Food, tea, cooking and food hygiene are the three pillars of a healthy life, a major study has found.
The National Institute of Food Technology, Hyderabad, has also discovered a link between the consumption of red meats and high blood pressure, which could help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The study, published in the International Journal of Food Safety, analysed data from the National Health Survey, a nationally representative survey of people living in the country.
It found that the consumption and consumption patterns of red meat, poultry, pork and fish were strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In addition, the consumption patterns for dairy products and fish consumption were also strongly associated.
The researchers found that women were more likely to have high blood pressures, especially during pregnancy, and that men were more prone to high blood cholesterol levels than women.
Among the main food groups, the researchers found higher consumption of rice and beans, vegetables and fruit, and meat.
The consumption of meat was strongly associated for women and men.
“The relationship between meat consumption and cardiovascular risk factors was strong across gender, socioeconomic status, ethnic origin, ethnicity and region,” said Dr. Sajjad Azam, a senior lecturer at the institute and one of the authors of the study.
“It also appeared that high consumption of fish was associated with higher blood pressure.”
The study looked at consumption of a wide range of foods, including red meat (meat from beef, lamb or pork), chicken, fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts.
The analysis included the survey participants’ diet habits during pregnancy and their health records from the previous year.
The participants were asked whether they ate red meat and poultry during the previous month.
Of the 1,002 participants who reported meat consumption, 703 (9.9 per cent) were male.
Of those who reported poultry consumption, 686 (8.3 per cent), were women.
Men were significantly more likely than women to report fish consumption, the study found.
“In the absence of meat, there is no reason to assume that fish consumption is linked to the risk of heart disease or hypertension,” Azam said.
The findings, published on Friday in the journal the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggest that red meat consumption is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
In particular, women were at higher risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease than men.
Azam is currently studying whether red meat is more harmful to the cardiovascular system than chicken, as some experts believe.
The Indian government is also conducting a study on the association between red meat intake and cardiovascular mortality, and is planning a campaign to increase the intake of vegetables.
“We need to look at other food sources and consider what is the health benefits of consuming vegetables,” Azami said.
“Red meat and chicken are two of the most popular foods in the Indian diet.”
Azam and his colleagues also noted that consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated not only with low cholesterol but also with lower blood pressure.
“As a result, these foods have been shown to be beneficial in terms of blood pressure control,” Azama said.
In fact, red meat has been shown in some studies to reduce blood pressure by up to half.
But the authors warned that other dietary factors can also play a role in the risk for heart disease.
For example, people who eat high-fiber vegetables, such that they have less fibre, may have a lower risk of high blood sugar and stroke, the authors noted.
“This is a very important issue because we are in the midst of a health crisis in India,” Azham said.
It is also possible that other factors could contribute to the increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease in people who consume high-fat and/or high-sugar foods, he said.
But he added that more research is needed to find the best ways to tackle the root causes of cardiovascular diseases.