Fasting in the month of Ramadan according to Islamic history was first ordered in the 2nd year after the Prophet's Hijrah to Medina. That year also saw the first war between the Muslims and the polytheists of Makkah, namely the Battle of Badr.
The command to fast is not an order reserved for the ummah of Rasulullah SAW only, and previous ummahs have also done it. The wisdom of fasting for Muslims is to increase loyalty to Allah SWT, training to control lust and attempts to change oneself to be better as a whole.
As you know, the practice of fasting is something that is highly encouraged by non-Muslims and even scientific researchers? Let's find out some fantastic health benefits supported by science about the practice of this third Pillar of Islam.
The Benefits of Fasting According to Science
In addition to the purpose of worship and spiritual practice, fasting is also used as a practice to diet and lose weight. It turns out that it is an effective method and does not require the practitioner to torture himself to starve until there is a problem such as bulimia nervosa.
Fasting began to become a popular practice with new dietary methods such as Intermittent fasting and Keto diet which took the basis of fasting as a way to lose weight.
Here are some other benefits of fasting supported by scientific studies.
Fasting can reduce weight and belly fat
Fasting between 2-3 weeks alone can reduce 4% of weight while fasting 8-12 weeks to lose 8% of your weight according to K. Varady study (2). The weight loss is mostly 75-90% fat in your body.
Fasting is also a great way to reduce bloating. The condition is that you should also control your diet during sahur and breaking fast. Just eat as much as necessary and not as a moment to take revenge on your stomach.
Fasting can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
In Malaysia, about 3.6 million people have diabetes (2) while in Singapore it is the 10th highest cause of death with about 400 thousand people (3).
By fasting, studies show that it can help reduce the risk of insulin-related diseases in the body. This means that your body is unable to use the insulin produced by your pancreas effectively while increasing blood sugar levels (4).
Usually, those who are obese have this disease. Fasting helps reduce the risk of diabetes by reducing sugar levels and increasing insulin capacity. As your insulin becomes more sensitive, then your blood sugar level decreases so that the risk of diabetes can also be avoided (5).
Improving the cognitive function of the elderly
Cognitive function means the main functions of the brain such as the ability to remember, think and so on. An interesting study by PhD students of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia involves, parents who practice circumcision fasting on Mondays and Thursdays take the concept of 5: 2 (i.e. 5 days of eating 2 days of fasting) by taking plain water and dates for sahur.
Studies have found that they belong to successful ageing where they are considered healthy in all aspects compared to groups that rarely practice circumcision fasting and do not practice at all (6).
Among the risks of cognitive failure that can be reduced through fasting are dementia (senility) and Alzheimer's (6).
Fasting is the way your body recovers on its own.
Valter Longo, a biologist and researcher on fasting, said: "Because we eat a lot, our body begins to lose its ability to recover from within" (7). Meaning the body's ability to recover on its own decreases due to an unhealthy diet.
According to Valter, fasting means all the small organisms in your body are hungry because you do not eat and they start eating themselves. Sounds like creepy doesn't it? But there are benefits: it allows your body to recycle energy and do 'updates'. Simply put, the first cell that dies while you are fasting is a weak cell, and new cells will be formed (8).
- Potentially prevents and reduces the risk of cancer
Cancer is a disease associated with an imbalance of replication and cell response in the body. Abnormal cell growth causes abnormal growths known as tumours.
Several studies conducted on laboratory rats (animal biology most similar to humans) found that mice suffering from cancer showed that fasting could increase their lifespan (8). Other studies have shown that the same, fasting for two days can slow the growth of some types of tumours in mice.
Although new to laboratory rats study stage but it shows the potential found in the practice of fasting in reducing the risk of cancer.
In conclusion, practice fasting not only during the month of Ramadan but also on other days. That is why Rasulullah SAW told his ummah to practice circumcision fasting Monday and Thursday. Allah is Great and Allah is All-Knowing of the contents of the universe created by Him.
The practise of fasting can not only purify your spirit but also restore your body in order to stay healthy and extend our life expectancy, InsyaAllah.
- A. Varady, “Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss?,” Obes. Rev., vol. 12, no. 7, pp. e593–e601, Jul. 2011.
- R. Barnosky, K. K. Hoddy, T. G. Unterman, and K. A. Varady, “Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings,” Transl. Res., vol. 164, no. 4, pp. 302–311, Oct. 2014.
- Siegel, T. L. Liu, N. Nepomuceno, and N. Gleicher, “Effects of Short-Term Dietary Restriction on Survival of Mammary Ascites Tumor-Bearing Rats,” Cancer Invest., vol. 6, no. 6, pp. 677–680, Jan. 1988.