Type of vegetarian diet, obesity and diabetes in adult Indian population

Type of vegetarian diet, obesity and diabetes in adult Indian population

India is experiencing an alarming increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. The resulting morbidity, economic costs, reduced quality of life, and risk for complications make preventive strategies imperative. The contribution of the Indian diet to the increasing prevalence of diabetes in the country is not well under- stood. Also, there is little information on whether the vegetarian diet confers a similar protective effect against obesity and diabetes that have been demonstrated in western studies.

This is important given the on-going preponderance of vegetarianism in certain social and religious groups in India coupled with an increase in meat eating associated with growth in western-style diets in some section of the Indian society. Moreover, vegetarianism in India is usually a lifelong pattern and adherence crosses multiple generations; it generally comprises high consumption of whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and dairy with spices and seasonings unique to the Indian diet.

This study investigates the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among adult men and women in India consuming different types of vegetarian diets compared with those consuming non-vegetarian diets. It uses cross-sectional data of 156,317 adults aged 20–49 years who participated in India’s third National Family Health Survey (2005–06). Association between types of vegetarian diet (vegan, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and self-reported diabetes status and measured body mass index (BMI) were estimated using multivariable logistic regression adjusting for age, gender, education, household wealth, rural/urban residence, religion, caste, smoking, alcohol use, and television watching.

Conclusions reached based on a large, nationally representative sample of Indian adults shows that in the lacto-, lacto-ovo and semi-vegetarian diets were associated with a lower likelihood of diabetes. These findings may assist in the development of interventions to address the growing burden of overweight/obesity and diabetes in Indian population. However, prospective studies with better measures of dietary intake and clinical measures of diabetes are needed to clarify this relationship.

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