Q:I have been reading with interest about the Adventist emphasis on health. Do people outside the Adventist Church recognize the benefits of our health approach?
A:The number of people in the United States who are obese (67.6 million) has overtaken the number who are merely overweight (65.2 million). Noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, stroke, heart attack, respiratory diseases, and cancer are on the rise. Trends must change!
In February 2009 U.S. News & World Report posted 10 habits that will help a person live to 100. Number 8 stated:
“Live like a Seventh Day Adventist. Americans who define themselves as Seventh Day Adventists have an average life expectancy of 89, about a decade longer than the average American. One of the basic tenets of the religion is that it’s important to cherish the body that’s on loan from God, which means no smoking, alcohol abuse, or overindulging in sweets. Followers typically stick to a vegetarian diet based on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts, and get plenty of exercise. They’re also very focused on family and community.”1
As early as 1863 Ellen White counseled Seventh-day Adventists about healthful living. The outstanding feature of her initial message was the “relation between physical welfare and spiritual health, or holiness.”2 Long before medical evidence emerged on the dangers of smoking, Ellen White spoke out strongly on tobacco, alcohol, and poisonous medications such as arsenicals and mercury-based drugs. The drinking of tea and coffee and the use of other stimulants was strongly discouraged, as was the use of flesh food. She promoted a balanced vegetarian diet. In addition, the use of fresh, clean water (inside and out), clean air, adequate exercise and rest, temperance, faith, appropriate sunshine exposure, integrity, and social support were strongly encouraged.
Time reported the positive outcome of the first Adventist Health Study,3 describing the results as the “Adventist Advantage.”4 There was significant reduction in most cancers and cirrhosis of the liver, and a significant increase in longevity (seven to nine years) in those living the Adventist lifestyle. The analyses were so compelling that the National Institutes of Health allocated $19 million to conduct Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS 2), with a special emphasis on the differences in malignancies between Adventists and the general population. There were 95,000 participants throughout the United States and Canada. The facts emerging confirm the benefits of a plant-based diet and a beneficial reduction of noncommunicable diseases.
The November 2005 issue of National Geographic focused on the “secrets of living longer” and included Adventists.5
More important than living a few years longer, however, is the injunction to “do the works of him who sent me [Jesus]” (John 9:4). God has given consistent guidance on how we can be healthy, happy, and holy. The health and wellness we gain is to be channeled into His service. We are to be conduits of His grace to a suffering world. It’s exciting to live in a time when science confirms and underscores the instructions given more than 100 years ago!
Do those outside of our church recognize the Adventist health advantage? Indeed they do. Let’s make the difference by living and sharing this news to make the difference for all!
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.