During the 9th month (Ramadan) of the Islamic calendar (Hijra) many millions of adult Muslims all over the world fast during the daylight hours. Since Hijra is a lunar calendar, Ramadan occurs at different times in the seasonal year over a 33-year cycle. Fasting during Ramadan is partial because the abstention from food, fluid, tobacco and caffeine is from sunrise to sunset. Several categories of people are exempt or can postpone the Ramadan fast. The effect on health and well being of the month-long intermittent fast and fluid restriction has been studied in various potentially vulnerable groups in addition to normal healthy individuals in many countries. The majority of the studies have found significant metabolic changes, but few health problems arising from the fast. A reduction in drug compliance was an inherent negative aspect of the fast. Common findings of the studies reviewed were increased irritability and incidences of headaches with sleep deprivation and lassitude prevalent. A small body mass loss is a frequent, but not universal, outcome of Ramadan. During the daylight hours of Ramadan fasting, practising Muslims are undoubtedly dehydrating, but it is not clear whether they are chronically hypohydrated during the month of Ramadan. No detrimental effects on health have as yet been directly attributed to negative water balance at the levels that may be produced during Ramadan.
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