Dec 16, 2012 (AFP) - Sri Lanka on Sunday unveiled new guidelines encouraging devotees to donate low-sugar, healthier food to the country's Buddhist monks after warnings that half of them risk developing diabetes.
Sri Lanka's monks eat food containing on average 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, but it should be reduced to a maximum of eight, while salt intake must also come down sharply, the health ministry said.
"Diabetes and other non-communicable diseases among Buddhist monks can be reduced if the faithful follow the new diet guidelines," the ministry said adding that alms should not include more than one dish containing cooking oil.
Fifty percent of the island's 40,000 venerated monks face the risk of diabetes compared to the national average of 10 percent and the clergy also suffers a higher risk of heart disease, the ministry noted.
Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Sri Lanka's 20 million people, who believe offering meals, cakes, biscuits and sweets to monks will bring them good karma in this life as well as in the next.
The food is made with great care and is often extremely rich. The new guidelines suggest there should be long-grain rice, three vegetables and two types of fruit served to monks.
Buddhists who believe in reincarnation also offer food to monks in a bid to transfer good luck to departed loved ones.
Worshippers book up to a year in advance to be given the chance to cook for monks.