Fasting is abstained from eating and drinking, mostly done for religious devotion. There are many religions practice fasting, usually for special occasions. This month (Ramadan) is a special holy month in Islamic (lunar) calendar for about 1.8 billions Muslims in the world. All eligible Muslims who already reach puberty have the obligation to do intermittent fasting during a full month of Ramadan (29-30 days) from dawn (Subuh) till dusk (Maghrib) while the fasting duration could be vary from 8 to 21 hours depending on season and latitude (Shadman et al, 2015). In Indonesia, the average fasting duration is about 14 hours. As mentioned in Qur’an (central religious text of Islam), Fasting is one of 5 pillars in Islam, besides Syahadat (testimony that there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah), Sholat (praying 5 times per day), Zakat (paying alms to the needy and poor) and Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca). Ramadan fasting is not mandatory for individuals with certain condition (menstruation, pregnant and nursing women, travellers, and people with certain disease or medical problems). According to Sunnah (the practices of Islamic Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), Muslims are also encouraged to do sahoor (eating and drinking before dawn prior to fasting) and iftar (breaking the fast) with dates or any other fruits before the main big meal.
According to Halawa (2020), some of the health benefits of Ramadan fasting including:
– Decreasing the risk factors for gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders
– Helping overweight and obese individuals in reducing and managing excess body weight
– Reducing high blood lipids, especially LDL cholesterol
– Lowering the risk of elevated blood glucose levels and type2 diabetes
– Improving spiritual and psychosocial health outcomes.
Another good thing about Ramadan fasting is the consumption of cigarettes is significantly declined during this time. Since smoking is not allowed during fasting, a lot of smokers also managed to quit smoking during Ramadan, make it easier to completely stop smoking for good (Ismail et al, 2017).
Halawa, A. Impact of intermittent dietary restriction on the health-related outcomes of faith-based fasting. Journal of Ethnic Foods (2020) 7:14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42779-020-00047-3
Ismail S, Abdul Rahman H, Abidin EZ, et al. The effect of faith-based smoking cessation intervention during Ramadan among Malay smokers. Qatar Med J. 2017;2016(2):16. Available from: https://doi.org/10.5339/qmj. 2016.16
Shadman Z, Hedayati, M, Larijani, B, Akhoundan, M, Khoshniat, M. Recommended guideline for designing and interpreting of Ramadan fasting studies in medical research. Journal of Nutrition, Fasting and Health, 2015; 3(4): 156-165. Available from: https://doi.org/10.22038/jfh.2015.6247