Why do Seventh Day Adventists live longer and suffer less disease?
I recently watched a thought provoking documentary on PBS which supports my dietary philosophy of eating mostly a vegetarian diet. The documentary is called In Defense of Food which you can watch here. NYTimes best-selling author Michael Pollan tries to answer the question: What should I eat to be healthy? Michael busts many myths and misconceptions, and how you should apply common sense and wisdom when deciding what to eat.
Michael’s journey for truth takes him to many places but one place that stood out for me was in a California nursing home for Seventh Day Adventists enjoy remarkable longevity by eating a vegetarian diet. To quickly summarize, the solution to eating well and avoiding diet-related diseases like gout is to eat food, not too much, meaning control your portions and eat mostly plants. Yup you heard right, plants as in complex carbohydrates, greens, beans and all that wonderful stuff.
What does consist of the Western diet? It includes lots of meat, sugar, white flour and vegetable oils. It’s inexpensive, convenient and has been processed to taste yummy! Remember the food industry rules us via confusion. Everyday there is a different headline in the news about food. Eat more fiber. Eggs are bad. Eggs are good. Meat is bad. Meat is good. Drink more milk. Drink less milk. It’s no wonder people are confused, obese and sick.
Micheal Pollan goes on to say: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants, is what our species has done for hundreds of thousands of years, so that advice is about as universal as any advice you could offer. It’s very rare in our lives where the answer to a complicated question is so simple, but when it comes to eating, it is.”
He also adds: “The rise of farmers markets, the rise of organic agriculture, the rise of the food movement — none of this was the result of government action. All of this was the result of consumers voting with their forks, signaling to farmers and the food industry they wanted something different. And this has created a multi-billion dollar alternative food economy. So we may be at a turning point.” For those that want to learn more from Michael Pollan, I strongly recommend you check out his book as well, titled In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.
Examining the Evidence
Now back to the Seventh Day Adventists. Did you know since 1958 many organizations like the National Health Institute and the American Cancer Society have studied the 7th Day Adventists’ community dietary habits, lifestyle, disease and mortality rates? What are now known as the Adventist Health Studies are quite remarkable to say the least and gout sufferers can learn plenty from them. Loma Linda, California is a town which the majority are Seventh Day Adventists and lead the country in longevity. On average women live until the age of 81 but Adventist women live until 86. Average men live until the age of 76 but Adventist men live until the age of 83!
According to Loma Linda University, ground zero in the Adventist Health Studies, “Death from coronary heart disease among Adventist men was 66 percent [lower compared to their California peers]; for Adventist women, it was 98 percent [lower]. Stroke death rates for Adventist men were 72 percent [lower], compared to their non-Adventist counterparts. For Adventist women, death from stroke was 82 percent [lower]. The death rate from cancer for Adventist men is 60 percent lower than that of the average California male; for Adventist women, it is 75 percent lower.”
What makes the Seventh Day Adventists different from the rest? They eat like Greeks, following what we call the Mediterranean Diet, eating mostly fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes fish, olive oil and nuts. Or as outlined in my book, eating complex carbohydrates for at least 80% of your daily calories.
While their religion advocates vegetarianism, followers can eat meat if they want to. They can only eat clean meats which are basically the same as kosher meats like beef, chicken, fish and wild game but excludes pork and shellfish. Foods high in fat like eggs, butter and dairy should be consumed in moderation to avoid cholesterol. While complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit comprise the foundation of the Seventh Day Adventist Diet. To my fellow gout sufferers, I ask after examining the evidence to eat more like a Seventh Day Adventist! Let me know your thoughts!