Health Benefits of Fasting

By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter


The holy month of Ramadan is the spiritual month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown, as well as take the benefits of this month with extra prayers and supplications.  In Islam, the spiritual, social, economic, political and psychological benefits of fasting are interrelated, each affecting the other.

In Islam, Muslims know that their social and individual life brings them closer to their Creator.  Therefore, a combination of fasting, prayers, and meditation very well may be the best dose for any heath concerns, as well as psychological, financial, and spiritual ills that one may be suffering.  Fasting is not just abstaining from food and drink, it is abstaining from backbiting, being cautious of what we do, and of what we see and hear.  Thus, purifying the soul.

During the month of Ramadan, while resisting food and drink, believers also resist their lower desires.  Fasting cultivates a stronger will, while teaching patience and self-discipline.  Once this discipline is achieved, the body is now regulated and systemizes the energies of instincts.  This trains the body to then submit to lofty spiritual impulses.  As medical science has proved, it is a medicine for many bodily and nervous ailments.

The Holy Prophet of Islam (s) has said, “One who, while fasting, neither guards his tongue from telling lies nor refrains from doing bad deeds does not respect his fast, while Allah does not approve of mere abstention from food … When you fast, you should not speak ill of anybody, nor should you be boisterous or noisy.  If anybody speaks ill of you or tries to pick a quarrel with you, do not respond to him in the same manner; rather, simply tell him that you are fasting.”

For years, studies in laboratory animals have shown that sharply curtailing calories, while still getting adequate nutrition, can keep animals healthy and extend their life spans. Recently, animal research has shown that fasting also prolongs life, while preventing the development of diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.  People who practice this same calorie restriction — fasting, while eating a low-calorie yet nutritionally balanced diet — appear to receive some of the same benefits as animals.

“The good news is that data from animals show that fast may be as effective as long-term calorie restriction in extending lifespan and improving health,” said Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD, research professor of medicine and the study’s principal investigator.

This study is still ongoing, and Fontana says, “This is going to be the first study of this strategy where we look comprehensively at markers of inflammation, changes in metabolic and cardiovascular function and health, including molecular changes in the colon that might protect against cancer.”


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