More insights on Fasting, Exercise, Diet and Diabetes from ICLDC


Below are more Insights On Fasting as well as information on diabetes and fasting. from the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre…hope it helps.

Do people tend to lose weight during Ramadan?

Ramadan isn’t always thought of as being an opportunity to lose weight because the spiritual aspect is emphasised more generally than the health side. But fasting during the Holy Month can be good for your health and can lead to moderate weight loss, if it is practised correctly.

When the body is starved of food, it starts to burn fat so that it can make energy. This can lead to weight loss.

However, if you fast for too long your body will eventually start breaking down muscle protein for energy, which is unhealthy. This unlikely to happen during Ramadan as you will break your fast daily and the body’s energy can be replaced during the pre-dawn and dusk meals.

This provides a gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy, to using fat, and prevents the breakdown of muscle for protein.

The use of fat for energy helps weight loss. It preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level. In addition, weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure.

However if one does eat more than normal during Ramadan, this can and does have adverse effects, including weight gain, and even hospitalisation through overeating when breaking fast.

 How can people avoid putting weight on during and/or after Ramadan fasting?

If you are not careful, food eaten during the pre-dawn and dusk meals can cause some weight gain. So it is important to remember: Don’t break your fast with a feast or you may put on weight instead of losing it. As you approach the fast with discipline, the same approach should be used during non-fasting hours.

Food intake (during Iftar and Suhoor) should be simple and not differ too much from your normal diet. It should contain foods from all the major food groups:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Bread, cereals and potatoes
  • Meat, fish, or alternatives
  • Milk and dairy foods
  • Foods containing fat and sugar It’s also worth avoiding caffeine-based drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination.
  • Foods To Avoid
  • Foods to avoid are the heavily processed, fast-burning foods that contain refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and white flour, as well as fatty food, for example cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets.
  • Deep-fried foods, for example pakoras, samosas and fried dumplings
  • High-sugar and high-fat foods, including sweets such as gulab jamun, rasgulla and balushahi
  • High-fat cooked foods, for example, parathas, oily curries and greasy pastries

Healthy Alternatives

  • Baked samosas and boiled dumplings
  • Chapattis made without oil
  • Baked or grilled meat and chicken
  • Homemade pastry using just a single layer
  • Milk-based sweets and puddings such as rasmalai and barfee

Cooking Methods To Avoid

  • Deep frying
  • Frying
  • Excessive use of oil

Healthy Cooking Methods

  • Shallow frying (usually there is little difference in taste)
  • Grilling or baking is healthier and helps retain the taste and original flavour of the food, especially with chicken and fish

How can indigestion be best avoided after a day of fasting?

Indigestion is common in those fasting, and can often occur when you break your fast with the Iftar meal.  The problems are varied, including abdominal distension, constipation and vomiting.

Put simply, the body can’t cope with the sudden intake of too much food, leading to indigestion and heartburn.

Another problem is that many tend not to exercise during Ramadan, preventing food from being properly digested.

Problems occur when people try to eat too much too soon. Many will attempt to consume in 6-8 hours the amount of food they would have over an entire day.

Instead you should start with food slow at first and eat gradually. The most important thing is that you have to start with fluids and non-fatty, low calorie food.

If you’re a smoker and break the fast with a cigarette, this can also leads to heartburn and indigestion.

What are the best drinks to take during Ramadan to both quench thirst and offer nutrition?

Water is the most important fluid that replenishes your thirst during Ramadan. Unfortunately though, some people do not drink enough and have only small amounts at Iftar and then forget to drink water until the next day! Water plays a significant role in weight loss and maintenance, because it helps to get rid of toxins and reduce the feeling of hunger. Try not to drink large quantities of water all at once or a lot during a meal. Instead drink water between your meals and drink small quantities of water throughout the night.

In addition to water, drink fresh fruit or vegetable juices rather than sweetened ones.

What are the health guidelines on smoking shisha and/or cigarettes during Ramadan?

Smoking is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle and is not recommended at any time.Indeed, most experts see Ramadan as an ideal chance to give up smoking or shisha. It is of course a challenge for smokers as the hours of fasting are long – between 14 and 15 hours – and they are fasting from everything including smoking.

However, during these long hours the nicotine level in the blood reduces, and can help smokers stop completely.

Unfortunately for some, the tendency can be to chain smoke after breaking the fast, a habit considered even more unhealthy than normal smoking because you are inhaling more smoke over a shorter period.

Diabetes Facts and Figures

How many people have diabetes, worldwide, and where does the UAE rank?

The latest figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) suggest that 382 million people are living with diabetes, worldwide.

In the UAE, diabetes currently affects 18.98 per cent of the population, placing the nation 15th worldwide for countries with the highest diabetes prevalence per capita.

It is also important to note that diabetes is a regional challenge. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar all feature in the top ten countries, worldwide. 

These statistics indicate that the region has high risk factors for diabetes, mostly related to rising obesity rates and physical inactivity.

Indeed, rapid economic growth, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet have all contributed to increased obesity and have fuelled diabetes prevalence in the region.

It is important that we stay focused on educating region-wide populations on the management and prevention of diabetes.

What causes diabetes? 

Diabetes is a condition that is characterised by an above normal level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is also characterised by either a relative or absolute deficiency of insulin. This is because the pancreas does not make enough insulin or insulin becomes ineffective.

Insulin, a hormone generated in the pancreas, normally controls blood sugar levels and allows the glucose to enter the cells in the body to provide energy. In type 2 diabetes resistance to insulin is aggravated by obesity. In people with diabetes, high levels of glucose remain in the bloodstream causing Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar). 

Those at increased risk include individuals who have a history of diabetes in their family, people over 40, those who are overweight or obese and inactive individuals. Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and obese and this is an important factor in causing diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the pancreas is attacked by auto-antibodies causing it to fail. It mostly develops before adulthood in younger people and remains with them throughout their life. 

Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is mainly brought on by an unhealthy, inactive lifestyle, weight gain and genetics. Obesity is known to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

What are some of the symptoms that could indicate diabetes? 

Usual symptoms include thirst, passing urine frequently and tiredness. However, these symptoms often have other non-worrying causes. Many people have diabetes without having any symptoms and without knowing they have it. This is why it is so important for people to have screening tests if they are at risk.

 What is the age range of people affected?

People of all ages can be affected by diabetes, although most people living with diabetes are between 40 to 59 years, but recent research is showing a rise among younger age groups. 

As for gender distribution, the estimates for both 2003 and 2025 showed a female predominance in the number of persons with diabetes. The female numbers are shown as about 10 per cent higher than for males. 

There was also a female predominance in the number of persons with pre-diabetes in the estimates for both 2003 and 2025. The female numbers are about 20 per cent higher than for males 

Obesity is widely regarded as the number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Extra body weight means a higher risk of insulin resistance, because fat interferes with the body’s ability to use insulin. 

Weight gain results in an increase in fat inside the abdomen – the so-called ‘visceral fat’ that cannot be seen or felt. The presence of this fat changes the metabolism of the body to predispose it to the metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. 

Recent statistics show a rise in childhood obesity in recent years, suggesting that 10 per cent of children and adolescents – especially between 16 and 17 years old, suffer from obesity, worldwide. In the UAE, figures suggest that a third of the population is obese, with many of those school children.

Indeed, there has been an increase of type 2 diabetes in younger people due to obesity linked to physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.

We are seeing more children with type 2, even though it normally only appears in adults over the age of 40. Why is that? And what should parents do? 

Research has indicated that type 2 diabetes is mainly brought on by an unhealthy, inactive lifestyle and weight gain. In recent years, we have seen a (rapid) spread over all age groups – and this also includes children.

Indeed, among children, type 2 diabetes is fast becoming recognised as a global public health issue with potentially serious health outcomes.

As there is an increased risk of developing diabetes with obesity, the most important thing parents can do is to encourage their children to lead a very active lifestyle with regular exercise. This can be anything from playing a sport regularly to a simple daily 30-minute brisk walk together, or even doing a household chore. 

Parents must ensure that their children also have a healthy diet which includes low fat and nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. At the same time parents should limit sugary foods and drinks like sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks.

If you’re worried that your child may be overweight and at risk of developing type 2 diabetes you should see your doctor or dietician and they will be able to advise you how to best to manage your child’s weight and general health.

In the UAE we are hopeful that through Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s public health awareness campaign ‘Diabetes-Knowledge-Action’, we will are able to support children and adults alike living with, or at the risk of developing diabetes. 

Also through ongoing research we hope to determine why diabetes occurs at such high levels in the country and instigate further preventative measures.

What are the main causes of diabetes in the UAE – the triggers and factors contributing to diabetes?

According to the International Diabetes Federation’s World Diabetes Atlas 2013, the UAE is ranked 15th worldwide, with 18.98 per cent of the UAE population living with diabetes 

There seems to be a genetic predisposition to the disease among UAE nationals and statistics show that they have a higher prevalence than other nationalities within the UAE. 

Diabetes is a condition that is characterised by an above normal level of glucose (sugar) in the blood, and by either a relative or absolute deficiency of insulin. 

This is because the pancreas does not make enough insulin or insulin becomes ineffective.

Insulin, a hormone generated in the pancreas, normally controls blood sugar levels and allows the glucose to enter the cells in the body to provide energy. 

Tendencies towards an inactive lifestyle, weight gain, an imbalanced diet and/or a lack of exercise seem to be major contributors. 

Research is on-going with the overriding aim to help explain why diabetes occurs at such high levels in the country. This will also help instigate preventative measures.

In type 2 diabetes, resistance to insulin is known to be aggravated by obesity.

In people living with diabetes, high levels of glucose remain in the bloodstream causing hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar).

Individuals who could be at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • those who have a history of diabetes in their family
  • those who are overweight or obese
  • those with an inactive lifestyle
  • people over 40Indeed, it is true that many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and/or obese  
  • and this is an important factor in promoting the onset of diabetes.

How many people are believed to have diabetes but are undiagnosed?

According to the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes Atlas in 2013, around half of the estimated 382 million people with diabetes worldwide are unaware they have it. This places around 175 million estimated to be undiagnosed, as the symptoms of diabetes can be hard to detect.

There is a similar trend in the UAE as the IDF estimates again that just under half of the people with diabetes are unaware that they are living with the condition.

What are some of the serious effects of diabetes you are seeing in the UAE?  

Diabetes brings with it serious complications related to the heart, eyes, blood vessels, kidneys, feet and nerves.

Some of the cases that we have witnessed in the UAE are:

  • Diabetic eye disease – diabetic retinopathy is a key cause of blindness, occurring as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. After 15 years of living with diabetes, approximately two per cent of patients become blind, and about 10 per cent develop severe visual impairment.
  • Diabetic neuropathy – this is damage to the nerves as a result of diabetes, and affects up to 50 per cent of people living with diabetes. Although many different complications can occur as a result of diabetic neuropathy, common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands. Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.
  • Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure. Approximately 10-20 per cent of people living with diabetes die from this complication.
  • Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. People living with type 2 diabetes are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke as people who do not have diabetes.
  • Overall, the risk of premature death among those living with diabetes is at least double the risk of those without diabetes. It is thought that mortality linked to diabetes mellitus constitutes 75 per cent of the deaths among UAE nationals and 31 per cent among non-nationals

Is the UAE population offered much awareness of diabetes and how to prevent it? 

Diabetes is now on the country’s top list of health concerns and is being tackled through awareness campaigns that focus on lifestyle changes. 

We believe that at governmental level the UAE is taking steps in the right direction by planning various nutrition and physical activity programmes in addition to driving public awareness campaigns. 

Certainly, at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre we have contributed with a public health awareness campaign ‘Diabetes-Knowledge-Action’.

Launched in 2007 under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, ‘Diabetes-Knowledge-Action’ is our multi-faceted public health awareness campaign.

‘Diabetes-Knowledge-Action’ is focused on disseminating knowledge surrounding diabetes prevention, symptoms and lifestyle support activities, and has reached out directly to more than 190,000 people in the UAE. 

The campaign shares the smart simple steps to maintain a healthy life, the risks of an unhealthy life, the complications that diabetes brings with it, while making available the latest evidence-based treatments.

It aims to help prevent the number of diabetes patients through education and encourage testing for diabetes on a nationwide level so that people learn if they are affected or at risk. 

The campaign’s main aim is to communicate how easy it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle by adopting a balanced diet and taking a 30-minute brisk walk each day.

The campaign presently has four pillars and a number of community events and initiatives throughout the year:

  • Eat for Life invites children, parents and carers to consider what makes a balanced diet.
  • Cook for Life looks to inspire families to cook healthy meals.
  • Play for Life promotes regular exercise for healthy living to corporate teams.
  • Walk for Life encourages the community to take at least a 30-minite brisk walk each day. Now in its eight year, thousands are again expected to join in the nation’s leading annual Walk 2014 on November 7, to pace the five kilometre main walk around Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.

And, just over a year ago, the campaign rolled out a host of mini-walks across the UAE with millions of steps taken since June by schools and organisations in support of Start Walking., a grassroots community initiative. It is estimated that the total number of steps taken over the past year is nudging 90 million.

Here are some recent seasonal quotes from ICLDC’s specialists: 

ICLDC’s Medical Director Professor Karim Meeran, also Professor of Endocrinology at Imperial College London:

“Regular exercise is one simple solution to encouraging healthy economies and lowering obesity rates…”

“As simple as it may seem, a regular exercise practice really does work in helping to lower obesity, preventing and managing diabetes.”

“Countries around the world need to do more to up-the-volume on the healthy lifestyle conversation, so that together, we can work towards becoming healthier nations. ICLDC’s Diabetes-Knowledge-Action campaign, now in its eighth year is a great example of an engaging campaign…”

“Our genes have evolved over thousands of years to help arm early human populations to survive periods of famine through the storage of fat and the slow release of its energy. However, in modern day, if not managed through proper diet and exercise this genetic ability can work against us leading to obesity and eventually diabetes…”

“We all have the ability to protect ourselves and those we care for by striving to maintain a normal body weight by simply adopting a balanced diet and a regular exercise practice…”

ICLDC’s Deputy Medical Director, Consultant Diabetologist and Endocrinologist, Dr Saf Naqvi:

“Pregnant women are strongly advised not to fast, and indeed Islam releases a pregnant woman from fasting during Ramadan. However, some still like to fast and if diabetes (including gestational diabetes) is also present, this is considered a high-risk scenario that requires intensive care…”

“It’s important to make children aware of what fasting involves and to then to practice fasting for a few hours at a time, although fasting for children under the age of seven or eight isn’t advisable. Indeed, in Islamic teaching, children are not required to fast for Ramadan until they reach the age of puberty…”

“It is good to take some moderate exercise just before you break your fast at Iftar, and again just before going to bed, as well as right before Suhroor…”

“It will be quite warm during Ramadan this year and outdoor exercise might not always be the best option, so try climbing the stairs. Start slowly and gradually with two flights at a time and refrain from pushing yourself too hard during the first few days…”

ICLDC’s Internal Medicine Specialist, Dr Farhana Bin Lootah:

“Exercise is an important contributor to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 58 per cent…”

“As simple as it may sound, a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five times a week  greatly reduces the chance of developing diabetes…”

“Exercise is especially effective in minimising the risk when part of a three-way combination of a regular exercise practise, a balanced diet and maintaining a normal body weight…”

“It makes absolute sense to maintain an exercise practice throughout the Holy Month, just changing the times for exercise and food intake according to the Ramadan guidelines…”

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