7 health benefits of fasting in Ramadan

Muslims fast the month of Ramadan in obedience to Allah. There are numerous health benefits associated with fasting.

The spiritual benefits of fasting in Ramadan are something we have all experienced. Fasting helps us remember people less fortunate than us and appreciate our blessings. Everything that is ordained by our Creator has a benefit in it: the health benefits of fasting are now recognized by science.

Fasting can support our overall health in many ways:

Weight loss

The obvious one is weight loss. So how does this happen?

Enzymes break down food in our gut into simpler molecules.

Carbohydrates break down into sugars. Sugars are essential for our cells to function. If the cells don’t use up all the sugar, sugar is converted to fat and stored in the body.

The vital hormone that helps sugar enter cells is Insulin. Insulin levels are high straight after a meal.

When we fast, sugar levels go down. As a result, insulin production goes down. The body cells still need sugar to carry on their functions.

Fat cells are triggered to release their sugar storage. Fat cells burn, resulting in weight loss.

Bear in mind that it is essential to eat healthily in Ramadan. Binging on fried food and carbohydrates at suhoor and iftar is not going to help in weight loss.

Control of blood sugar

Insulin is a hormone secreted by pancreas. Insulin is involved in the regulation of blood sugar. When you eat a meal full of carbohydrates, insulin production is ramped up by the pancreas.

Insulin travels through the bloodstream triggering cells to take up sugar from the bloodstream. As a result sugar levels go down.

Sometimes cells stop responding to Insulin.

The pancreas increases the production of insulin. There are high levels of Insulin and also high levels of blood sugar. This leads to insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes.

Fasting may help decrease insulin resistance by reducing the load on the pancreas.

If you have diabetes, consult your doctor before you fast.

Improved blood pressure control and reduced risk of heart disease

Fasting helps to lower blood pressure. There is reduction of the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol with fasting.

Risk factors of heart disease includes obesity, diabetes, hypertension and raised cholesterol. Fasting has beneficial effects on all.

Potential to delay ageing

Experiments in single-cell organisms like fungus have shown that fasting helps them live longer. Fasting may have the same effects on humans.

However, more studies are needed to establish a direct link between fasting and delayed ageing.

It has been seen that inflammation reduces with fasting. Inflammation and oxidative damage to cells is part and parcel of ageing. This study showed that fasting in Ramadan reduced oxidative stress.

Fasting has far-reaching benefits on ageing as well as other lung, kidney, liver and heart diseases.

Possible role in cancer prevention

Fasting may help in decreasing the risk of cancer and even slow down cancer growth.

Fasting may also improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The challenge is that cancer patients may not be able to fast. If they do so, it should be under the strict supervision of a medical team.

Fasting changes the environment around cells. Cancer cells are less able to survive than normal body cells. The result is that cancer cells die faster and are not able to grow well.

A study in 2016 showed the growth of breast cancer and skin cancer slowed down with combined chemotherapy and fasting.

 Promotes muscle strength

Fasting increases the level of growth hormone. Growth hormone improves muscle strength.

There is also an inverse relation between Insulin and growth hormone. Insulin levels go down with fasting, and the levels of growth hormone rise.

Brain health and ageing

As we grow older, the cells in our body age. Brain cells are no exception. Cognitive functions of the brain show a decline with age:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Language
  • Perception
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving
As the brain cells age, the chances of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease increases.

Fasting can improve brain function and delay ageing of the brain cells. There may be improvement in cognitive function and in features of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

We, as Muslims, fast the month of Ramadan with faith, hoping for a reward from our Creator. There are these additional health benefits, as a bonus.

We are encouraged to fast additional fasts like the fast on Monday and Thursday, as also on the three days of the middle of the lunar month, ayyaam al beed.

Up for a challenge?

Why not try to fast the best way of fasting, the fasting of Dawood alayhi salaam? He would fast every other day and this is considered the best way of fasting. Try it in the short days of winter.

It is my personal experience that my memory in learning or revising the Quran is better on the days that I fast.

What is your take on this?

Do share below in comments.