Posted on June 20, 2017

Fasting has a number of potential health benefits for those who abstain from food and drink regularly, says a clinical dietitian at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

“Since the body is unable to get its energy from food during fasting, it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. This begins around eight hours after the last meal is consumed. When the stored glucose has been used up, the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy, which can result in weight loss as well as in preserving muscles and reducing cholesterol levels,” explained Mr. Zohair Al Arabi, Clinical Dietitian at HMC.

Low cholesterol increases cardiovascular health, greatly reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. According to Mr. Al Arabi, a detoxification process also occurs when the body fasts because any toxins stored in the body's fat are dissolved. “After a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins – the ‘feel-good’ hormone - are produced in the blood, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being,” he noted. He mentioned that prolonged fasting may also be effective in regenerating immune cells. “When you go without food or drink, your body tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” Mr. Al Arabi explained.

According to an international study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, repeated cycles of two to three days without food over a six-month period helped destroy old and damaged immune cells in mice and generated new ones. He said to avoid bad breath due to fasting, it is important to drink plenty of water between Iftar and Suhoor and to avoid breathing from the mouth as much as possible. Mr. Al Arabi added that people who fast often experience dehydration if they don’t drink enough water after Iftar. “It is recommended that during Ramadan, Muslims drink plenty of water prior to fasting and avoid exposure to hot weather during the day.”

The Ministry of Public Health, HMC and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) have partnered again this year to provide the public with information about common health issues through the Ramadan Health website. Introduced last year, the website is Qatar’s first online resource devoted to health and wellness during Ramadan and is available at www.hamad.qa/ramadanhealth

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