Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Fasting during Ramadan and subsequent long term impact on health of children: Comparing the Foetal Origin and Predictive Adaptive Response Hypotheses

Husain, Zakir and Mukherjee, Diganta and Dutta, Mousumi and Mukhopadhyay, Susmita (2016): Fasting during Ramadan and subsequent long term impact on health of children: Comparing the Foetal Origin and Predictive Adaptive Response Hypotheses.

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Abstract

The Foetal Origin Hypothesis (FOH) states that exposure to nutrition deficiency at the foetal stage results in poor anthropometric growth and a pre-disposition to have cardiac diseases, nephrological problems and diabetes at early middle age. While this hypothesis made us aware of the possibilities that health can be pre-programmed during the foetal stage, methodological problems implied that the hypothesis could not be accepted with certainty. This study is based on a primary survey of Muslim women and their children, and examines the impact of nutritional shock to the foetus in teh form of Ramadan fasting. The survey was undertaken in Basanti block, in South 24 Parganas. Lying in the Sunderban areas, this block is a chronically under-deprived area where nutrition deficiency is a common feature of life. The programming received through exposure to nutrition deficiency at the foetal stage, therefore, prepares the organism for its later life environment through its plasticity. This is called Predictive Adaptive Response (PAR). The primary survey, undertaken in 2013-2014, covered Muslim youth aged 18-22 years. The impact of foetal starvation was measured through anthropometric measurements. In all 27 indicators were studied. Simultaneously, the mothers of the respondents were surveyed. We collected information about education levels of the parents, the past occupation and standard of living, current occupation and standard of living, and information regarding the conceptions. After ascertaining using old Muslim calendars whether the foetal stage coincided with Ramadan, we also clarified whether the mother had fasted during Ramadan. This enabled us to successfully distinguish between the study and control group. Analysis of the data using multivariate regressions showed that the difference in measurements for most indicators was not statistically significant. In those cases, where the difference was found to be significant, it was those exposed to Ramadan fasting at the foetal stage who were found to be “fitter”. This is taken as preliminary evidence in support of PAR. Further testing provides evidence in support of Predictive Adaptive Response.

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