Indians More Adapted to Vegetarianism

Some populations are more adapted to vegetarianism than others.

Kothapalli, Kumar et al. – 2016 – Positive selection on a regulatory insertion-deletion polymorphism in FADS2 influences apparent endogenous synthesis of arachidonic acid:

Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are bioactive components of membrane phospholipids and serve as substrates for signaling molecules. LCPUFA can be obtained directly from animal foods or synthesized endogenously from 18 carbon precursors via the FADS2 coded enzyme. Vegans rely almost exclusively on endogenous synthesis to generate LCPUFA and we hypothesized that an adaptive genetic polymorphism would confer advantage. The rs66698963 polymorphism, a 22 bp insertion-deletion within FADS2, is associated with basal FADS1 expression, and coordinated induction of FADS1 and FADS2 in vitro. Here we determined rs66698963 genotype frequencies from 234 individuals of a primarily vegetarian Indian population and 311 individuals from the U.S. A much higher I/I genotype frequency was found in Indians (68%) than in the U.S. (18%). Analysis using 1000 Genomes Project data confirmed our observation, revealing a global I/I genotype of 70% in South Asians, 53% in Africans, 29% in East Asians, and 17% in Europeans. Tests based on population divergence, site frequency spectrum and long-range haplotype consistently point to positive selection encompassing rs66698963 in South Asian, African and some East Asian populations. Basal plasma phospholipid arachidonic acid status was 8% greater in I/I compared to D/D individuals. The biochemical pathway product-precursor difference, arachidonic acid minus linoleic acid, was 31% and 13% greater for I/I and I/D compared to D/D, respectively. Our study is consistent with previous in vitro data suggesting that the insertion allele enhances n-6 LCPUFA synthesis and may confer an adaptive advantage in South Asians because of the traditional plant-based diet practice.

Here is a map:


And from the supplementary notes, a more detailed table showing the I/I values for the populations in the 1000 Genomes Project study (population key):


There is a distinct correlation between this and meat consumption:


To be sure, Africa’s and India’s poverty play a big role, but compare, say, Vietnam and India, whose GDP per capita have tracked each others almost perfectly since the 1980s. But annual meat consumption per capita in Vietnam in 2009 was, at 49kg, more than ten times as high as India’s 4.4kg. The I/I figure for South Asia was 70%, one of the world’s highest, to Vietnam’s 8%, one of its lowest. Although one might rejoinder about Hinduism’s aversion to meat consumption, that applies universally just to beef; strict vegetarianism is prescribed only for members of the priestly Brahmin caste. In any case, one has to ask why such a religious taboo evolved in South Asia but pretty much nowhere else. And why Pakistan, despite being slightly wealthier than Vietnam until the past decade (though admittedly much less socially developed), nonetheless also has, at 15kg per annum, significantly lower meat consumption than Vietnam.

Amongst East Asians, I/I values are much higher amongst northerners, which is an inversion of the global pattern: Beijing Chinese – 48%; Japanese – 54%; Southern Han Chinese – 22%; Vietnamese – 8%. Any ideas why that might be the case? This is pretty strange, because northern Chinese peasant fare is not too dissimilar from what you’d find in traditional Eastern Europe. This does however seem to be borne out by cultural patterns: A quick search shows that Hong Kong has the world’s highest beef consumption, and Vietnamese cuisine is notably beef heavy.

This also illustrates the dangers of adopting vegetarianism as a dietary fad for populations with no biological adaptations to them. Maybe this is at least one form of cultural appropriation we could do without?

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Outside of a few small war-like groups there’s not a lot of machismo on the subcontenent. There’s actually a lot of the opposite of machismo. This is a public stereotype, and those are ALL true.

    Historically they kept being invaded by everyone else while coming up with pacifist ideologies like Buddhism and Gandhism. I remember the War Nerd making fun of the India-Pakistan wars. He noticed what I’m talking about. I remember Steve Sailer noticing Indians’ utter lack of interest in sports – another data point. All of these things are pointing in the same direction, away from machismo. Vegetarianism is a part of a larger pattern. Stereotypically, in terms of popular culture, what is the most macho thing one can possibly eat? Rare steak. And I’m saying this as a wimpy nerd who hates steak. Which is a part of the same pattern.

    What are Indian movies about? Family drama. Who’s going to marry whom. That’s a feminine subject. Let’s say that half of all Hollywood movies deal with feminine subjects. I’m under the impression that in Bollywood that percentage is much higher.

  2. Anatoly Karlin says

    Historically they kept being invaded by everyone else while coming up with pacifist ideologies like Buddhism and Gandhism.

    Be careful with Gandhists though. Once they become too pacifistic, they flip to the other side of the spectrum and start chucking nukes at you.

    I remember Steve Sailer noticing Indians’ utter lack of interest in sports – another data point.

    South Asians are also the physically weakest peoples. I’ve been gathering some data on international differences in hand grip strength and will have a post on it soon. But as a little preview, the average Swedish or Polish woman has as much hand grip strength as the average Indian and Bangladesh male (and more than the average Pakistani!). Considering what Razib Khan has written about the male-female strength difference, that’s pretty remarkable.

    And, naturally, they prefer boobs to butts, unlike their more passionarny neighbors to the west.

  3. Do you really hate steak? Do you not like meat in general, or just steak? What kind of food do you prefer?

  4. Have you looked at this map from OECD for 2014?

    It puts Pakistan’s consumption at 6 kg/capita compared to India’s 0.6 kg/capita and Bangladesh at 0.9 kg/capita which sounds believable to me.

    Find it very hard to believe Pakistan or Afghan meat consumption is at same level as India’s.

  5. A question can be asked, what kinds of environments breed machismo. First, obviously, the steppe. The Pornhub map shows Mongols and Kazakhs as derrierre aficionados. The meat consumption map that you posted has Mongolia redder than its neighbors.

    The Arab world is divided into beduins and farmers. I’m going to guess that the nomadic beduins are more macho. And on the Pornhub map Egypt, historically the most completely agricultural Middle Eastern country, is the only boob country in the region. Makes sense.

    So nomads are macho because they constantly stole grain and women from farmers and horses from each other. That’s a war-like activity.

    Africans are macho because most of the farming in Africa was done by women, so men spent most of their time fighting each other instead, which selected for machismo.

    Indo-Europeans were half-nomads from the steppe. I think I’ve read that they almost completely replaced northern Europe’s population roughly four thousand years ago. They invaded India a little later, but the genetic impact of that event must have been much smaller.

    By this logic northern Chinese should be more macho than southern Chinese (more nomadic invasions in the north), but I don’t know their stereotypes and the meat data you mentioned goes the opposite way.

    Romania is red on the Pornhub map. Wasn’t there a lot of pastoralism in their mountains?

  6. I hate all real meat. Always did. I can stand sausages and sausage which tells me that there’s probably not a lot of actual meat in those things.

  7. Indian Beta-maleness would also explain the extreme violence and rape Indian men always do to their women. They have too little testosterone to keep women in line naturally, so a lot of Indian men have to resort to rape to keep women in their place.

    Also, don’t assume Indians are all peace loving Bhuddists. Hindu religion is very violent much like the Muslim religion.

  8. Anatoly Karlin says

    A lot of people of people have said that this video is basically accurate.

    Northern Chinese are much taller, have more nomadic ancestry. Southern Chinese tend to be more beta.

    But, for whatever reason, they are less meat-adapted than southern Chinese (according to this). Maybe they do have an adaptation but through a different mechanism?

    OTOH, also worth noting that unlike in western Eurasia, agriculture in China began in the north and spread south. Presumably, the natives with whom the northern Han interbred with as they moved south would not have had any vegetarian adaptations whatsoever. That might also explain things.

  9. And on the meat consumption map Saudi Arabia (crazy raiders on camels, the wild east) is redder than Egypt (fellahin stooped over and sweating in their fields).

  10. Great video. I think the Derb’s wife is from Manchuria and I think I remember him mentioning that people there drink a lot, much more than in other parts of China.

  11. Interesting. So what kind of foods do you enjoy? Bread and starches like potatoes and rice? Or vegetables and fruit?

  12. Bread and things made from it. Dairy foods, though not raw milk – I obviously lack that gene. There isn’t a single kind of nuts that I don’t love. Fruit. I hate mashed potatoes and fried potatos, but potato chips and french fries are OK. I’ve never been fat by the way.

  13. Sure, they are all terrorists who like to kill infidels and blow up things. They also shout Allah Ho Akbar before detonating suicide vests. They rape all white girls in Europe. Of course they haven’t contributed anything to the world besides a child rapist and a crazy murder manual.

  14. “pacifist ideologies like Buddhism and Gandhism.”

    Sounds so Trumpian. Also Jesus is a loser carpenter who got nailed to a piece of wood. Real saviors don’t get nailed to wood; they fight back like real beef eaters. But Jesus did eat a lot of fish. Wonder how he became a loser.

  15. Cattle Guard says

    So, the average Indian could live for 100 years and never literally eat a ton of meat. The average American eats a ton of meat in less than a decade. I probably eat a ton of meat every three years or so.

  16. Anonymous says

    Spotted the Indian lol. Expect this thread to be flooded with Hindu nationalists now.

    No one is saying Indians haven’t contributed anything to the world. Just talking about Indias lack of meat eating and how it manifests itself into beta Indian guys who need to rape and troll people on the Internet.

    You obviously know nothing about Jesus either. Jesus stood up for his beliefs and was willing to die for it. This is alpha. Jesus did not run home and troll people on the Internet or throw a acid on girls who rejected him like some Hindu.

  17. Anonymous says

    By “raw milk” do you mean any kind of milk, or just the non-pasteurized kind that’s not found in regular grocery stores?

    I like all those foods as well, although I also like mashed and fried potatoes. I like potatoes in general no matter how they’re served. I like fruit, but more as a dessert or snack to balance the more salty sand savory flavors of a meal. I also like meat though.

    So I guess you get most of your protein from dairy?

  18. Erik Sieven says

    “Stereotypically, in terms of popular culture, what is the most macho thing one can possibly eat? Rare steak.”
    isn´t rare steak often a rather wanne-be macho thing? really manly food is something else I think, river eel, kidneys or something like that.

  19. Erik Sieven says

    grip strength is a really interesting subject, looking forward to that post!
    Actually if I would have the financial means to do so one of the first things I would do would be a huge international study with covers different strength parameters in different populations in a strictly standardized way. Among others of course grip strength. Kind of fundamental HBD-research.
    very interesting is of course the comparison between East Asia and South Asia.

  20. Anatoly Karlin says

    Anywhere outside the Anglosphere including most of Europe there is absolutely nothing special about eating animal organs.

    Even in the US I would associate it more with hippies and/or paleo dieter types than with anything macho.

    I’ll make a note to prioritize the hand grip strength post.

  21. Erik Sieven says

    on the other side I have the impression that North Chinese – as well as Koreans and Japanese – tend to be more gracile than south Chinese and people from the bordering countries, although they are of course taller.

  22. Sandgroper says

    It’s not that accurate. Cantonese and Hakka women can be very fierce. Not such big drinkers, though. But some northerners can’t drink either due to lack of the enzyme to process the alcohol – that is not only confined to the south.

    Northern/eastern Chinese eat a lot of fish and dried seafood. (So, getting it inland is no problem – dried scallops, dried sea slugs, etc.)

    I don’t know what Steve Sailer is on about – Indians and Pakistanis are absolutely nuts about cricket, much more so than any other country. And all the Hindus I know are very good tennis players. They don’t pull their weight for the size of population in tennis, but they have had some top level players. And currently India has the world’s best cricket team, no question. True, they don’t go in for heavy contact sports.

    Incidentally, the Hindus I know tend to be vegetarian when they are ‘under observation’ by other Hindus, although some I know relax their food rules when they go away on holiday. I think at least notional vegetarianism is quite common among Hindus – just as vegetarianism is actually somewhat notional among self-professed vegetarians in the west.

  23. strict vegetarianism is prescribed only for members of the priestly Brahmin caste

    This is incorrect. Generally, Brahmins’ diet aligns with the diet of other castes within a given region. Bengali Brahmins eat as much fish (and meat) as other Bengalis; not much beef though. All castes AFAIK in Gujarat are nominally vegetarian. Brahmins (and traders) in UP and the south tend to be vegetarian, while those of other castes can be meat-eating. Lots of variations; no one-size-fits-all theory here, unlike what you assume.

  24. Wrestling (pehelwani in Hindi) has been a popular sport in rural India since times immemorial. In the recent past, some of the handful of medals India has got in the Olympics have been in weightlifting and wrestling. Also in target shooting, though that’s neither here nor there.

  25. Cattle Guard says

    I remember one Hindu guy in Eastern Europe, taking pictures of venison etc. at dinner. He said he’d tell his parents it was all lamb and chicken, which implied he was planning to brag to his friends that he got to eat rare and forbidden meats. He also really liked our forest mushrooms.

  26. Sandgroper says

    Yes, of course you are right. And you have also reminded me that India has some fearsome traditional martial arts.

  27. I don’t drink milk by itself. When I order a cappuccino at Whole Foods, let’s say, and they ask me what kind of milk I prefer, I say “almond milk”. I tried drinking real store-bought milk years ago just to see what would happen. It wasn’t good.

    I love yogurts and cheeses though.

  28. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have gotten very, very few Olympic medals over the years. It’s just a ridiculously low number. South Asian immigrants to Western countries aren’t prominent in sports either.

  29. Sandgroper says

    Come to Hong Kong and I will show you around the cricket clubs, the Indian sporting clubs and some of my Hindu tennis buddies. Some of the Indian sporting clubs date right back to the early days of HK as a British colony, when Sikhs were imported to serve as civilian police, and they have stayed ever since. And Indians are not small in the worlds of high finance, banking and high tech.

    Oh, and field hockey. They are absolute demons at field hockey.

    They are very prominent in sports in Hong Kong. But they don’t play football.

    Training for sports costs money, and expensive facilities. I am not surprised that India under-achieves in international competition.

  30. Will you be talking about the aging aspect of grip strength? For example:

  31. Fish-eating Indian Monkey says


    In general you are correct that Indians do poorly in sports and in the Olympics. However, India won the field hockey gold medal continuously from 1928-1956 (6 times in a row) plus twice later on. It collapsed in field hockey when the rules were changed to move the game to astro-turf as the game became more athletic and fast. There is no doubt that even the better Indian sportsmen tend to be less athletic than their foreign counterparts, whether it be cricket, field hockey, badminton or tennis.

    It is important to realize the role of caste in all this historically, though things are changing gradually. Contact sports are impossible in a culture where people do not touch each other except in some regions where the caste system has been weaker for a while such as the northwest/Punjab, and tribal areas (these are in fact the areas where the field hockey players of India came from). Cricket is great, as you don’t touch people. Furthemore, the least likely to play sports are the best nourished people, namely the upper castes. In general India’s bane since probably about the 1700s has been poorer nutrition/higher disease for the vast majority of the people with the attendant decline in mental and physical growth. Sure, smaller frames and weaker bodies will lead to weaker grip strength.

  32. Anonymous says

    Kabaddi is an Indian contact sport that’s popular:

  33. Anonymous says

    Did you get an upset stomach from the milk?

    There are some paleo diet nutritionists and doctors who argue that even lactose tolerant populations actually have mildly adverse reactions to milk that gets masked or suppressed by regular consumption of milk, and that milk is generally not healthy even for those populations.


    Sushil Kumar = Bronze Medal = Wrestling 66 KG = Vegetarian

    Vijendar Kumar = Bronze Medal = Boxing 75 KG = Vegetarian

    2012 Indian olympic medal winners

    Sushil Kumar = Silver Medal = Wrestling 66 KG = Vegetarian

    Yogeshwar Dutt = Bronze Medal = Wrestling 60 KG = Vegetarian

    Wrestling in North India, is done at Hanuman ( monkey god ) temples and all these gyms insist on vegetarian diet

    All the Indian boxing and wrestling champions come from the Jat Caste of Haryana, which is mostly vegetarian, and Jats are one of the ‘martial’ castes , heavily represented in the Indian Army

  35. jimmyriddle says

    “currently India has the world’s best cricket team, no question”

    No question? If you are talking about test cricket I think it’s South Africa, but there isn’t much in it. And England and Australia are not far off.

  36. jimmyriddle says

    “Contact sports are impossible in a culture where people do not touch each other”

    There is kabadi, which is an Indian version of British Bulldog (which is very much a contact sport – the Health&Safety zealots have banned it in most English primary schools).

  37. Yes, upset stomach. And my mom doesn’t drink milk for the same reason. I don’t know if my late father was lactose-intolerant, but I certainly don’t remember him drinking milk. I would guess that most who can, do. I don’t have anything against its taste.

  38. The whole FADS system seems kind of complicated –

    Genetic analysis suggests an African origin derived haplotype associated to vegetable diets has been sweeping in Eurasia since agriculture, and is actually at a higher frequency in Western and Southern Europeans than East Asians (it’s absent in Native Americans).

    “Virtually all present-day Africans (including San and Mbuti), have the derived allele, along with ~80% of Europeans and ~50% of East Asians … All ancient Eurasians have the ancestral allele ”

    “The top selection signal (in recent and ancient Europeans) in this region (FADS) was at rs174546 and at this SNP, the frequency of the derived allele increases over time from zero in the Mesolithic, through intermediate frequencies in the Neolithic and Bronze age, to around 80% in present-day Europeans”

    So this variant SNP the study Anatoly references is unusual, as it doesn’t quite fit the pattern of the derived, plant based, haplotype in general (African>European>Asian>Native American / Oceanian). It may be that particular variant SNP is linked to consuming some forms of plants that are common in the East and South Asian and African diets (including rice?), and are more absent from agricultural European diets based around the Near Eastern crop package (oats, wheat, rye, etc. eaters, backed up by occasional meat).

  39. Anonymous says

    Countries with lots of Olympic medals have tended to be wealthy countries with lots of idle time to spend on sports, and communist countries with large state sports programs. South Asia has been neither. I don’t think South Asia is much different in athletic ability compared to, say, France or China just because the latter have won more Olympic medals.

    South Asians in the West who grow up eating a Western diet and workout religiously like many young Westerners do don’t seem to differ significantly physically compared to native Westerners.

  40. syonredux says

    RE: the interplay between physique and diet,

    Ellsworth Huntington,* in Mainsprings of Civilization, talks a lot about the psychological types that are associated with the various somatic types (ecto, meso, and endo morphs).For example, he notes how Christianity has traditionally glorified the “cerebrotonic” virtues (self-restraint, self-discipline, etc), and that these are associated with the ectomorphic type (and Christ, of course, has traditionally been depicted in Western Art with a jogger’s ectomorphic body).The mesomorphic physique, in contrast, correlates with force, aggression, assertion, etc. Huntington notes how the Nazis laid great emphasis on the rectangular, mesomorphic body….

    ectomorph >


  41. Fish-eating Indian Monkey says


    I agree I made too sweeping a statement. There is no doubt Kabadi is popular in North India, especially in the states of Haryana, UP, Punjab. I come from the East of India (Orissa to be precise), and I can assure you, not a single contact sport is popular there or in Bengal.. There is no doubt that wrestling/martial arts were important in antiquity (say the epic Mahabharata constantly talks about these, but these were mostly restricted to warriors). My point is that extreme stratification due to caste over the last few hundred years means many important aspects of life elsewhere were simply not replicated in India. Think restaurants. Whereas the Chinese seem to have a vibrant street food culture for centuries, we had none in big parts of India. No restaurants other than Chinese or North-west Indian in my town of half a million in the 1980s. Essentially, only the people who were outside the local caste system worked in such trades. No public dancing too by the way, no physical contact between the sexes except between relatives, and numerous other taboos which started dropping away from the mid-90s.

    Furthermore, talking of contact sports, whereas the British elite talked up contact sports like Rugby and boxing in college, and also physical sports like rowing and horse-riding in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Indian upper castes had nothing to do with contact sports. So you absolutely wont find an upper caste (say top 20-30% of society) guy up to the 1980s rolling in the mud playing Kabadi in adulthood.

  42. Sandgroper says

    I meant taking all forms of the game as a whole, and making a value judgement. India’s poor last test tour of Australia was an aberration. We Australians are difficult to play on home soil because we’re just so damned unpleasant about it.

  43. Sandgroper says

    Higher body fat content. It’s genetic. The interesting question is why, but no one knows. Yet.

  44. jimmyriddle says

    3 day and 5 day cricket is what really counts.

    T20 isn’t really cricket in any meaningful sense and the IPL is a shortsighted atrocity – it’s killing the future audience for the real game.

  45. Sandgroper says

    Agreed, but the IPL illustrates the passion that Indians have for the sport, which is the point I was trying to make in response to the contention that Indians are not interested in sports.

  46. The following come from Vegetarian castes

    1) Most Indian billionaires, such as Lakshmi Nivas Mittal, Ambani,

    2) All Indian science Nobels, Vish Anand, Ramanujam, and most members of the 1974 Indian nuke blast

    3) Indira Nooyi, Sundar Pichai

    In general, ( with a few exceptions such as bengal ), a non-vegetarian person is likely lower caste, dravidian, dalit, non-Hindu

    Ever since 1760, when the british took over bengal, in the british Army of Bengal, many of the recruits were Bihari vegetarian brahmins and almost no local native bengali, considered a non-martial race .

    Even today, in the Indian army, very few bengali ( non-veg ) and a high % of Hindu Jats ( veg )
    Hindu Jats ( veg ) have won several Olympic medals in boxing and wrestling

  47. Anonymous says

    One does not need to eat red meat to develop good muscle mass. These Gujjars are all vegetarian and serve as bouncers – a kind of bouncer sub caste – in Delhi’s nightclubs.

    Also, it makes no sense to speak of India in the singular, given the diversity in regions, castes, etc.

    For example, there is good evidence that Indian males are susceptible to a higher rate of heart disease than average, especially when exposed to a western diet, but this is not the case with Punjabis and some other northwestern groups.

    Also, why the Indian bashing? I thought “Hindi-Ruskie bhai bhai”, since the days of Stalin at the very least. Funny how some Russians think they are part of the “global white community”, aka, whitey-dom, as if such a thing existed, beyond white nationalist blogs. Even more interesting given that the nationalism around slaughtering Germans in WWII, etc.

  48. Amongst East Asians, I/I values are much higher amongst northerners, which is an inversion of the global pattern: Beijing Chinese – 48%; Japanese – 54%; Southern Han Chinese – 22%; Vietnamese – 8%. Any ideas why that might be the case?

    Somehow connected to rice vs other staples?

  49. JohnnyWalker123 says

    Not true. Studies on Indians/Pakistanis in the US and UK have found they have significantly lower lean mass (muscle) and significantly higher fat mass than other races.

    One study done on Punjabi-speaking migrants in Western Canada found that even after controlling for diet and exercise, these differences in lean mass and body fat persisted.

  50. JohnnyWalker123 says

    There are lots of Indians and Paks in the UK. Hardly do you find any in the elite rugby leagues. In international rugby competitions, even China beats India and Pak.

  51. JohnnyWalker123 says

    Their children are also ridiculously underrepresented in British soccer.

  52. Raja Hindustani says

    Actually all brown folks from North Africa Middle East region via Indian subcontinent all the way to South East Asia suck in Olympic like sports. Even mulatto – Mestizo giants in the Americas like Mexico and Brazil (with 100 million plus populations) are not great Olympic medal winners. Africans, Europeans and North East Asians, dominate Olympic like sports. Whites, Yellows and Blacks – good, Browns and Reds – bad. The Asian Games are dominated by the Japanese, Koreans and the Chinese. They get the lion share of medals.
    Also the people in India who do best tend to be either Punjabi-Jatts from the North West edge, who tend to be more Caucasian in looks and physique then most Indians or hail from the North Eastern States where people are more Mongoloid then the typical Indian. However Pakistan which is even more Punjabi-Sindhi-Pathan and thus even more Caucasian suck even worse in sports. I wonder if it is the Australoid component in the subcontinent genepool which is responsible for our weak bodies. I wonder how Aboriginal Australians and Papuans are in sports!!!