Fasting Can Lead to Overeating, Study Says
by Elizabeth Landau
The temptation to eat a lot during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, is great, but Saiful Khandker makes a conscious effort to not overdo it.
"You just kind of have to be mindful of, OK, if I weren't fasting and starving, what kind of meal would I have? And then kind of limit yourself based on that," said Khandker, technology systems director for a hedge fund in New York.
Around the world, many observant Muslims like Khandker who've been fasting all day during Ramadan are thinking about the feast they'll have on Eid al Fitr, the holiday that ends the holy month, next weekend. Khandker describes this day as the Muslim equivalent of Christmas, complete with gift exchanges for children and a lot of food -- everyone can "pig out for the whole day."
Food experts agree that the fast, during which observant Muslims refrain from eating during the day, can actually cause people to overeat. Some people actually take in more calories in one evening meal than they normally would over the course of a normal day during Ramadan, said Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
"Ironically, there are table manner rules in Islam, and they actually normally encourage you to leave the table partly hungry, which is consistent with modern health guidelines," he said.
This is one of many quirks about religious dietary practices. While no specific regimen of the major religions is better or worse than any other, it is important to keep certain health issues in mind when following those rituals, experts say.
"My general take is that you can have good diets and bad diets in any of the religious systems," Regenstein said.