahih Al-Bukhari

pilot 2 August 2010 - 1:11am / norway

just one thing is real...!! kos omak

comet 17 September 2009 - 1:21pm
Azi means that Islam was not preached by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) exclusively - it was taught by all the prophets (Abraham, Noah etc...). The last messenger, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) completed the message.
Brigitte 2 September 2009 - 2:32pm
Azi, what did you mean, Islam is there since time immemorial, since man set foot on the earth
jasmin 31 August 2009 - 9:34am
You are very right, Azi! The exact term is Sanatan Dharam, but we use the popular name Hindu for our religion. However, it is a revelation that Islam is there since man set foot on earth! Please tell me when was that? Religion was not there for early man, I wonder about it! I know that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have common ancestors: but still you are against each other! Yes, Hinduism is like an ocean,like a vast sky, open and free! We can breathe easy and can worship any way we like and any of the deities, or better still worship the Invisible(Nirakar), because we know codes are for the initiates!
Anonymous 31 July 2012 - 1:24pm

Yes, that is why they have unlimited GODS and GODESS, if you are feeling sick today, you can worship the god of health..... really.... is hinduism that free... maybe people in the west will beleive it cuz they have never seen hindus in India where they have fights over building the temple of their OWN god.

Raja 30 August 2010 - 11:49am / India

@Jasmin: If you can worship any way means why you need a religion? Moreover 'Hindu' is not a religiion name, its a geographical name for those who live in India. If you are not sure of anythng, better dont write in any forum...

Azi 27 August 2009 - 10:52am
Thank you Jasmin for your article but I just wanted to know what exactly do you mean by Hindu? It is ofcourse not a name of any religion on the Earth. According to the Hindu scholars Hinduism is a misnomer and it should be referred a Sanatana Dharma, meaning eternal religion or Vedic Dharma meaning religion of the Veda. According to Swami Vivekananda the followers of this religion is referred as Vedantist. The word Hindu has geographical significance and was used originally for those people who lived beyond the river Sindhu or the region watered by the river Indus. Some historians say that it was first used by the Persians who came to India through the north western passes of the Himalayas. The word Hindu is no where mentioned in Indian literature or scriptures before the advent of Muslims to India, according to the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. According to Jawaharlal Nehru in the book Discovery of India on page 74-75, he writes that the earliest reference to the word Hindu can be traced to a tantrik of the 8th Century CE, where it means a people and not a follower of a particular religion. The use of the word Hindu in connection with a particular religion is of late occurrence. In short Hindu is a geographical definition used for the people living beyond the river Indus or those living in India Many people have a misconception that Islam is a new religion which came into existence 1400 years ago and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the founder of the religion of Islam. Infact Islam is there since time immemorial, since man set foot on the earth. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not the founder of the religion of Islam but he is the last and final messenger of Islam. Pillars of Faith in Hinduism are not defined. As mentioned earlier that Hinduism does not have a set of unified or codified beliefs. Neither does it have any fixed pillars or principles which are obligatory for its followers to practice. A Hindu has a freedom to practice
jasmin 23 August 2009 - 3:38am
Fasting is an ancient Hindu ritual that has got incorporated into various religions that came later, including Islam. So, in my view, the title should be:Is religious fasting good for your health? The most important benefit of fasting is discplining your mind. We, as humans are governed by the five senses and often cross the limits! Fasting makes you abstain from food and sex, and focus on your deity.This enhances your spiritual growth and makes you stable and strong. There are medical benefits too as our digestive system gets the much needed rest and the restriction of calories helps in weightloss. The trend of the people in modern times to overeat before and after the fast and work hard during the day, is the cause, that people question the sanctity of fasting! The right way to fast is to eat in limits before and after fasting and to rest and meditate during the day, to conserve the energy. You cannot have both:fasting and hard work. Fasting is prohibited for children, the elderly, the sick, and pregnant and lactating mothers. Though the sick people may benefit from fasting otherwise, which means they should not burden their digestive system too much with fat rich food and eat right but less. Religious fasting is a ritual to re-establish your contact with God that gets lost in the daily hectic schedules and worries. However, do not fast if you do not have faith! It won't benefit you.
Raja 30 August 2010 - 11:57am

In your old vedas also, the arrival of prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has been mentioned. First read your vedas. Before prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), lakhs of prophets came...they also fasted. So it is a proof that people who lived in India (known as Hindu only geographically not religiously) accepted these fasting, other good things from Islam only. but many of them after turned and started worshipping idols keeping some traces (like fasting) from Islam.

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