Fasting boosts immune system and fight disease, study says

Doctors stress importance of exercise and eating in moderation

Fasting during Ramadan could help a person’s immune system fight infections such as Covid-19, a study showed.

In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, the researchers suggested that fasting could reduce the harmful effects of inflammatory cytokines.

Cytokines are essential to the immune system but the inflammatory kind attack the body and are believed to be a major driver of severe cases of Covid-19.

Fasting during Ramadan could help a person’s immune system fight infections such as Covid-19, a study showed.

fasting allowed the body to produce new white blood cells, rejuvenating the immune system.

In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, the researchers suggested that fasting could reduce the harmful effects of inflammatory cytokines

Cytokines are essential to the immune system but the inflammatory kind attack the body and are believed to be a major driver of severe cases of Covid-19.

The wider benefits of fasting

Dr Mohammed Arif, a specialist in internal medicine at Aster Hospital in Mankhool, Dubai, said fasting helped to boost a person’s metabolism and their ability to tackle health problems such as high cholesterol and diabetes.

Fasting can even improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

“Studies show that people who underwent chemotherapy responded better while fasting,” Dr Arif said.

But doctors emphasised the beneficial effects largely depend on what people eat when they break their fast.

Nutrient-rich foods such as nuts, fruit and vegetables should feature prominently in iftar and suhoor meals.

“When fasting, we need to maintain the balance between all micronutrients,” said Dr Iffat Sultana, a specialist in internal medicine at NMC Royal Hospital in Dubai Investments Park.

“As a general rule, carbohydrates should be 55 per cent, proteins 25 per cent and fat should be 20 per cent.”

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How to eat for your health during Ramadan

Vitamin C is an important immune booster, as is vitamin B6, said Dr Azeem Mohamad, a specialist in internal medicine at Bareen International Hospital in Mohamed bin Zayed City, Abu Dhabi.

Foods rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids can also be important parts of Ramadan diets.

“Remember, having healthy food and antioxidant rich foods will give your body enough strength to fight any infection,” Dr Arif said.

Foods that have high levels of sugar or salt and fried meals should be avoided, Dr Mohamad said.

Muslims can exercise as normal during the holy month and should aim to sleep for at least seven to eight hours a night.

Doctors in the Emirates also said it was safe for people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 while fasting.

Those fasting should also drink at least two litres of water after the daily fast breaks.

Despite the benefits of fasting, Ramadan can be a busy time for hospitals and clinics across the country.

Doctors have said it is not uncommon for patients who are managing existing conditions to fall ill after breaking their fast at sunset.

The most common admissions are of people with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma and epilepsy.

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