Recommendations for Management of Diabetes During Ramadan

Update 2010

  1. Abraham Thomas, MD13
  1. 1Dasman Diabetes Institute, Dasman, Kuwait;
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine, Unit of Diabetes & Metabolism, Alexandria Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria, Egypt;
  3. 3Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina;
  4. 4Eastern Mediterranean Office of the World Health Organization, Cairo, Egypt;
  5. 5Department of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt;
  6. 6Department of Internal Medicine and Diabetes, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt;
  7. 7Consultant Diabetes and Endocrinology, North Wales, U.K.;
  8. 8EDC, Center for Diabetes Education, McDonough, Georgia;
  9. 9American Diabetes Association, Alexandria, Virginia;
  10. 10Ministry of Health, Palestinian National Authority, Shifa Hospital, Gaza, Palestine;
  11. 11Dubai Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates;
  12. 12Al-Nour Hospital, Mekkah, Saudi Arabia;
  13. 13Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Bone and Mineral Disorders, Department of Medicine, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan.
  1. Corresponding author: Mahmoud Ibrahim, mahmoud{at}arab-diabetes.com.

Since our last publication about diabetes and fasting during Ramadan (1), we have received many inquires and comments concerning important issues that were not discussed in the previous document, including the voluntary 1- to 2-day fasts per week that many Muslims practice throughout the year, as well as the effect of prolonged fasting (more than 18 h a day) in regions far from the equator during Ramadan when it occurs in summer—a phenomenon expected to affect millions worldwide for the next 10–15 years. Since 2005, there have been substantial additions to the literature, including two studies examining the effect of structured education and support for safe fasting, both of which had promising results (2,3). In addition, new medications, such as the incretin-based therapies, have been introduced with less risk for hypoglycemia.

According to a 2009 demographic study, Islam has 1.57 billion adherents, making up 23% of the world population of 6.8 billion, and is growing by ∼3% per year (4). Fasting during Ramadan, a holy month of Islam, is a duty for all healthy adult Muslims. The high global prevalence of type 2 diabetes—6.6% among adults age 20–79 years (5)—coupled with the results of the population-based Epidemiology of Diabetes and Ramadan 1422/2001 (EPIDIAR) study, which demonstrated among 12,243 people with diabetes from 13 Islamic countries that ∼43% of patients with type 1 diabetes and ∼79% of patients with type 2 diabetes fast during Ramadan (6), lead to the estimate that worldwide more than 50 million people with diabetes fast during Ramadan.

Ramadan is a lunar-based month, and its duration varies between 29 and 30 days. Muslims who fast during Ramadan must abstain from eating, drinking, use of oral medications, and smoking from predawn to after sunset; however, there are no restrictions on food or fluid intake between sunset …

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