Data show higher diabetes prevalence in meat-loving Indian states

Then why did God make it taste so good?
Then why did God make it taste so good?
Image: REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
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Natives of Indian states where a non-vegetarian diet is common are more likely to be living with diabetes.

A 74% state-level correlation between diabetes prevalence and consumption of meat, fish, and eggs has been found in a study led by researchers at the International Institute for Population Sciences, a university in Mumbai.

Among the major states in the country, per capita calorie intake from non-vegetarian food is the lowest in the northern states of Rajasthan and Haryana, where the percentage of adult population living with diabetes is also the lowest.

Conversely, “Kerala and West Bengal were the states with the highest calorie consumption of non-vegetarian food groups, and concurrently reported a higher prevalence of diabetes,” says the study report, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Public Health.

The study obtained official data on the incidence of diabetes from the 2015-16 national family health survey and on the consumption of different food groups from the 2011-12 national sample survey.

Unlike non-vegetarian foods, the study found that other high-protein items such as pulses, nuts, and dairy products have a slight positive impact on diabetes prevention.

An incurable disease resulting from the body’s impairment in controlling blood sugar levels, diabetes currently affects 8.8% of India’s adult population of 829 million, according to the International Diabetes Federation. It is also the fastest-growing health-related cause of death in the country.

The link between diabetes and meat has been well documented. For instance, a study published in 2013 by researchers at Loma Linda University in California showed that vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of developing diabetes than non-vegetarians.

In India, a non-vegetarian diet is common in the coastal regions, said Preeti Dhillon, lead author of the new study. The style of cooking of meat, fish, and eggs in the country often involves a lot of oil, which further raises health risks, she added.