“I will be fasting for sure,” he told ABC News. While many wonder how diabetics manage to fast in Ramadan, Mousfar, 62- year Type 2 diabetic, confidently states that’s it was never a question, “I’ve been doing it all my all life. I would not stop during Ramadan, the fast.”
Mousfar, of New York City, has been a diabetic for over 20 years, but said his diabetes hasn’t stopped him from observing Ramadan. “I really look at fasting as [spiritual,]” Mousfar said. “It’s body and soul work together.”
In the past, Mousfar said his doctor discovered that fasting helped him lose weight and develop a more stable blood sugar following the fast. However, others may not find it as easy to keep their fast due to fluctuating sugar levels. His brother who is also a diabetic, has had his blood sugar drop below safe levels during Ramadan and ended up breaking the fast as a result, he said.
At the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, Executive Administrator Kassem Allie said that diabetes is a case of concern for the community as it sometimes leads to people needing to break their fasts. But Allie also added that some try to adhere to the ritual while trying to stay healthy.
“People are disappointed they can’t fast,” Allie said of those with diabetes. “Some people hesitate to go to the doctor because they say I can’t fast. They try it for a couple days and see how you do.” He explained that many people are reluctant to give up the rituals around Ramadan, including the big meal enjoyed at sunset with family and friends.
“They fast for 25 and 30 years and suddenly they develop this malady,” said Allie. “Fasting becomes a way of life and it’s a traditional [and] communal.”
Diabetes has been steadily rising in the Middle East and North Africa — areas with a high population of Muslims, according to the Associated Press. In the U.S., about 9.3 percent of the population have diabetes.
Lisa Cimperman, a dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, said it’s unlikely that people with Type 1 diabetes can safely fast due to the sensitive nature of their condition. She said those with Type 2 diabetes — once known as adult-onset diabetes — could likely just “flip” their schedule so that their normal daytime schedule of calibrated pills and carbohydrates is changed to night so that their blood sugar level remains stable.
“This would definitely be a time for even individuals with Type 2 diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly throughout the day,” said Cimperman, who explained many people with Type 2 diabetes don’t have to check their blood sugar multiple times daily.
“That will be the best way to see how their body is reacting to fasting,” she said.
Although diabetics and pregnant women do find it difficult to maintain their fasts at time, fasting has largely great benefits for the body. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) advised, “soomo wa tsahhoo”, which can be translated to mean, “Fast and be healthy.”
Even science has proven that Ramadan is a month full of blessings. The International Congress on “Health and Ramadan” which was held in Casablanca in 1994, covered 50 studies on the medical ethics of Ramadan and noted various improvements in the health conditions of those who fast. And off late, scientists have discovered that cycles of prolonged fasting protect against cancer and prompts stem cell regeneration.