UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Association between vegetarianism and cardiovascular risk factors in South Asian adults at risk for Type 2 diabetes Jessa, Rehan


Background and Objective: South Asians develop cardiovascular risk factors and Type 2 diabetes earlier and at lower body mass index (BMI) compared to other ethnic populations in Canada. Diet is a modifiable risk factor. Adherence to a vegetarian diet has been associated with a favourable cardiometabolic profile including body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glycemic control compared to an omnivorous diet. Despite having the greatest proportion of vegetarians in the world, South Asians have amongst the highest rates of diabetes in Canada. This study aims to examine vegetarian dietary intake, explore the relationship between vegetarianism and adiposity, and identify associations between sociodemographic characteristics and adiposity measures in South Asians living in Metro Vancouver. Methods: Using the American Diabetes Association Diabetes Risk Test, 100 South Asian adults identified to be high risk for diabetes were recruited from 12 faith-based centres in Metro Vancouver. 96 participants completed a 163-item culturally tailored food frequency questionnaire and vegetarian status was determined. Waist circumference (WC) and BMI were measured to evaluate adiposity. Dietary intake including calories, macronutrient and micronutrient consumption were compared between vegetarians and omnivores. Associations between diet and sociodemographic characteristics with adiposity markers were examined. Results: 50 participants identified as vegetarian and 46 as omnivore. Vegetarians more frequently consumed carbohydrates and foods with higher glycemic load and glycemic index. Omnivores reported higher intake of several micronutrients (niacin, vitamin B-12, potassium, and zinc), but both diet groups did not meet their nutrient requirements for niacin, potassium and vitamin D. 90.6% of all participants had overweight/obese BMI and a vegetarian diet was not associated with improved adiposity. Female sex and education were positively associated with BMI, while age was associated with higher WC. Conclusion: In addition to the high prevalence of overweight and obesity, both vegetarians and omnivores had dietary intake that may be associated with increased diabetes risk. Factors such as age, socioeconomic status, and Westernization may account for the unhealthy dietary intake observed in this study. Findings demonstrate that promoting healthy nutrition is a priority for this community, and interventions should be tailored to address culture-specific dietary habits in South Asian Canadians.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International