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O.P. Kapoor

"You are what you eat" is an age old adage—and it is a fact that it is food that maketh a man. The food we eat, its quality, quantity, its timing and combinations is proven time and again to be of utmost importance in Health as well as in Disease.

At the Bombay Hospital we have been serving vegetarian food from the inception of this institution and now we feel that the time has come to offer scientific justification for this. Not only on religious or moral grounds is this justifiable, but also on scientific grounds vegetarian food seems the more suitable diet for human beings. More scientific work has been done on vegetarianism in the last two decades than in the entire previous history of the world. Therefore, we felt that we should take the lead and bring to the fore all that there is to know on vegetarianism from the scientific angle and thereby justity the use of vegetarianism in health and in disease.

There is a myth amongst people that consumption of meat would make them strong. It is also commonly believed that nonvegetarian food has more nutritive value. It is significant and embarrassing to note, that while in U.S.A. nearly 10 million people have adopted vegetarianism and more and more people in U.K., U.S.S.R., West Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Israel and Mexico are gradually turning to vegetarian diet not only on humanitarian grounds but more so on medical grounds, in India many vegetarians have started eating meat and eggs only on "wrong" beliefs of the supposedly good qualities of nonvegetarian diet.

There are many books written for lay public on vegetarianism based on cruelty to animals, spirituality, cultural and philosophical values, economic, ecological, anthropological and humanitarian grounds. This book is being written by a team of specialists from various faculties of our institute and from other institutes in Bombay and abroad. Here they discuss and show that from the medical point of view the vegetarian diet is as good or is more suited to the human system than a nonvegetarian diet. Unlike other books written on vegetarianism which show that non-vegetarian food is bad for health, we have tried to prove, with medical evidence that vegetarian food is as nutritious or superior in some cases, to non-vegetarian food.

If only this publication can remove the bias from the minds of the public; if only they could be convinced that they could not only live longer with vegetarian diet, but also not suffer from many crippling diseases, we would feel that we have been amply rewarded.

Since this book is a joint effort of many scientists it has been difficult to prevent the overlap of views. In fact, at times, repetitions have intentionally been retained to maintain the individual readability of the chapter. To give this scientific publication a well rounded look, chapters on growth, immunity and microbiology have been included. Immunology for the general physician is, at best, complicated and so it is for the lay person. Hence the chapter on Immunity and Vegetarian Diet may make heavy reading. Similarly the chapter on microbiology has been written only to emphasize the fact that the kind of food we eat decides the kind of bacteria that are present within us. Facts of their functions are pouring in every day and their real importance will be evident to us very soon.

Religion or spiritualism are not the field of doctors. But the Indian public should be enlightened about the good qualities of Vegetarian diet which are the high fibre content, low cholesterol content and low incidence of zoonotic disorders. Also, there is strong evidence that vegetarians are at a lesser risk for alcoholism.

In this monograph we have reproduced a few articles from 'The Bombay Hospital Journal' which is the regular scientific publication of Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences.

Vegetarianism can be divided into vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets. In this book lacto-vegetarian diet has been accepted as the Indian vegetarian diet. Similarly, many people, who eat fish, chicken and meat also eat vegetabies, fruits and cereals. Thus, really speaking scientifically they should be labelled as 'Omnivorous'. Instead for them, we have in this book used the colloquial term 'non-vegetarian'. The debate is wide open but it seems from the facts presented herein that the scales are tipped heavily in favour of vegetarianism.