Washington, USA: Religiosity in Hindus and Sikhs – but not Muslims – appears to be an independent factor associated with being overweight or obese, a new study has suggested.
Asian Indians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, and roughly half a million people of Indian ancestry live in California – more than any other state.
Individuals from this group are strongly predisposed to obesity-related conditions like diabetes and heart disease, due in large part to physical inactivity, diets low in fruit and vegetables, and insulin resistance.
Study’s primary investigator, Dr. Nazleen Bharmal, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said that this is the first known study to examine the relationship between religiosity and obesity among Asian Indians in the US and among traditional Asian Indian religious subgroups.
She said that these different subgroups have different practices: Muslims may abstain from alcohol or avoid pork, and Hindus and Sikhs may eat only plant foods.
Bharmal said that the team was surprised to find an association between religiosity and obesity for Hindus and Sikhs but not Muslims.
The researchers used data from the 2004 California Asian Indian Tobacco Survey, a telephone survey of 3,200 adult Asian Indian residents of California.
The researchers posit that people who are more religious may be more likely to be overweight or obese because religious organizations tend to place greater emphasis on avoiding vices other than gluttony, they may provide a welcoming environment for those seeking refuge from the social stigma of obesity, and religious gatherings often involve the consumption of food and drink.
There are several possible explanations, the researchers said, for why there appears to be a link between religiosity and weight status among Hindus and Sikhs but not among Muslims.
First, there were fewer Muslims in the dataset, so there may have been too few to see an impact.
Second, there are differences in religious practices: Hindus and Sikhs may adhere to a vegetarian diet but drink alcohol heavily or eat food high in saturated fat or refined sugar at frequent religious and social gatherings, while Muslims abstain from alcohol and practice 30 days of daytime fasting during Ramadan, which may decrease their risk for weight gain.
The findings have been published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.
Source: Yahoo News