More and more non-Muslims are turning to fasting as part of efforts to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle, according to nutrition experts.
While millions of Muslims around the world abstain from eating and drinking during the daylight hours throughout Ramadan, it is also a growing trend among non-Muslims looking to shed pounds or life a healthier lifestyle.
“There are three variations. One is you do fasting everyday for 16 hours, then there is one where you alternative, where one day you eat all you want and the next day you fast. The other one is five days [eating] to two days [fasting],” said Mitun De Sarker, a diet and nutrition consultant at Northwest Clinic for Diabetes & Endocrinology.
One of the most popular variations is the so-called 5:2 diet, which allows you to eat as much as you please for five days a week, but lower your intake to less than 500 carbohydrates on each of the remaining two days. The diet has gained popularity in the last 12 months after it was featured in a BBC documentary about fasting.
De Sarker said that some of her clients have enquired about fasting, although she was not herself convinced about the health benefits.
“People who are interested in it have enquired about it, and we have even attempted trying to do it with some of our clients. Has it helped them? I wouldn’t say that. They tried to do it, but the next day they were ravenously hungry and they tended to eat more on that particular day. In the long-run it’s not very practical,” she said.
De Sarker added that in some cases it could lead to weight loss. "It’s a good opportunity for the body to use up fat stores for energy. It could give you weight loss in some cases," she said.
Rashi Chowdhary, another Dubai-based nutrition expert, agreed that so-called ‘intermittent’ fasting was difficult to keep up as a permanent lifestyle change.
“When we follow the latest diet fads, typically it will be a glorified version of low carbohydrate, high protein or a cleansing detox, or now ‘intermittent fasting’, they fail to become a lifestyle,” she said. “They are not sustainable, so the weight lost - if any - will always come back when you resume eating normally.”