- Nearly half of Thailand’s monks are clinically obese and 40 per cent have lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure
- The health study of monks found that sweet treats from worshipers were to blame for their unhealthy lifestyle
- Officials are now devising a food education program to keep the monks healthy
By ALEX WARD
PUBLISHED: 08:01 EST, 1 August 2012 | UPDATED: 12:34 EST, 1 August 2012
Buddhist monks strive to reach spiritual enlightenment but their growing Buddha-sized bellies might stop them achieving nirvana.
A health study of Buddhist monks in Thailand has found that nearly half of them are obese.
They blame their weight gain on sweet treats given to them by worshipers and officials have decided that what the monks need is a diet plan.
A study of 246 monks from the Dhammayuttika Nikaya and Mahayana movements in 11 Thai provinces revealed that nearly half of them are clinically obese and suffering from lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Food is traditionally offered to monks as they beg for food on the streets to survive.
The monks leave their monasteries early in the morning and walk single file, with the oldest monk first, with their bowls in front of them, collecting food from people as they go.
The monks do not do much exercise either according to the study.
It said: ‘To make matters worse, the only exercise an average monk takes is sweeping the courtyard and walking the streets asking for alms, or food.’
Figures showed that 45 per cent of the monks in the study were either obese or morbidly obese and 40 per cent face diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
They are also more likely to develop allergies due to their rich, oily, sugary diet.
A major cause was the amount of fizzy, sugar-loaded drinks drunk by monks, particularly in the evenings when they abstain from eating.
Only 21 per cent of the monks questioned have regular health check-ups and doctor visits.
Health officials now plan a food education program to help the huge holy men to slim down.
They hope to offer dietary and exercise advice appropriate for their lifestyles, teaching about them about nutritional alternatives to their unhealthy food and drink choices.
They also plan to prepare guidelines on what worshipers should and should not offer to their holy men in order to keep them healthy.
It is believed that the giving and receiving of alms creates a spiritual connection between the monastic and lay communities who make the offerings.
Some monks eat their only one meal a day, others eat two but all of them have consumed their last meal by midday.
Their diet consists of staples, desserts, preserved and dried food, fish and meat.