Religious Fasting; the Purgation of Soul and Body

Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of Food Research, Standards Organization, Tehran, Iran.

2 Department of Food Science and Technology, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Department of Emergency Medicine, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran.


Introduction: Nearly one billion adult Muslims across the world refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking from dawn until dusk during the holy month of Ramadan. The duration of Islamic fasting varies depending on the coinciding season and geographical location. The present study aimed to review the health benefits of Islamic fasting. Methods: This review was carried out after searching in several databases such as Science Direct, PubMed, Medline, PMC, Google Scholar and also the related articles. Results: Islamic fasting is along with many health benefits such as the reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer. Although, some health problems have mentioned during Islamic fasting like dehydration, headaches. Conclusion: According to the results of this review, religious fasting positively influences the body weight and lipid and glucose levels, while exerting antioxidative effects, increasing longevity, and improving the renal and immune function. The health benefits of fasting could be reinforced through the balanced intake of various nutrients, such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, cereals, and grains, as well as beverages such as water and milk, during Ramadan.


1. Trepanowski JF, Bloomer RJ. The impact of religious fasting on human health. Nutr J. 2010; 9: 57-65.
2. Horne BD, Muhlestein JB, Anderson JL. Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015; 102(2): 464-70.
3. Pakkir Maideen NM, Jumale A, Balasubramaniam R. Adverse health effects associated with Islamic fasting-A literature review. J Fasting Health. 2017; 5(3): 113-8.
4. Lazarou C, Matalas AL. A critical review of current evidence perspectives and research implications of diet-related traditions of the Eastern Christian Orthodox Church on dietary intakes and health consequences. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2010; 61(7): 739-58.
5. Varady KA, Hellerstein MK. Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of
human and animal trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86(1): 7-13.
6. Lu J, E L, Wang W, Frontera J, Zhu H, Wang WT, et al. Alternate day fasting impacts the brain
Insulin-signaling pathway of young adult male C57BL/6 mice. J Neurochem. 2011; 117(1): 154 -63.
7. Shehab A, Abdulle A, El Issa A, Al Suwaidi J, Nagelkerke N. Favorable changes in lipid profile: the effects of fasting after Ramadan. PloS One. 2012; 7(10): e47615.
8. Bouhlel E, Denguezli M, Zaouali M, Tabka Z, Shephard RJ. Ramadan fasting’s effect on plasma leptin adiponectin concentrations and body composition in trained young men. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008; 18(6): 617-27.
9. Akuchekian S, Ebrahimi A, Alvandian S. Effect of the holy month of Ramadan on coping strategies. J Res Med Sci. 2004; 9(2): 65-8.
10. Johnson JB, Summer W, Cutler RG, Martin B, Hyun DH, Dixit VD, et al. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radic Biol Med. 2007; 42(5): 665-74.
11. Cheng CW, Adams GB, Perin L, Wei M, Zhou X, Lam BS, et al. Prolonged fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. Cell Stem Cell. 2014; 14(6): 810-23.
12. Faris MA, Kacimi S, Al-Kurd RA, Fararjeh MA, Bustanji YK, Mohammad MK, et al. intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutr Res. 2012; 32(12): 947-55.
13. Arumugam TV, Phillips TM, Cheng A, Morrell CH, Mattson MP, Wan R. Age and energy intake interact to modify cell stress pathways and stroke outcome. Ann Neurol. 2010; 67(1): 41-52.
14. Hafström I, Ringertz B, Gyllenhammar H, Palmblad J, Harms-Ringdahl M. Effects of fasting
on disease activity neutrophil function fatty acid composition and leukotriene biosynthesis in
patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 1988; 31(5): 585-92.
15. Pakkir Maideen NM, Jumale A, Alatrash JI, Ahamed Abdul Sukkur A. Health Benefits of Islamic Intermittent Fasting. J Fasting Health. 2017; 5(4): 162-71.
16. Sadeghpour S, Hassanzadeh Keshteli A, Daneshpajouhnejad P, Jahangiri P, Adibi P. Ramadan fasting and digestive disorders: SEPAHAN systematic review No. 7. J Res Med Sci. 2012; 17(7): 150-8.
17. Persynaki A, Karras S, Pichard C. Unraveling the metabolic health benefits of fasting related to beliefs of religion: A narrative review. Nutrition. 2017; 35; 14-20.
18. Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Anton SD, Ravussin E. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81(1): 69-73.
19. Ziaee V, Razaei M, Ahmadinejad Z, Shaikh H, Yousefi R, Yarmohammadi L, et al. The changes of metabolic profile and weight during Ramadan fasting. Singapore Med J. 2006; 47(5): 409-14.
20. Fedail SS, Murphy D, Salih SY, Bolton CH, Harvey RF. Changes in certain blood constituents during Ramadan. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982; 36(2): 350-3.
21. Hallak MH, Nomani MZ. Body weight loss and changes in blood lipid levels in normal men on hypocaloric diets during Ramadan fasting. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988; 48(5): 1197-210.
22. Kassab S, Abdul-Ghaffar T, Nagalla DS, Sachdeva U, Nayar U. Interactions between leptin
neuropeptide-Y and insulin with chronic diurnal fasting during Ramadan. Ann Saudi Med. 2004;
24(5): 345-9.
23. Rohin MAK, Rozano N, Abd Hadi N, Mat Nor MN, Abdullah S, Dandinasivara Venkateshaiah M. Anthropometry and body composition status during Ramadan among higher institution learning center staffs with different body weight status. Scientific World Journal. 2013; 2013: 308041.
24. Sanders SW, Moore JG. Gastrointestinal chronopharmacology: physiology pharmacology and therapeutic implications. Pharmacol Ther. 1992; 54(1): 1-15.
25. Sweileh N, Schnitzler A, Hunter GR, Davis B. Body composition and energy metabolism in resting and exercising muslims during Ramadan fast. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1992; 32(2): 156-63.
26. Hajek P, Myers K, Dhanji AR, West O, McRobbie H. Weight change during and after Ramadan fasting. J Public Health (Oxf). 2012; 34(3): 377-81.
27. Sadeghirad B, Motaghipisheh S, Kolahdooz F, Zahedi MJ, Haghdoost AA. Islamic fasting and weight loss: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Public Health Nutr. 2014; 17(2): 396-406.
28. Kul S, Savaş E, Öztürk ZA, Karadağ G. Does Ramadan fasting alter body weight and blood lipids and fasting blood glucose in a healthy population? A meta-analysis. J Relig Health. 2014; 53(3): 929-42.
29. Al-Shafei AI. Ramadan fasting ameliorates arterial pulse pressure and lipid profile and alleviates oxidative stress in hypertensive patients. Blood Press. 2014; 23(3): 160-7.
30. Adlouni A, Ghalim N, Benslimane A, Lecerf JM, Saïle R. Fasting during Ramadan induces a marked increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and decrease in low-density lipoprotein
Cholesterol. Ann Nutr Metab. 1997; 41(4): 242-9.
31. Zare A, Hajhashemi M, Hassan ZM, Zarrin S, Pourpak Z, Moin M, et al. Effect of Ramadan
Fasting on serum heat shock protein 70 and serum lipid profile. Singapore Med J. 2011; 52(7): 491-5.
32. Al-Shafei AI. Ramadan fasting ameliorates oxidative stress and improves glycemic control
and lipid profile in diabetic patients. Eur J Nutr. 2014; 53(7): 1475-81.
33. Mansi KMS. Study the effects of Ramadan fasting on the serum glucose and lipid profile among healthy Jordanian students. Am J Appl Sci. 2007; 4(8): 565-9.
34. Adlouni A, Ghalim N, Saı̈le R, Hda N, Parra HJ, Benslimane A. Beneficial effect on serum apo AI apo B and Lp AI levels of Ramadan fasting. Clin Chim Acta. 1998; 271(2): 179-89.
35. Faris ME, Hussein RN, Al-Kurd RA, Al-Fararjeh MA, Bustanji YK, Mohammad MK. Impact of Ramadan intermittent fasting on oxidative stress measured by urinary 15-f(2t)-isoprostane. J Nutr Metab. 2012; 2012: 802924.
36. Lamri-Senhadji MY, El Kebir B, Belleville J, Bouchenak M. Assessment of dietary consumption and time-course of changes in serum lipids and lipoproteins before during and after Ramadan in young Algerian adults. Singapore Med J. 2009; 50(3): 288-94.
37. Heilbronn LK, Civitarese AE, Bogacka I, Smith SR, Hulver M, Ravussin E. Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting. Obes Res. 2005; 13(3): 574-81.
38. Boden G, Chen X, Mozzoli M, Ryan I. Effect of fasting on serum leptin in normal human subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996; 81(9): 3419-23.
39. Harvie MN, Pegington M, Mattson MP, Frystyk J, Dillon B, Evans G, et al. The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011; 35(5): 714-27.
40. Faris MA, Kacimi S, Al-Kurd RA, Fararjeh MA, Bustanji YK, Mohammad MK, et al. intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutr Res. 2012; 32(12): 947-55.
41. Aksungar FB, Topkaya AE, Akyildiz M. Interleukin- 6 C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters during prolonged intermittent fasting. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007; 51(1): 88-95.
42. Fontana L, Partridge L, Longo VD. Extending healthy life from yeast to humans. Science. 2010; 328(5976):321-6.
43. Hendawy A. Effect of Fasting on Renal Physiology. J Fasting Health. 2014; 2(3): 110-2.
44. Azizi F, Rasouli HA. Serum glucose, bilirubin, calcium, phosphorus, protein and albumin concentrations during Ramadan. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 1987; 1(1): 38-41.
45. Boobes Y, Bernieh B, Al Hakim MR. Fasting Ramadan in kidney transplant patients is safe.
Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl. 2009; 20(2): 198-200.
46. Salahuddin M, Javed MH. Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Some Physiological and Biochemical Parameters in Healthy and Hypertensive Subjects in Aurangabad District of Maharashtra, India. J Fasting Health. 2014; 2(1): 7-13.
47. Rokaya OAEGM, El-Batae HE, Tawfeek S. Ramadan fasting improves kidney functions and ameliorates oxidative stress in diabetic patients. World Journal of Medical Sciences. 2012; 7(1): 38-48.
48. Miladipour AH, Shakhssalim N, Parvin M, Azadvari M. Effect of Ramadan fasting on urinary risk factors for calculus formation. Iran J Kidney Dis. 2012; 6(1): 33-8.
49. Siadat Z, Rastin M, Tabasi N, Rezaee A, Mahmoudi M. Evaluation of the Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Lymphocyte subpopulations in a Two-year Follow-up. J Fasting Health. 2014; 2(1): 31-36.
50. Pawelec G, Adibzadeh M, Pohla H, Schaudt K. Immunosenescence: again of the immune system. Immunol Today. 1995; 16(9): 420-2.
51. Celik I, Barista I, Firat D. Cancer therapy during Ramadan. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1996; 88(12): 838.
52. Abbas AK, Lichtman AH, Pober JS. Cellular and molecular immunology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co; 2000: 466-7.
53. Kuziv Ole. The effect of complete fasting on the structural – functional organization of the white pulp of the spleen. Fiziol Zh. 1997; 43(1-2): 89-100.
54. Rogozina OP, Bonorden MJ, Seppanen CN, Grande JP, Cleary MP. Effect of chronic and intermittent calorie restriction on serum adiponectin and leptin and mammary tumorigenesis. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011; 4(4): 568-81.
55. Longo VD, Mattson MP. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell Metab. 2014; 19(2): 181-92.
56. Morselli E, Maiuri MC, Markaki M, Megalou E, Pasparaki A, Palikaras K, et al. Caloric restriction and resveratrol promote longevity through the Sirtuin-1-dependent induction of autophagy. Cell Death Dis. 2010; 1: e10-8.
57. Mercken EM, Carboneau BA, Krzysik-Walker SM, de Cabo R. Of mice and men: the benefits of caloric restriction exercise and mimetics. Ageing Res Rev. 2012; 11(3): 390-8.
58. Rothman SM, Griffioen KJ, Wan R, Mattson MP. Brain‐derived neurotrophic factor as a regulator of systemic and brain energy metabolism and cardiovascular health. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012; 1264(1): 49-63.
59. Fontana L, Klein S. Aging adiposity and calorie restriction. JAMA. 2007; 297(9): 986-94.
60. Anson RM, Guo Z, de Cabo R, Iyun T, Rios M, Hagepanos A, et al. Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance
to injury from calorie intake. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003; 100(10): 6216–20.
61. Panowski SH, Wolff S, Aguilaniu H, Durieux J, Dillin A. PHA-4/Foxa mediates diet-restriction-induced longevity of C. elegance. Nature. 2007; 447(7144): 550–5.
62. Sadati AK, Lankarani KB, Gharibi V, Fard ME, Ebrahimzadeh N, Tahmasebi S. Religion as an empowerment context in the narrative of women with breast cancer. J Relig Health. 2015; 54(3): 1068-79.
63. Holt-Lunstad J, Steffen PR, Sandberg J, Jensen B. Understanding the connection between spiritual well-being and physical health: an examination of ambulatory blood pressure inflammation blood lipids and fasting glucose. J Behav Med. 2011; 34(6): 477-88.
64. Kazemi M, Karimi S, Ansari A, Negahban T, Hosseini SH, Vazirinejad R. The Effect of Ramadan Fasting on Psychological Health and Depression in Sirjan Azad University Students. Journal of Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences. 2006; 5 (2): 117-22. (Persian)
65. Khoshniat Nikoo M, Shadman ZH, Larijani B. Ramadan fasting mental health and sleep-wake pattern. Iranian South Medical Journal. 2012; 15(2): 137-49.
66. Kalateh Sadati A. Islamic Worldview Fasting and Health. J Nutrition Fasting Health. 2018; 6(2): 104-6.
67. Abuznaid S. Islam and management: what can be learned? Thunderbird International Business Review. 2006; 48(1): 125-39.
68. Koenig H, King D, Carson VB. Handbook of religion and health. 2nd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press; 2012.
69. Feizollahzadeh S, Rasuli J, Kheirouri S, Alizadeh M. Augmented plasma adiponectin after prolonged fasting during Ramadan in men. Health Promot Perspect. 2014; 4(1): 77-81.
70. Norouzy A, Salehi M, Philippou E, Arabi H, Shiva F, Mehrnoosh S, et al. Effect of fasting in Ramadan on body composition and nutritional intake: a prospective study. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013; 26 Suppl 1: 97-104.
71. Ghahremani M, Delshad A, Tavakolizadeh J. Thestudy of Ramadan fasting effect on Moslems mental health. Ofogh-E-Danesh Journal. 2000; 6: 3–13.