The impact of Seventh-day Adventist dietary philosophy on the development of global dietary practices, especially the rise of vegetarianism, is the focus of an article released in August 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Religions.
Titled “The Global Influence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Diet” — the article, written by lead author Jim E. Banta, associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, documents historical developments related to the Adventist emphasis on plant-based nutrition starting in the mid-19th century.
Since Adventist vegetarianism is linked to the New Testament emphasis on the importance of treating the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, Banta and his Loma Linda University co-authors — Joan Sabaté, Georgia Hodgkin, Jerry Lee, Zane Yi, and Andrea Fanica — present an overview of church teachings on many health-related topics.
Starting from the Second Great Awakening, a 19th-century religious and social movement that gave birth to Mormonism, Shakerism, and Millerism, Banta and his team trace the articulation of Adventist health principles in the writings of Ellen G. White. They go on to discuss the establishment of Adventist sanitariums and hospitals in the 1860s, the invention of breakfast cereals and plant-based meat substitutes, and the church’s 21st-century global network of health-care institutions, colleges, and universities.
The authors also discuss how the Seventh-day Adventist organizational and institutional structure supports its perspective on diet, and how the denomination has used professional education and research to advance vegetarianism.
The most widely cited research on the health benefits of the Adventist lifestyle are three prospective-cohort studies, conducted over a period of 50 years at Loma Linda University Health. Collectively known as the Adventist Health Studies, the National Institutes of Health-funded projects evaluate data gleaned from 96,194 Adventists in North America.
The church’s success in its efforts to promote vegetarianism is attested by the popular Blue Zones books and worldwide interest in plant-based nutrition not only for its substantial longevity benefits — Adventists often outlive their peers by 7 to 10 years — but also as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
“Lessons learned from the Seventh-day Adventists include the importance of social engagement, family, faith, moderate physical activity and no smoking or alcohol. Food-specific lessons include a plant-based diet, and consuming plenty of legumes, including soy, whole grains, and nuts,” Banta observes.
Additional information on the benefits of the Adventist diet can be found on the website of the Center for Nutrition, Healthy Lifestyle and Disease Prevention.