Chennai, India

The Chennai team is led by Dr. Viswanathan Mohan and includes researchers from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and SAMARTH.



India at a Glance

Capital: New Delhi

Area: 3,287,263 sq km
Population: 1,189,172,906
Median age: total: 26.2 years
Urban population: 30% of total population
Life expectancy: male: 65.7 yr ; female: 67.9 yr
Per Capita GDP: $3,400

Language:   Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%. (English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language)

Location:   Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan

Agriculture:   Rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, lentils, onions, potatoes; dairy products, sheep, goats, poultry; fish.
Diet and culture:

Some of India’s foods date back five thousand years. The Indus Valley peoples (who settled in what is now northern Pakistan) hunted turtles and alligator, as well as wild grains, herbs and plants. Many foods from the Indus period remain common today.

Perhaps the biggest contributors to India’s culinary heritage are the Muslim peoples from Persia and present-day Turkey, who began arriving in India after 1200. These peoples, known later as the Mughals, ruled much of India between 1500 and early 1800. They saw food as an art, and many Mughal dishes are cooked with as many as twenty-five spices, as well as rose water, cashews, raisins and almonds.

What Indians eat varies by region and religion. Northern Indians eat more flat breads, while those from southern India prefer rice. In coastal states, such as Kerala and Bengal, fish dishes are popular. Chicken and mutton (sheep) are eaten more often in mountain and plains regions. While many Hindus avoid eating beef, Muslims avoid pork. In addition, many Indians (particularly Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains) are vegetarian.

Indian cuisine is varied, but many dishes are cooked in a similar way. The preparation starts with frying onion, ginger, garlic or spices such as cumin seeds in oil at a high temperature. Meats, vegetables, flavorings such as yogurt, and spices such as turmeric then are added. The dish then simmers at a low heat until the ingredients are cooked. At the end of the preparation, leafy herbs such as cilantro and flavorings such as lemon juice are added.

This style of preparation may be linked to the traditional use of cow dung. Like the charcoal used in modern-day barbecues, dung initially produces a high heat, but then burns slowly. Although middle-class and urban Indians have electric or gas stoves, many rural households still use cow dung.




MDRF – HSPH Brown rice brochure – Dec 2009

Below are cooked and uncooked rice varieties by degree of polishing (0% polishing is brown rice and fully polished is white rice) used in taste tests and focus group discussions in Chennai, India

Focus Group Discussion – female, overweight Group, Chennai, India. Shuba Kumar, our resident Focus Group Discussion expert can be found on the right


Whole grains educational pamphlet developed by our colleagues in Chennai, India for use in the study