International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

IVU News

Medical Study of Indian Medical Students
by Dr Hiten Mehta
from IVU Newsletter, April/May 1996

A trainee doctor in London spent part of her training in an Indian hospital at the MP Shah Medical College, Jamnagar where she undertook research. The project was to look at the risk factor profile among Indian medical students in India and to compare that with an age matched population of Asian and Caucasian medical students in Britain. All 115 second year third term students at MP Shah Medical College were invited to participate in the study which involved an interview administered questionnaire, brief physical examination and taking fasting blood and urine samples. An overall response rate of 84.3% was achieved.

Comparing the results with the earlier study there were considerable differences noted between Indian and UK Asians. Prevalence of smoking and alcohol consumption in male Indian Asians was low, while female Indian Asians neither smoked or drank alcohol at all. In terms of diet, 84.6% of male and 100% of female Indian Asians were either lacto-vegetarian or lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

In terms of body build, male Indian Asians were significantly lighter in weight than UK Asians but not significantly shorter. Female Indian Asians were both significantly lighter and shorter that UK Asians.

Comparing the lipid profiles, both male and female Indian Asians had significantly lower total cholesterol, lower triglyceride and lower HDL cholesterol than UK Asians. For example male Indian Asians had mean serum total cholesterol of 3.67 mmol/l compared with 4.45 mmol/l for UK Asians (p<0.001). Similarly, Indian Asians had mean serum triglyceride of 0.82 mmol/l compared with 1.37 mmol/l for UK Asians (p<0.006). Indeed the lipid profiles of UK Asians were very similar to Caucasians, such that other than male UK Asians having significantly higher mean serum total cholesterol than Caucasians all other lipid differences were not significant (p>0.05).

It therefore appears that environmental influences such as diet, smoking and alcohol consumption are important in determining body build and lipid profile. These preliminary results suggest that second generation UK Asians have higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease than Indian Asians. These risk factors could probably be modified by changes in diet, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The Vegetarian Charity helped fund Dr Mehta's visit to India which was undertaken as part of her medical training at a London teaching hospital.

The Vegetarian Charity was set up with the aim of promoting vegetarianism among young people aged up to 25 years and to help young vegetarians who are in need of financial help. Grants are made to individuals in need, either due to poverty, to help them with some emergency or to help them with educational expenses. Grants are also made to organisations helping young vegetarians in need. Currently grants are made to children's homes catering for vegetarian children in England, India and Israel. Applications can be considered from anywhere but grants are not usually large.

Further information and grant application forms are available from the Secretary of the charity: Mr. Roger Giles, 14, Winters Lane, Ottery St Mary, Devon, EX11 1AR, England.

Contributions to IVU News are welcomed. Material published does not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or the policy of the International Vegetarian Union.