Buddhist monks in Thailand need to lay off the sweets. A new study from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Allied Health Sciences shows that 48 percent of Thai monks are obese, a problem that researcher Jongjit Angkatavanich described as a “ticking time bomb,” according to Time.
The Bangkok Post reports that 42 percent of the monks suffered from high cholesterol, 23 percent had high blood pressure, and more than 10 percent were diabetic. The number of monks who participated in the study isn’t known, but the problem is widespread enough that officials even started a campaign to educate the monks about living a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Jongjit told the Post that she worked for two months at several temples throughout Bangkok, teaching 82 monks how to prepare meals that are high in protein and fiber. Officials also encouraged the monks to increase their physical activity and to wear a tight-fitting girdle to help them keep track of any future weigh gain. The monks aren't allowed to refuse meals donated by the faithful, so Jongjit has also worked with local Buddhists to create healthier options instead of ones that are high in fat and sugar. The program has been a success so far, with the monks losing an average of 2.2 pounds and close to half an inch from their waistlines.
Beyond the immediate health concerns, the monks’ obesity epidemic has taken a financial toll on public hospitals; monks who were treated for diabetes and other weight-related chronic diseases cost state-run facilities more than $8.4 million in 2012 alone.