Overweight Muslims with type 2 diabetes have been encouraged to fast during Ramadan, in a bid to improve their health and reduce body weight, medical experts have said.
“Unfortunately many Muslim patients, and Muslims in general, tend to overeat upon breaking their fast, and usually the meal involves heavy, fatty foods that are high in calories,” added Dr Al Madani, Head of Emirates Diabetes Society and CEO of Dubai Hospital.
“Overweight Muslims with diabetes should take advantage of Ramadan, as excess weight and obesity are closely linked to this disease, and weight reduction leads to improved health – especially in terms of reduced blood sugar levels as well as lower cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure,” he added.
However, he advised that high risk patients, such as those with Type 1 (or insulin-dependent) diabetes, pregnant women, those that have poor glycaemic (blood sugar) control, and the elderly, should be more cautious over the Holy Month fasting period.
Dr Al Madani added that patients should follow their medication regimens as prescribed by their doctors, and avoid indulging in fatty foods and sweets.
“Patients should also be testing their blood sugar levels at least twice daily before breaking fast, especially around four in the afternoon, and if below 70 mg/dL, they should immediately break their fast to avoid hypoglycaemia,” he added.
Symptoms of hypoglycaemia include nervousness, sweating, intense hunger, trembling, weakness, palpitations, and sufferers often have trouble speaking. In severe cases people require hospitalisation and it can even lead to coma and death.
With more than 50m Muslim patients with Type 2 Diabetes chossing to fast during Ramadan, abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours and then gorging on food overnight can place type 2 diabetes patients at up to seven times more risk of hypoglycemia, research has shown.
In a bid to combat the affects of severe hypoglycaemia, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is to set up an international observational study and is seeking to recruit patients in the Middle East as part of the program.
“We expect to recruit around 700 patients across the Middle East for this study, observing any hypoglycaemic events and weight gain over the Ramadan period. It is important that we gain a deeper understanding of the disease and the side effects of fasting, especially in predominantly Muslim populations like the UAE where prevalence figures for diabetes are staggering,” said Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, Regional Medical Manager for Novartis, Middle East cluster.
Obesity and diabetes are major healthcare issues in the Middle East and earlier this month a new research report published by BMC Public Health found Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain have all ranked amongst the world’s top ten fattest nations.
The average person in Kuwait, the second fattest country in the world behind the United States, weighs in at approximately 77.5 kg, 15.5kg heavier than the global average, the report found.
Gas-rich Qatar was ranked third globally with the average adult consuming just over 3,000 calories per day, followed by the UAE in fifth place (3017 calories) and Bahrain in tenth position (2889 calories).
The world’s adult population is getting increasingly fatter. The global population estimated to weigh a combined 287m tonnes, 17m tonnes of which is due to people being overweight, according to the research.
The rising number of obese people in the world will affect the world’s resources as much as another 1bn people would, causing a “major threat” to food security, scientists warned.