A joint study by doctors at AIIMS, Delhi, and Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) on dietary habits of women suggested that those who consume non-vegetarian meals are less prone to diseases such as diabetes, cardiac ailments, cancer and obesity as compared to those on a vegetarian diet.
The survey was conducted on women between the ages of 18 and 40 years and is funded by the Department of Bio Technology (DBT), Government of India.
A total of 464 women enrolled from Delhi and Kashmir between 2015 and 2018. Women who consumed meat (203) were selected from Kashmir, while those who were vegetarian (261) were from Delhi. This included women who were healthy as well as those suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
A total of 144 women were suffering from PCOS and 320 were healthy. They were divided on the bases of their dietary preferences — vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. The findings have left researchers bewildered.
Results show that women from Kashmir who consumed up to five non-vegetarian meals a week were found to be at a lesser risk of these diseases irrespective of whether they were suffering from PCOS or were healthy, in comparison to women in Delhi who followed a vegetarian diet.
First described in 1935, PCOS causes irregular menstrual cycles, excessive body or facial hair and polycystic ovaries in women. PCOS increases the risk of having three types of cancer — ovarian, endometrial and breast.
All women underwent a detailed clinical assessment using a common proforma and methods of evaluation at both centres.
They were examined on the basis of their menstrual history, drug intake, 72-hour dietary recall, blood pressure, height, weight, lipid profile, liver function, kidney function and inflammatory marker (hs-CRP, TNF-a, IL-6, resistin, adiponectin). Higher TNF-a means increased risk of having the lifestyle disease, while adiponectin is considered to be the protective marker.
“It is a well- known fact that a Mediterranean diet has low risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. We thought that an Indian vegetarian diet would be equally healthy, but in this study, the results were contrary. We checked the inflammatory markers and insulin resistance in both categories and found that the parameters were better in women from Kashmir who consumed non-vegetarian food,” said Dr Ashraf Ganie, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at SKIMS, who lead the study at AIIMS, Delhi, when he was Associate Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces it, but does not use it effectively.
Researchers are also exploring if the genetic and pollution patterns in both states have any role to play. “Insulin resistance is a common link between these diseases. We will further study if the diets have some components which are pro-inflammatory. Other factors such as pollution levels and genetic drift will be considered in the second phase of our study,” Dr Ganie added.