Medical: Why Islamic Fasting Is Different
Dr. Shahid Athar
1- As compared to other diet plans, in fasting during Ramadan, there is no
malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake since there is no restriction on the
type or amount of food intake during Iftaar or Sahar. This was confirmed by M.
M. Hussaini) during Ramadan 1974 when he conducted dietary analysis of Muslim
students at the University of North Dakota State University at Fargo. He
concluded that calorie intake of Muslim students during fasting was at two
thirds of NCR- RDA.
2- Fasting, in Ramadan is voluntarily undertaken. It is not a prescribed
imposition from a physician. In the hypothalamus part of the brain there is a
center called "lipostat" which controls the body mass. When severe and rapid
weight loss is achieved by starvation diet, the center does not recognize this
as normal and, therefore re-programs itself to cause weight gain rapidly once
the person goes off the starvation diet. So the only effective way of losing
weight is slow, self-controlled, and gradual weight loss by modifying our
behavior, and the attitude about eating while eliminating excess food. Ramadan
is a month of self-regulation and self-training in terms of food intake
thereby causing hopefully, a permanent change in lipostat reading.
3- In Islamic fasting, we are not subjected to a diet of selective food only
(i.e. protein only, fruits only etc). An early breakfast, before dawn is taken
and then at sunset fast is broken with something sweet i.e. dates, fruits,
juices to warrant any hypoglycemia followed by a regular dinner later on.
4- Additional prayers are prescribed after the dinner, which helps metabolize
the food. Using a calorie counter, I counted the amount of calories burnt
during extra prayer called Traweeh. It amounted to 200 calories. Islamic
prayer called Salat uses all the muscles and joints and can be placed in the
category of a mild exercise in terms of caloric output.
5- Ramadan fasting is actually an exercise in self-discipline. For those who
are a chain smoker, or nibble food constantly, or drink coffee every hour, it
is a good way to break the habit, hoping that the effect will continue after
the month is over.
6- Psychological effect of Ramadan fasting are also well observed by the
description of people who fast.
They describe a feeling of inner peace and tranquility. The prophet has
advised them "If one slanders you or aggresses against you, tell them I am
fasting". Thus personal hostility during the month is minimal.
It is my personal experience that within the first few days of Ramadan, I
begin to feel better even before losing, a single pound. I work more and pray
more; physical stamina and mental alertness improve. As I have my own lab in
the office, I usually check my chemistry, that is, blood glucose, cholesterol,
triglyceride before the commencement of Ramadan and at its end. I note marked
improvement at the end. As I am not overweight, thank God, weight loss is
minimal. The few pounds I lose, I regain soon after. Fasting in Ramadan will
be a great blessing for the overweight whether with or without mild diabetes
(type II). It benefits those also who are given to smoking or nibbling. They
can rid themselves of these addictions in this month.
Source: Medical Aspects Of Islamic Fasting