Isaac J. Martin and Samar Ezzat |
Cairo (EFE).- For the Egyptian nutritionist Mai al Nahla, sugar can make the fasting month of Ramadan bitter. This reflective and perfect time for detoxification is increasingly saturated with ads for sweets and junk food that undermine the work of professionals who see the rates of overweight and obesity in the Middle East continue to grow.
“If after breaking the fast you eat three meals that are not excessive in calories, you could even lose weight, the problem is breaking the fast in the wrong way,” the doctor told EFE from her office in the Cairo neighborhood of Maadi.
The expert thus referred to the widespread practice in Ramadan that after a day of fasting of about 14 hours, people consume large amounts of sugar in a short time, eager to recover lost energy.
And that generates spikes in blood sugar, which in turn raises insulin and, consequently, creates the need “to consume sugar again every hour.”
“If you put a large dose of sugar in the blood, it upsets the hormonal balance that occurred during the fast. The best to break the fast are dates, which supply potassium, magnesium, in addition to the sugar you need, ”he asserts.
Although dates are not lacking on the tables of fasting Muslims, there are always the traditional desserts, such as “kunafa” or “qatayef”, both bathed in syrup, which occupy the center of the table, in addition to other greasy foods.
“The number of people with digestive problems during Ramadan is greater, because some break their fast with large amounts of food with bad compositions, and not just junk food, but sometimes homemade food that is too greasy or salty,” the nutritionist told EFE. Egyptian, Mina al Naggar.
The pattern that is repeated among his patients is “inflammation, gas, constipation or indigestion, as well as diabetes and difficulty breathing,” says the specialist in clinical nutrition and member of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism.
The curious thing is that, as the experts consulted agree, fasting in Ramadan is similar to other nutritional strategies that so many people follow, such as intermittent fasting, so international studies and diets can be taken advantage of.
But it is not done: “the problem is that Ramadan is related to various social configurations, where people eat too much and this does not help to improve the capacities of the digestive system and its consequences. You can ease your digestive system and liver by letting it rest during the day, but at night you regain all the weight at once. This does not help ”, alert.
The data is categorical. According to the Global Obesity Observatory, Arab countries are among the top 20 obese countries worldwide, with Kuwait leading the way with 47.08% in adult women and 34.28% in obese adult men. And it is an upward trend.
A David against Goliath
Nutritionist Fatma Kamal has a pre-Ramadan feeding program, where clients sign up knowing what to expect.
Pastries, desserts, fried foods, lots of red meat, eating beans before going to bed -something typical in Egypt- eggs with bread and soft drinks. Those are the “noes” that must be said this month, as Kamal points out.
But advertising and custom tell you otherwise. Continuous advertisements on television, on the Internet, and on large roadside billboards encourage you to spend this month with your family eating ridiculously sweet desserts or ordering from a fast food restaurant.
The Lebanese nutritionist Ghena Sandid tells EFE that there are more and more healthy campaigns sponsored by universities and health organizations, like the ones she carries out from her Lighterstyle clinic.
Although, he regrets, that these campaigns are not in the spotlight “since the big budgets come from companies”, such as soft drinks and fast food, which monopolize everything.
Al Nahla has also rallied his peers to campaign on Facebook and Instagram, and sees the issue “getting better in the last three years.”
“But this needs time and effort, and it has to become a culture,” he settles.