Excerpted from Health Concerns for Believers by Shahid Athar, M.D.
The prescribed fast of Muslims is different from the so-called “Diet Plans” because it has beneficial features of both plans. Its unique medical benefits are due to the following factors:
1. As compared to other diet plans, fasting in Ramadan does not cause malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake since there is no restriction on the type or amount of food intake before beginning the fast or upon ending the fast at sunset. This was confirmed by M.M. Hussaini in 1974, when he conducted dietary analysis of Muslim students at the University of North Dakota , State University at Fargo during Ramadan. He concluded that calorie intake of Muslim students during fasting was at two-thirds of NCR-RDA.
2. Fasting in Ramadan is voluntarily undertaken. It is not a prescribed imposition from a physician. In the hypothalamus part of the brain there is a center called “lipostat” which controls the body mass. When severe and rapid weight loss is achieved by starvation diet, the center does not recognize this as normal and, therefore, reprograms itself to cause weight gain rapidly once the person goes off the starvation diet. So the only effective way of losing weight is slow, self-controlled, and gradual weight loss which can be achieved by modifying our behavior and changing our attitude about eating especially by eliminating excess food. Ramadan is a month of self-regulation and self-training in terms of food intake thereby causing hopefully, a permanent change in lipostat reading.
3. With the prescribed fast, Muslims are not subjected to a diet of selective food only (i.e. protein only, fruits only etc.). An early breakfast, before dawn is taken and then at sunset the fast is broken with something sweet i.e. dates, fruits, juices to offset any hypoglycemia followed by a regular dinner later on.