Seventh-day Adventists and Health


SAUL GONZALEZ, correspondent: If growing old means growing slow, well then 89-year-old Delmar Holbrooke hasn’t gotten the memo.

DELMAR HOLBROOKE: I’m really getting ready for 90, “the big 9-0.” My family is already planning it. I am going to ski up at Mountain High early in the morning, come down and play a round of golf, and then head out to the beach to surf.

GONZALEZ: You’re not a sit on the couch kind of guy?


Delmar HolbrookeGONZALEZ: Holbrooke credits his energy to a life of exercise and healthy eating, but also his faith.

(to Holbrooke): Would you be as healthy as you are, in your opinion, without your faith?

HOLBROOKE: Oh, no, no. I am what I am because of my faith. To me that is just as clear as can be.

GONZALEZ: Like many other residents of Loma Linda, California, Holbrooke is a Seventh-day Adventist. That’s the Christian denomination that observes the Sabbath on Saturday. Adventists also emphasize a healthy diet and lifestyle as important expressions of their faith, and because of that emphasis, researchers say Adventists often have remarkably good health.

PROFESSOR LARRY BEESON (Loma Linda University): Adventists have an evidence of living longer and dying at a later age. They die of the diseases of the general population, but at a much later age—eight, ten years later.

GONZALEZ: Larry Beeson is an associate professor of public health and epidemiology at Loma Linda University. It’s a health and science institute affiliated with Seventh-day Adventists that’s been studying members of the faith since 1958.

(to Beeson): And they get to that age…?

Professor Larry BeesonBEESON: …through a variety of different things. It’s not just one thing. It is their religious—how they relate to God and their fellow man, their diet, their exercise, their avoidance of tobacco and alcohol. All of that collectively contributes to longevity.

GONZALEZ: And because it has such a high percentage of Adventists who live long and active lives, researchers have dubbed Loma Linda one of five so-called health Blue Zones in the world.

BEESON: A Blue Zone is just an area where there is an unusual occurrence or more than what we would expect of people who live to be the late 90s, early 100s.

GONZALEZ: Diet seems to be especially important to Adventists’ good health and long life expectancy. Nearly 30 percent of Seventh-day Adventists practice some form of vegetarianism compared to only about three percent for the US population as a whole. In fact, at many Adventist institutions, such as the Loma Linda Health Center, only vegetarian meals are served.

PASTOR DANIEL MATHEWS(Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists): I do follow a plant-based diet and have followed a vegetarian diet all my life, and I know you and all your viewers are going to look at me strangely, but I never tasted any meat.

GONZALEZ: Dan Mathews is a third-generation Seventh-day Adventist and a pastor. We talked to him about the connection between diet, health, and religious belief within his faith tradition.

Pastor Daniel MathewsMATHEWS: Genesis 21:29 states that God gave mankind grains and fruits and nuts and herbs bearing seeds—the initiation of a plant-based diet. To not take care of our bodies, which is a part of the stewardship of the earth, to not take care of our bodies is an affront to our God.

VIRGINIA CROUNSE: I feel good. Yeah, I do. I feel energetic.

GONZALEZ: We met seventy-three-year-old Adventist Virginia Crounse as she was relaxing in a whirlpool. She shared her diet and fitness routines with us.

CROUNSE: I actually eat most of the time two meals a day. I’ll eat like granola or oatmeal for breakfast with two or three fruits, fresh fruit. As long as I can remember, I exercise daily, at least six days a week. I walk at least two miles, rain, sun, or snow.

GONZALEZ: It’s not well known, but Seventh-day Adventism has already made its mark on American culinary history in what millions of people eat each and every morning. It’s the creation and mass marketing of breakfast cereal by a guy named Kellogg. That’s John Harvey Kellogg and his brother, Will Kellogg, both Seventh-day Adventists who developed corn flakes, one of the first mass-marketed breakfast cereals, in the late 19th century. They saw cereal as a health food alternative to the fatty breakfast foods of their day.

post04-adventisthealthBEESON: Corn flakes and the other kinds of foods that came out of the Kellogg’s industry was really trying to deal with the whole grain thing and not trying to throw away all the nutrients when you refine and become white bread. You’re throwing a lot of nutrients away.

GONZALEZ: In our own time, as Americans search for ways to improve their diets and health, some researchers believe they can borrow some simple lifestyle ideas from Seventh-day Adventists.

BEESON: Reducing your smoking, reducing your saturated fat intake, exercising more—all that can be done by anybody. They don’t have to become an Adventist to gain the benefits that we’ve observed in the Adventist health study.

GONZALEZ: It is accessible to all of us.

BEESON: Absolutely.

GONZALEZ: At the pool, Delmar Holbrooke has his own advice.

HOLBROOKE: You have to keep your mind alive and continuing to grow, and your body just as much.

GONZALEZ: For Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, I’m Saul Gonzalez in Loma Linda, California.

  • Doris Carr

    We don’t eat meat,i’m 82 my husband is 85, we feel well and take no medicine..

  • Sonja Upham

    Although the health message is wonderful, if you do not have a relationship to your Heavenly Father, it is all for not. Give your life to Christ today, and have the assurance of eternal life for tomorrow as well as a wonderfully healthy life for today!

    “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:35-38

  • Humanist

    Vegetarianism is good for us and animals get a chance to stay alive and it causes less pollution in the environment.

  • John

    Here is a link to research on longevity and health of 7th Day Adventists.

  • James Schlup

    Hi, I have been a Seventh-day Adventist all my life, although we did not follow a strictr vegetarian diet when I was a child. As an adult I took a, required by the University of Nebraska class I was attending in 1969, a tour of a meat-packing plant in Lincoln, Nebraska. What I saw their startled me. Cancer soars all over some parts of the beef almost as large as my fist and smaller were being cut out and thrown in a bin. I asked them, “You said you don’t waste anythiing, what do you do with those?’ The reply, “They use them to mix with grains and other ingrrediens to make pellets for doy and cat food and for fish hatcheries. That explained why the Rainbow Trout in Wyoming that was stocked from the fish hatcheries had all those spots and sores on them while the native Brook Trout and native German Brown had none. That’s when I became a vegetarian. On a hike years later when I was explaining why I had better endurance for my age because I was a vegetarian, I told them about my packing-plant tour. A young man hiking with us for the first time that day in Oak Creek Canyon Arizona said, “:That’s why I’m here in Arizona looking for a job. I quit my job in a packing-plant in Chicago when they required us to start throwing those cancer cuts in the bin with other cuts to be ground up for hamburger for human consumption. He and everyone I have ever talked to that works in a meat-packing plant are vegetarians. I am 76 years old now. In very excellent health. Biologically about 60 years of age. Take no prescriptions, blood pressure yesterday was 95/76 pulse 77. Do not even take any aspirin. Still employed as a handyman up and down extension ladders to over 40 feet and can keep up with guys in construction as far as agility that are in their twenties. My faith is being served better now that I am eating this way. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which temple ye are. Glorify God in your body. Whatsoever ye eat or drink or whatsoever you do; do all to the glory of God.” My wife was just a little less than half my age when I followed her back to Indonesia in 1999 ti get married there. My first son, from a previous marriage will be 57 in July. My youngest son will be thirteen on December 27th..My birthday. God continues to bless with the miracle of such wonderful health and many more besides. James Schlup

  • Kim Sula

    Even though I am not a Seventh-day Adventist, I find this documentary very interesting. After I have stopped eating meat and replaced my diet with vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans a year ago, a lot of chronic pains have disappeared such as indigestion, lethargy, headaches, and overeating. Now I fully understand what the bible says about our diet should be.

    I am 68 years old and I am blessed to have found this secret to keep me healthy.

  • Charles McConnell

    I, too, grew up in an Adventist home. I am 73 years old but run up stairs two at a time, as many as four flights. The vegetarian diet is easy to follow but does require self control. Do we eat to live, or live to eat? Obesity is the result of the latter. Much of the obesity problem can be because of advertising! All of these food councils just want to take your money!

  • Cynthia Jacobson

    Being vegetarian is just one part of a healthy eating program, it does not guarantee healthy choices. Avoiding sugar, foods that spike your glucose and thus yoru insulin will drive extra calories consumed into fat and create the devastation to our bodies just as readily or more so than meat. Nutrient dense, small, low-glycemic meals 5-6 times per day is the best way to give our bodies healthy nutrition. Then changing our other habits of stress, sleep, inflammation, exercise will support the health we are trying to create.

  • julius martim

    I m going to practice using the meal you mentioned earlier and make achange to my life and to be closer to God

  • Desiré Fish

    Too bad Kelloggs has GMOs, as well as Morningstar and many other vegetarian alternatives. To eat as E.G White instructed would definitely include never ingesting that poison. Sell Outs and Killers! Sad! Homegrown grains, beans, nuts, veggies and fruits is the only way to go.

  • David Hodges

    My grandfather used to work for John Harvey Kellogg. He (JHK) was enraged when he returned from England to see that his brother had put sugar in the cereal. He gave his Kellogg’s stock to his employees (before my grandfather was one of them) and had no more to do with the company. This was a classic case of reaching the lowest common denominator.