Vegetarianism & Health
Dr. Abhinandan Kr. Jain MBBS, DaMS, MS
Head of Eye Department, Indira Gandhi ESI Hospital, New Delhi
In recent time with the advent of fast food and Westernized diets, human being has become the victim of various health hazards like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancers. This situation is alarming and calls for urgent action by one and all, particularly doctors. Vegetarianism to a large extent has revolutionized the preventive aspects of human diseases specially non-communicable diseases resulting from present day dietary trends.
Why do millions of people believe in the importance of vegetarian nutrition? Recent studies have documented a low risk of heart diseases especially coronary artery diseases amongst vegetarians. This is mainly due to low intake of cholesterol. In non-vegetarians there has also been in increase in the incidence of colon cancer which has been correlated to the decrease in the dietary fibre. The low fibre content delays normal digestion. There is strong data to show that vegetarians are at a lesser risk of obesity and constipation. Similarly, risk for hypertension, diabetes, gall and renal stones are low in vegetarians.
Millions of people in the world today are interested in knowing and understanding the vegetarian way of life. Vegetarian products are more nutritious and cost effective. Let us not tamper with the ecology of earth and return to nature, by making a drastic reduction, replacing non-vegetarian foods by vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses, grains, etc. which must be adopted for healthy body and mind. Non-vegetarian foods are harmful than good, because of saturated fat and chemicals. If we eat and live as nature has given us then there will be no sickness in this world. Eminent medical scientists are of the opinion that vegetarian diet, which is less fatty and more fibrous, gives comparatively much better health.
Incidence of Coronary artery disease is significantly less among vegans. Animal food has low fibre and high cholesterol content. Coronary artery disease has direct co-relation to cholesterol contents of diet. Diabetic people; who consume more fibre and poly - unsaturated with less of animal fat have a better control of diabetes, with less dose of insulin and tablets. The incidence of gall stones has been found to be less in vegetarians. Vegetarians are linear, consume more dietary fibre and less dietary cholesterol all of which believed to protect against Gall stone formation. Prevalence of Kidney stone is lower in vegetarians. A high intake of animal protein increase the urinary loss of calcium and oxalate, known risk factors in Kidney stone formation.
The plant food contains polysaccharides and certain fatty acids which are anti - carcinogenic, and reduce the incidence of human Colon cancer. Age related blindness due to Macular Degeneration is seen in elderly people. Anti-oxidants and vitamin supplements are the current rage in its management. Recently Lutein found in green peas, green leafy vegetables has been shown to improve the vision and reduce the risk of this type of blindness. The rate of Obesity is seen less with healthy vegetarian food. Geriatric disorders and skin health can be maintained better by vegans. Research has identified that vegetarian diet has got Anti-oxidant and Haemostatic effects.
There is enough scientific evidence to support that food influences the human behavior because of neuro transmitters. Alcohol, meat, coffee, etc. have some amount of substance that excite central nervous system. After taking meat we have high levels of exicitory neuro transmitters, whereby the human behavior becomes more aggressive. Whereas, vegetarian foods are rich in neuro-inhibitory transmitters.
Vegetarianism may not only reduce the disease state in the human being but can also help in keeping the atmosphere pollution free as it is eco-friendly.
Article Source : Presentation at 3rd Jain Doctors International Conference
held on 3rd & 4th December, 2005 at Adhyatma Sadhna Kendra, Mehrauli, New Delhi