World Diabetes Day: cutting diabetes risk for South Asian communities

14 November 2014        

Victoria TaylorWe are currently working with South Asian places of worship to develop healthier community cooking practices as a way of preventing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Victoria Taylor, our Senior Dietitian, talks about our Social Cooking project.

Diabetes in South Asian communities

It’s been proven that people of South Asian origin are twice as likely to have diabetes, a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, than people in the general population. Although we’re still working to fully understand the reasons why this happens, what we do know is that everyone can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by adopting a healthier diet and doing regular physical activity.

Social cookingSocial Cooking project

One of the traditions of the Hindu and Sikh faiths is to provide a daily meal for congregation members and visitors. As a focal point for these communities, these meals can have a substantial influence on thousands of families’ diets across the UK. A typical meal prepared by community chefs in a place of worship involving curry, chapatti, lentils and rice can often be high in saturated fat and salt.

Making simple dietary changes can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes as well as CHD. Reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat in the diet from foods like ghee, salty pickles and butter can help to avoid high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels, which often paves the way for diabetes as well as coronary heart disease.

Small changes. Big difference

Our project is encouraging community cooks in places of worship to make small changes that have significant benefits, without compromising on the taste of traditional recipes. A pilot study we undertook at two places of worship between 2011 and 2013 showed that there is a huge appetite for adopting healthier cooking practices.

By making changes such as the kinds of food that are donated to the temples, adding more vegetables to meals and by reducing the amount of oil and salt used to cook dishes, our community dietitians have been able to work with the cooking teams to halve the amount of saturated fat they’re serving to their congregations. Nutritional analysis of typical food trays also showed that they were also able to cut the amount of salt served by 40 per cent - often without people noticing.

Social cookingWhat’s next?

The success of the pilot project has led to a partnership between us and Public Health England as we aim to spread the lessons learned across Sikh and Hindu communities across the country. If we can replicate the success that we saw at our original temples, we could significantly improve the diet of many thousands of families.

Next week we start a series of Show and Tell events where community cooks and trustees from the places of worship can talk to dietitians and learn more about the impact that these behaviour changes could have on their congregations.

The events will include discussions groups, cooking demonstrations and the opportunity to hear about the experiences of the social cooks.

These will be held 19-28 November in London, Birmingham, Leicester and Leeds.

Find out more information about these events by emailing Ali Orhan ([email protected])