Medical Basis of Vegetarianism

By : Dr. P. K. Jain, Prof. of Medicine
M.L.B. Medical College, Jhansi

Paper presented at 2nd All India Jain Doctors Conference - 2003 at Sri Mahavirji


Humans are herbivorous by design .As they are not designed to consume the flesh, muscles and organs of animals; there are significant health risks involved with a meat centered diet.

Not everyone is aware of the fact that humans are built herbivorous. Human characteristics are in everyway like other herbivorous and very unlike the meat eaters. For instance a cat will salivate with hungry desire at the smell of a piece of flesh but not at all at the smell of a fruit .On the contrary bunch of luscious grapes makes a mans mouth water.

The Herbivorous Physiology of Humans : The human digestive system, tooth and jaw structure, bodily functions are completely different from carnivorous animals. As in the case of anthropoid ape the human digestive system is 12 times the length of the body, our skin has numerous sweat glands to cool the body by sweating, we drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals, our tooth and jaw structure is vegetarian, and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptylin for predigestion of grains.

Physiolowgical Comparisons :

Oral Cavity




Incisor teeth short and pointed Broad flattened & spade shaped Do
Canines Long sharp and dull and short or long (for defense or none Do
Saliva No digestive enzyme carbohydrate digesting enzyme Do
Face & Jaw
Jaw motion Shearing minimal side To side motion No shear, good side to side, front to back motion Do
Major jaw muscle Temporalis masseter & pterygoid Do
Mouth opening Vs Head size Large small Small
Chewing None; swallows food extensive chewing necessary Do
Stomach & Intestine
Stomach acidity <PH 1 with food in stomach PH4-5, with food in stomach Do
Stomach capacity 60-70% of total volume of digestive tract <30% of total volume of digestive tract 21-27%of the volume digestive tract
Length of small intestine 3-6 times of body length 10-12 time of body length Do
Liver Can detoxify Vitamin A Can not detoxify vitamin A Do
Kidney Extremely concentrated urine Moderately concentrated urine Do
NAILS Sharp claws flattened nails & blunt hoofs flattened nails


Contrary to the belief that vegetarian diet is nutritionally poor, meeting energy requirement is not usually a problem in a vegetarian diet (Lacto vegetarian diet) because of the high energy content of dairy product. In India almost all vegetarians take dairy product along with vegetable products.

Proteins : Body's protein needs can be provided by either animal or plant sources. Mixed protein diet obtained from various plant sources is better than animal protein and is recommended in diabetes, renal diseases and liver diseases. Mixed protein diet from different plant sources has been the pattern of diet in India for all vegetarians.

Carbohydrates : Carbohydrates are mainly found in plant foods; like cereals, grains, fresh and dry fruits, legumes, vegetable, greens, nuts etc. plant carbohydrates include' large amounts of starches, sugar and fibers which are important for gut functions. The body is better suited to a high carbohydrate diet than a low carbohydrate diet. In fact 55% of the food intake should be carbohydrate. All animal products do not contain carbohydrate which is essential for body.

Fat : Plant fats differ from animal fats in two different ways 1) they are cholesterol free 2) they generally contain more polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fats. Plant fats usually have higher polyunsaturated fat value than animal fats.

A diet which is low in cholesterol and which contains fat of a high PIS value is associated with a lower incident of coronary health disease.

Vitamins and Minerals : plant foods are rich in many vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin D : Vitamin D is obtained by exposure of skin to sun light and this is not a problem in India.

Calcium : The vegetarians can meet their needs for calcium from dairy products. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Dark green vegetables are good sources of Riboflavin as are legumes and whole grain cereal.

Iron : The problem of iron deficiency is relatively common but vitamin C significantly enhances absorption of iron hence it is advisable for vegetarians to include with each meal a food high in vitamin C which as lime, citrus fruits or juices.

Zinc : Zinc is found in large number of plant foods.

Fiber : Fiber is found only in vegetarian food like whole grain cereals, legumes, greens, fruits, vegetable etc.

Thus in vegetarian foods all requirement of nutrition for body growth and maintenance is fulfilled. One can have a complete and balanced diet provided we take enough food which is as close to nature as possible in maintaining sturdy and disease free body. It is equally helpful in curing many diseases.

Advantages of Vegetarian Diet : More & more evidence is surfacing that directly links a prolonged non- vegetarian diet to diseases as cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, asthma just to name a few.

1. Logevity : Vegetarian can expect to live 4-10 years longer then the non-vegetarians.

"Source: Seventh day Adventists study

2. Less Heart Disease : Because of low fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content of the vegetarian diet the risk of heart disease is lowered. High blood cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease.

3. Less Cancer : Up to 40% of all cancers are diet related. Cancer death rates have been associated with obesity and high fat / low fiber diet. Vitamin A & C are thought to be protective against colon cancer. Low fat diets protect against prostrate and breast cancer. Indoles, lignans, is flavones, protease inhibitors which are present in plant foods and shown to be potent anti carcinogens.

4. Less Bowel Disease : Diverticular disease and appendicitis occur more frequently with low fiber intake as in meat diet.

5. Lees Obesity & Less Incidence Of Diabetes : It is easier to plan a low fat diet for a vegetarian then for a meat eater. The fiber in plant food dilutes the energy & provides a satisfying meal without all the calories. Diabetes over the age of 40 seems to be related to obesity.

Conclusion : When activists like M. K. Gandhi, sports personalities like Martina Novratilova & Carl Lewis, beauties like Brooke Shields & Kate Winslet, physists like Edison, Albert Einstein & A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, religious leaders & mystics like Jesus & Osho can be legendaries in there respective fields taking the advantage of being vegetarian, Is'nt it more prudent on our part to switch over to vegetarianism & enjoy better quality & longevity of life.



Article Received Through Dr. S. C. Jain, (Jain Clinic, 32 HIG Duplex, Brij Vihar, Gaziabad, Uttar Pradesh-201011
E-Mail : Organiser, 2nd All India Jain Doctors Conference-2003


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