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Ramadan fasting raises health debates

Written by Louise Stankevicius
Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan

Although Muslims fast for other occasions throughout the year, Ramadan is the only time when fasting is obligatory for a month.

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that consists of daily fasting and is accompanied by a heightened sense of religious spirituality, has just concluded for another year.

The Qur’an says “fast as to be healthy” however the effects on ones health from not eating or drinking from dawn till dusk for 30 days straight is still raising international debates.

It is already widely accepted that abstaining from food and drink for long periods of time during Ramadan is harmful for those who are sick and thus certain people of the Islamic faith are exempt.

However while some medical professionals believe that Ramadan fasting can be beneficial for those in good health, others believe that it carries many harmful risks.

Dr Samuel Gill from the Mount Isa Hospital said that while it depends on the person, there are many profound negative medical effects that fasting can have.

“There’s things like dehydration and this can cause a common faint to severe headaches. People can even have acute renal failure,” he said.

“If you’re a young person going through puberty, this is a period of rapid growth and development and if you’re starving your body of particular nutrients for large portions of the day then that will have obvious long term effects.”

On the other hand, Dr Steven Purcell from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital believes that there are some benefits that can obtained from fasting including having a lower calorie intake.

“If someone was considering losing weight it might help them achieve those goals,” said Dr Purcell.

Initially, he said symptoms of headaches, nausea and lethargy may be experienced but these symptoms soon “resolve” and daily functioning will go back to a “normal baseline as what is was before”.

Listen to the full conversation with Dr Gill and Dr Purcell below.

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