India, known for its exotic taste, variety and colors, is often considered to be a vegetarian’s paradise. In 2007, UN FAO statistics indicated that Indians had the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world. India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. In India, vegetarianism is usually synonymous with lacto-vegetarianism. As per the Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, 31% of Indians are vegetarian, while another 9% also consume eggs (ovo-vegetarian).
In a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle, the food habits are generally considered healthy as there is less intake of cholesterol and vegetarian food provides abundant plant based fiber that’s essential for the optimum functioning of the body.
However, despite being home to the largest vegetarian population in the world, the biggest challenge for our society is the worrying trend of rapid increase in lifestyle diseases.
In a developing society like India, the top three factors contributing to adult fatalities due to natural causes are all NCDs (Non- Communicable diseases) like cardiovascular diseases, followed by ill-defined causes, respiratory diseases, malignant and other forms of cancers.
Cardiovascular diseases have become a major cause of death across all states. Lifestyle itself is a major factor, where lack of proper exercise, unhealthy eating habits, diabetes, rise of obesity, hypertension, and lack of sleep etc. are the leading cause of steep rise in cardiovascular diseases. Now, every fourth person in urban India is prone to heart disease. Moreover, lifestyle diseases like diabetes increase the risk of heart disease in the longer run, if it is not controlled.
When we compare the number of vegetarians and non-vegetarians suffering from the above mentioned NCDs, there is no remarkable difference in both the figures, thus indicating that the health benefits are not been capitalized upon even with a vegetarian lifestyle.