Cognitive Daily

This week’s Ask a Scienceblogger: “Is severely regulating your diet for a month each year, as Muslims do during Ramadan, good for you?”

I’d say that’s nearly impossible to answer: there are too many other factors at work. But consider this:

Kuwait’s average life expectancy is 76.9

Portugal’s is 77.2

Since Kuwait is a primarily Muslim country and Portugal is primarily Christian, it appears observing Ramadan doesn’t have much of an effect on life expectancy. The two countries are similar economically, with both countries registering nearly equal GDP per capita ($18,047 for Kuwait versus $18,126 for Portugal).


  1. #1 coturnix
    October 18, 2006


  2. #2 Katherine Moore
    October 18, 2006

    You’re going to need a lot more specific information than country-wide life expectancies if you’re going to make any sort of inference about the effect of observing Ramadan on life expectancy. You do say “it’s nearly impossible to answer,” but I think given your data it is still totally overreaching to say “it appears observing Ramadan doesn’t have much of an effect on life expectancy.” Religion isn’t the only difference between those two countries, and even if it were you still couldn’t come to that conclusion. We’re talking about the specific act of observing Ramadan.

  3. #3 izak
    October 18, 2006

    You are aware, aren’t you that they call it a fast, but the fast is only during the day. As soon as the sun goes down or a certain hour arrives the eat all they want.

  4. #4 Nina S.
    October 19, 2006

    Hey Katherine, I didn’t know you frequented this blog! :o)
    And I agree, controlling for GNP is far too little to build a convincing case for the effect of Ramadan on long term health. But, as Izak points out, caloric intake is only regulated in how it’s consumed through the day, not in gross amount. If I were living in Kuwait I’d think Ramadan was the least of my worries.

  5. #5 Lauren
    October 19, 2006

    Having driven in Portugal, I’d like to see those figures after controlling for traffic fatalities…

  6. #6 Duncan
    October 22, 2006

    I wonder what kind of restrictions the Portugese follow during the Lenten season?

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