DUBAI // Ali Abutalib says Ramadan is his "healthiest" month of the year.
The 50-year-old Emirati was diagnosed last year with high blood sugar, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, and says he pays closer attention to his diet while he is fasting.
"Usually, when people break their fast, they break everything," he said. "They have all kinds of sweets, and all kinds of soups. I just go for three dates and a cup of water, or labneh. After that, a cup of soup and some watermelon."
Mr Abutalib attended a lecture yesterday at Al Wasl Hospital in Dubai. It aimed to instruct people with diabetes on healthy ways to fast during Ramadan.
Overindulgence and a lack of physical activity are among the main problems that diabetics must counter while fasting, said Dr Inaam Ibrahim Kandil, the head of diabetes education co-ordination at the Dubai Diabetes Center.
The centre, which is the diabetes care arm of the Dubai Health Authority, held the lecture.
While acknowledging Ramadan is a way of life for Muslims, Dr Kandil said there are healthy ways to fast. Type 2 diabetics, she said, must control their blood sugar and exercise. "For Muslim people, in general ... their belief is fasting is one of the basic tenets of Islam, and they have to fast whether they are sick or ill," said Dr Kandil, who gave a presentation at the lecture. "Not fasting is not an option for them."
But, she added: "You have to eat proper meals that are adequate in all nutrients ... and you have to practice some exercise, especially after breaking the fast."
Taraweeh, the daily prayers conducted especially during Ramadan, could be counted as exercise, she said, adding that "testing blood sugar level will make them more aware of their decision in case they need to break the fast".
Dr M Hamed Farooqi, the director of the diabetes centre, said it is permissible for certain diabetics, under Islam, to be excused from fasting during the holy month.
He said in an interview: "The issue is the overwhelming majority wants to fast.
"We then have to look at their full medical background and see if it is really, medically feasible."
The lecture came on the heels of a diabetes-friendly menu introduced across several Middle Eastern hotels earlier this week, as part of the drive to help people who suffer from diabetes.
The UAE has the second highest diabetes rate in the world, behind the small Pacific island of Nauru, and will host the World Diabetes Congress in Dubai later this year.