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Balancing Mind, Body and Soul: Three Ways Ramadan Fasting Boosts Your Health

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Exploring physical and spiritual benefits associated with fasting in Ramadan

Musa Sattar, London, UK

Every year, millions of Muslims undertake fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. Every day, from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from drinking or eating anything. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Ramadan fasting holds a central place in the lives of Muslims worldwide. With the lunar month of Ramadan serving as a time of spiritual renewal, self-discipline, and community bonding, the practice of fasting during this sacred period serves as a foundation for growth and renewal.

A decade ago, fasting was a niche topic in specialised circles. But now, discussion of fasting is everywhere. Intermittent fasting is increasingly popular, and researchers are turning their gaze towards fasting with renewed interest. The prominence of fasting within Muslim communities provides a rich vein of empirical data for scientists seeking to understand its physiological and psychological effects. With each passing year, there’s a growing body of evidence supporting the myriad benefits of Ramadan fasting, ranging from metabolic improvements to cognitive enhancements and beyond. In addition, the growing popularity of intermittent fasting has also spurred a number of new studies on it. As two authors of a study on Ramadan fasting published in the journal Nutrients have acknowledged, ‘The Ramadan fast (RF) is a form of Intermittent Fasting (IF) practised by millions of adult Muslims globally for a whole lunar month every year.’ [1] Indeed, Ramadan fasting is now widely recognised as one of the most extensively studied [2] types of religious fasting.

Whether you’re observing Ramadan as a Muslim or interested in exploring the benefits of fasting, read on to discover three benefits that fasting can offer to the mind, body and soul.

1. Boosts Metabolism and Heart Health

During Ramadan, the body undergoes a metabolic shift as it transitions from a state of digestion to repair. This metabolic reset, leads to improvements in cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure regulation. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. Studies have shown that the Ramadan intermittent fasting pattern leads to improvements in lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity.[3] For example, research has found that intermittent fasting and fasting during Ramadan can decrease levels of LDL cholesterol (the kind that spells trouble for your heart), reducing the risk of heart disease.[4],[5],[6] The data suggest that Ramadan fasting leads to a significant increase in healthy gut microbiota.[7],[8] Studies have also reported that intermittent fasting patterns reduce blood pressure, increase heart rate variability and reduce insulin resistance.[9]

2. Aids in Weight Management and Enhances Cognitive Function

Ramadan fasting can actually aid in weight loss and body composition improvements, at least temporarily. While calorie intake may increase during non-fasting hours, the overall calorie deficit during Ramadan contributes to reductions in weight and fat mass, especially in those who are obese.[10] Additionally, fasting promotes fat metabolism and helps regulate appetite, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Several studies examining the impact of Ramadan fasting on body weight and body fat percentage have shown decreases in both weight and waist circumference immediately after Ramadan.[11],[12],[13]

Fasting has also been found to promote neuroplasticity, which can enhance memory, attention, and overall cognitive performance. Emerging research suggests that metabolic changes during fasting could improve brain function by boosting cognitive performance, increasing neuroplasticity, and making the brain more resilient to injury and disease.[14],[15] Clinical studies have found that intermittent fasting can help with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis by improving symptoms and slowing down the progress of these diseases. Animal research has also shown that intermittent fasting might help with Parkinson’s disease, ischemic stroke, autism spectrum disorder, and mood and anxiety disorders by targeting certain mechanisms in the body.[16] For instance, studies on mice have shown that fasting can improve memory consolidation – if this holds true for humans as well, it suggests that fasting would allow individuals to retain information more effectively.[17]

3. Nurtures Spiritual Growth

While the physical and cognitive benefits of fasting in Ramadan can improve our health, the real purpose of fasting in this month is to become closer to God. Ramadan offers an opportunity for spiritual reflection and growth.

Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, for which God Himself has promised to pour down blessings upon those who fast in earnest; striving all the time to win the pleasure of God; and seeking divine assistance through prayer and good conduct.[18],[19]

In one hadith the Holy Prophet (sa) said, ‘When the month of Ramadan enters, the gates of heaven are flung open and the gates of hell are shut, and satans are chained.’[20] These are the spiritual benefits of Ramadan; during this sacred month, all paths to wrongdoing are obstructed, enabling individuals to draw closer to God without any barriers in the way.

During Ramadan not only does one have to abstain from eating and drinking during the hours of fasting but one also has to refrain from expressing anger, backbiting and all forms of immodest speech. Although one must observe this vigilance at all times, whether or not one is fasting, one who fasts take extra precautions while fasting for it is a time when one’s sincere efforts are richly rewarded. As in another hadith the Holy Prophet (sa) said, ‘Allah said, All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’[21]

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time to prayer, supplication, recitation of the Holy Qur’an, and contemplation of its deeper significance. While rest or sleep is permissible during both day and night to rejuvenate oneself, the majority of time should be devoted to remembering Allah in order to fully benefit from this sacred time of the year.

The Promised Messiah (as) said, ‘The inner condition of man cannot be rectified merely by formal prayers and fasting. It is necessary that hardships should come.’[22]

Therefore, during the final ten days of Ramadan, some Muslims engage in a heightened form of devotion called I’tikaf, where they retreat to the mosque for intense prayer and silent reflection. This period of 10 days is dedicated to deep meditation, the study of the Holy Qur’an, and fervent supplication. Their worship becomes more intense, with a heightened dedication to voluntary prayers, in addition to the obligatory ones. While during Ramadan Muslims can carry on their usual work and daily responsibilities while fasting, those who choose to observe I’tikaf take time off from their work, studies, and any other commitments and seclude themselves in mosques or designated spaces. Their entire day and night are dedicated solely to prayer, recitation of the Holy Qur’an, and seeking forgiveness from Allah. During this time, they refrain from all other worldly engagements, unnecessary conversations, internet browsing, mobile gaming, or any other distractions. This unique aspect of Ramadan, the opportunity to observe I’tikaf, strengthens the bond with Allah Almighty.

In essence, Ramadan fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drink; it’s about nourishing the mind, body, and soul. By embracing this religious tradition, individuals can experience a multitude of health benefits while also deepening their spiritual practice and connection to Allah. As His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) in the recent Friday sermon said, ‘The true essence of Ramadan, is to lessen one form of sustenance that satiates the physical body and increase another form of sustenance which satiates the soul. Fasting is not about remaining hungry, rather it is to give an increased opportunity to focus on increased worship.’[23]

So this Ramadan, consider not just the physical aspect of fasting, but also the profound impact it can have on your overall well-being.

About the Author: Musa Sattar has an MSc in Pharmaceutical Analysis from Kingston University and is also serving as the Assistant Manager of The Review of Religions and the Deputy Editor of the Science & Religion section.


[1] Lessan N, Ali T. ‘Energy Metabolism and Intermittent Fasting: The Ramadan Perspective.’ Nutrients. 2019 May 27;11(5):1192. doi: 10.3390/nu11051192.

[2] Khaled Obaideen, et al. ‘Seven decades of Ramadan intermittent fasting research: Bibliometrics analysis, global trends, and future directions.’ Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome. 2022 Aug;16(8):102566. doi: 10.1016/j.dsx.2022.102566.

[3] Mohamed Ibrahim Madkour, et al. ‘Ramadan intermittent fasting is associated with ameliorated inflammatory markers and improved plasma sphingolipids/ceramides in subjects with obesity: lipidomics analysis.’ Scientific Reports. 2023 Oct 13;13(1):17322. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-43862-9.

[4] Nader Lessan, Tomader Ali. ‘Energy Metabolism and Intermittent Fasting: The Ramadan Perspective.’ Nutrients. 2019 May 27;11(5):1192. doi: 10.3390/nu11051192.

[5] Izzah Vasim, et al. ‘Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health.’ Nutrients. (31 Jan 2022);14(3), 631. doi: 10.3390/nu14030631.

[6] Malinowski B, Zalewska K, Węsierska A, Sokołowska MM, Socha M, Liczner G, Pawlak-Osińska K, Wiciński M. ‘Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders-An Overview.’ Nutrients. (20 March 2019);11(3):673. doi: 10.3390/nu11030673.

[7] Su J, Wang Y, Zhang X, Ma M, Xie Z, Pan Q, Ma Z, Peppelenbosch MP. ‘Remodeling of the gut microbiome during Ramadan-associated intermittent fasting.’ The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (8 May 2021);113(5):1332-1342. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa388.

[8] Ceren Özkul, Meltem Yalınay, Tarkan Karakan. ‘Islamic fasting leads to an increased abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila and Bacteroides fragilis group: A preliminary study on intermittent fasting.’ Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology. (30 December 2019); 30(12):1030-1035. doi: 10.5152/tjg.2019.19185.

[9] Guntari Prasetya, Suwimol Sapwarobol. ‘Intermittent fasting during Ramadan improves insulin sensitivity and anthropometric parameters in healthy young Muslim men.’ American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2018 Dec 2;15(2):200-206. doi: 10.1177/1559827618815430.

[10] Hamish A. et al. ‘Effect of Ramadan Fasting on Weight and Body Composition in Healthy Non-Athlete Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.’ Nutrients. (24 February 2019);11(2):478. doi: 10.3390/nu11020478.

[11] Farhana Osman, Sumanto Haldar, Christiani Jeyakumar Henry. ‘Effects of Time-Restricted Feeding during Ramadan on Dietary Intake, Body Composition and Metabolic Outcomes.’ Nutrients. (17 August 2020);12(8):2478. doi: 10.3390/nu12082478.

[12] Nachvak SM, et al. ‘Effects of Ramadan on food intake, glucose homeostasis, lipid profiles and body composition composition.’ European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2019);73(4):594-600. doi: 10.1038/s41430-018-0189-8.

[13] Correia JM, Santos I, Pezarat-Correia P, Silva AM, Mendonca GV. ‘Effects of Ramadan and Non-Ramadan Intermittent Fasting on Body Composition: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.’ Frontiers in Nutrition. (26 January 2021);7:625240. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.625240.

[14] Brocchi A, Rebelos E, Dardano A, Mantuano M, Daniele G. ‘Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain Metabolism.’ Nutrients. (17 March 2022);14(6):1275. doi: 10.3390/nu14061275.

[15] Gudden J, Arias Vasquez A, Bloemendaal M. ‘The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain and Cognitive Function.’ Nutrients. (10 September 2021);13(9):3166. doi: 10.3390/nu13093166.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Dias GP, et al. ‘Intermittent fasting enhances long-term memory consolidation, adult hippocampal neurogenesis, and expression of longevity gene Klotho.’ Molecular Psychiatry. (2021);26(11):6365-6379. doi: 10.1038/s41380-021-01102-4.

[18] The Holy Qur’an, 33:36.

[19] The Holy Qur’an, 2:185.

[20] Riyad al-Salihin, Hadith 1220.

[21] Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1904.

[22] Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, Vol. 10, p104

[23] Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Friday Sermon, 15th March 2024.