Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar that involves fasting from sunrise to sunset for 29-30 days. While the primary purpose of fasting is to practice self-discipline, it is also proven to have numerous health benefits. One of the most prominent health benefits of fasting during Ramadan is its potential to prevent and manage diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes caused by high blood sugar levels can lead to developing other severe lifestyle diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
In this article, we’ll examine the science behind the relationship between diabetes and fasting and how fasting can be used as a powerful tool to prevent and manage this chronic disease.
What is Ramadan fasting?
Ramadan is a month-long religious observance that is observed by Muslims worldwide. It is a time of spiritual reflection, prayer, and fasting. During this period, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, water, and any other form of sustenance. Ramadan fasting is a significant aspect of the Muslim faith, and it is mandatory for all healthy adult Muslims. The fast is broken each evening with a meal called iftar, typically shared with friends, family, and community members. Fasting during Ramadan is believed to have numerous benefits, including spiritual purification and increased self-discipline.
However, recent studies have also shown that fasting during Ramadan may have health benefits, including the prevention of diabetes. During the fasting period, the body’s metabolism changes, and the blood glucose level decreases, which can help lower the risk of developing diabetes.
How does fasting during Ramadan affect blood sugar levels?
Fasting during Ramadan has been shown to have several benefits, including improving blood sugar levels. When you are fasting, your body is not receiving any glucose from food and must rely on its glucose stores for energy. This process can help improve insulin sensitivity, crucial for managing blood sugar levels. Additionally, fasting can decrease glucose production by the liver, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.
However, it is important to note that individuals with diabetes should consult with their healthcare provider before fasting during Ramadan. They may need to adjust their medication or insulin doses to prevent hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia during the fasting period.
Why do we consume so much sugar?
Over 75% of processed foods contain added sugar, even savoury foods like bread, sauces, and pasta. Our brain loves sugar, and it’s easy to fall into a cycle of craving more and more of it. Food manufacturers know that if their product contains high amounts of sugar, people will buy it more often, and their profits will increase.
Diabetes isn’t the only disease driven by our love of sugary foods. Studies show sugar is related to developing cancer, cardiovascular problems, Alzheimer’s and many more modern ‘lifestyle diseases’.[i]
The impact of fasting on insulin resistance
One of the ways that Ramadan fasting may help in diabetes prevention is by reducing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body cannot use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels effectively. Over time, this can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. However, studies have shown that Ramadan fasting can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance.
Fasting during daylight hours causes a shift in the body’s metabolism, leading to changes in insulin production and sensitivity. The body begins to rely on stored fats for energy, which helps to reduce insulin resistance. Additionally, fasting during Ramadan has been shown to reduce inflammation, which is also linked to the development of diabetes. It is important to note that fasting during Ramadan should not be considered a cure for diabetes. However, it may be an effective way to reduce the risk of developing the disease.
How does fasting help prevent diabetes?
- Promote weight loss –this is linked to many beneficial health effects, including reducing diabetes risk. You can lose 8% of your weight during the month of Ramadan[ii]
- Reduce insulin production – It lets the body rest from constantly producing insulin and allows stored fat to be released[iii]
- Improve cholesterol – 20% reduction in ‘bad’ cholesterol and 15% increase in ‘good’ cholesterol[iv]
- Improve blood sugar control – an improvement equivalent to nearly 12% in just one month [v]
- Increase insulin sensitivity – up to 20% improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet during non-fasting hours is essential to prevent overeating and other health issues.
For example, if the Sehar meal to break your fast contains limited carbohydrates, high amounts of protein and healthy fats, it helps slow digestion and keeps your energy levels high during the day. Then you can achieve all the health benefits of fasting.
Overall, Ramadan fasting can be an effective way to manage and prevent diabetes and reduce the risk of developing other lifestyle diseases, such as cancer.
Taking responsibility for your health and rethinking your nutrition strategy is beneficial for you today and later in life.
Disclaimer: Diabetics, specifically those with unstable conditions, are advised to seek a doctor’s advice before initiating any dietary change to see if modifications to medication or other precautions are warranted.
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