A study published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal revealed that faith-based weight loss intervention programs are effective in obese or overweight women during the period after Ramadan. The study, which is entitled “Voluntary Fasting to Control Post-Ramadan Weight Gain among Overweight and Obese Women,” could have implications in how faith-based initiatives can be used in effective weight loss solutions.
Epidemiological studies have shown that the number of obese or overweight individuals in Islamic countries is a matter of concern. Control of food intake and voluntary fasting are, however, both considered honorable acts according to Islamic religious teachings. In the Islamic religion, the Ramadan corresponds to a month during which Muslims fast during the day, from dawn to sunset, with several studies reporting a considerable overall weight loss in the population during this period; however, it was also found that the weight loss is rapidly regained in the following month.
The goal of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of an Islamic voluntary fasting intervention as a method of controlling post-Ramadan weight gain in women. The study was performed between July and November 2011 with the implementation of two weight loss intervention programs among 140 Muslim obese or overweight women, inhabitants in the Malaysian cities of Putrajaya and Seremban. Malay women in group A followed an Islamic faith-based program that promoted post-Ramadan voluntary fasting besides the standard program, whereas in group B, women followed a standard program encouraging the control of food intake as recommended by the national dietary guidelines. The faith-based program included four booklets with religious quotations and relevant information regarding a healthy life, voluntary fasting and control of food intake. Parameters such as body mass index (BMI), dietary practices, blood pressure, fasting blood high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and the ratio of total cholesterol:HDL-C were determined before the Ramadan period and three months after.
The researchers found that the mean diastolic pressure, the total cholesterol:HDL-C ratio and the amount of protein/carbohydrates consumed per day were only decreased in women in group A, while the HDL-C levels and the frequency of vegetable/fruit consumption per week were significantly increased also in group A only. In terms of BMI, changes between groups A and B were not significant, although within group A, a significant decrease in BMI was found three months after the Ramadan.
The team concluded that the faith-based intervention group was able to control more efficiently the weight gain associated with the post-Ramadan period and suggests that healthcare providers should consider similar intervention programs to promote weight loss among women during Ramadan and especially to avoid post-Ramadan weight gain.