September 6, 2023

Netflix Documentary Features Some of Loma Linda’s Longest-lived Adventists

‘Live to 100’ miniseries includes a discussion on the church’s health principles.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
Photo: Netflix.

A new miniseries that premiered on the Netflix streaming platform August 30 includes part of an episode featuring long-lived Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, United States.

Dan Buettner’s Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones includes some of the director’s observations on what he thinks helps Adventists to live to more than 80, 90, and even 100 while staying active, healthy, and engaged. “Blue Zone” is a term used to describe any area in the world where human beings have extraordinary longevity.

Live to 100 is based on Buettner’s previous work, which included a feature in the November 2005 issue of National Geographic magazine and his subsequent research and additional findings, published in several books, among them his 2008 bestseller The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

“I have found that most of what people thinks leads to a long, healthy life is misguided or just plain wrong,” Buettner says in the documentary official trailer. “What if we could reverse-engineer longevity? I have spent the last 20 years trying to do just that.”

An Unexpected Discovery

In the four-part Netflix miniseries, Buettner devotes the second part of the second episode, titled “An Unexpected Discovery,” to visiting Loma Linda once again and discussing lifestyle with some of its longest-lived residents.

Buettner shares how he got a lead to look into the Adventist Health Study-2, which analyzes the diet and health habits of Adventist members in the United States and Canada. “Because it asked about habits and lifestyle, you can also start to see what behaviors are associated with longer life,” he explains in introducing the segment. He then traveled to Loma Linda to talk with some of its oldest residents as he sought clues about what makes that particular American town a blue zone.

According to Buettner, people in the United States spend billions of dollars on gym memberships that go largely unused. But in Loma Linda, he points out, Adventists “are getting physical activity routines and other healthy behavior to stick.”

Buettner interviews several residents, including Loida Medina, who at 84 spends several hours a day playing pickleball with other octogenarian friends. “Longevity is exercise and community,” Medina tells him. “If you are depressed, you are not going to live very long.”

Pillars of Behavior

Throughout the segment, Buettner makes clear that Adventists are more than just a healthy people. “They evangelize with health,” he states. “They really stick together around this doctrine of health, and it’s not a physical environment as much as it is a religious and social environment.”

In the following minutes, Buettner describes other “pillars of behavior” he saw in Loma Linda Adventists, including volunteering, a plant-based diet, faith, and belonging to “the right tribe.”

He interviews Joan Sabaté, Loma Linda University professor of nutrition and epidemiology, who discusses the principles first shared by Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White on optimal nutrition. Buettner makes a point that Adventists “frame their health message in the positive,” inviting people to adopt a balanced diet that avoids meat and includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

Buettner also refers to the meaning of faith and specifically Sabbath observance and its relation to health. “The American condition is full of stress.… Our schedules are packed,” he says. “The Adventists have this sanctuary in time … where they just shut down.”

Finally, after watching and interviewing some of Loma Linda’s longest-lived Adventists, Buettner said he believes that there’s power is surrounding yourself with people who strive for the same goals. “Surrounding yourself with people whose idea of recreation is gardening or walking has a measurable impact on what your habits are,” he said.

Origin, Scope, and Purpose

General Conference health ministries director Peter Landless has repeatedly emphasized the origin, scope, and purpose of Adventist health principles. God demonstrated His interest in the health of His people by creating a magnificent environment to sustain His creatures,” Landless wrote. “He provided a nutritious diet, fresh air, pure water, and opportunity for exercise as our first parents tended the garden…. Even after the fall, the flood, and the captivity, God demonstrated His concern for the health of His people by giving them specific instructions.”

Landless traced the origin of the Adventist health message to a vision given in 1863 to Ellen White, which “demonstrated that it is a spiritual duty to care for the body-temple, and confirmed the wholistic integration of body, mind, and spirit,” he wrote. “These principles have stood the test of time and the scrutiny of science. Rest, sunshine, balanced nutrition, trust in God, exercise, temperance, drinking water, and breathing fresh air maintain balanced wholeness.”

He then emphasized the primary purpose of taking care of our health. “It is to enable us to serve God and our fellow beings,” Landless wrote. “We will enjoy better health, but we are saved to serve.”