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Seventh-day Adventists get it right when it comes to diet, exercise

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Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 12:00 am

For many years, my father told me Seventh-day Adventists live longer than the general population.

The research he quoted was likely the Adventist Mortality Study from 1960-65. It concluded that Adventist men live an average of 6.2 years longer, and Adventist women live approximately 3.7 years longer than their non-church member peers.

Specifics of this study revealed that cancer rates were 60 to 85 percent lower, depending on the sex of the patient and types of tumors. Coronary heart disease was also substantially reduced.

A second study, sponsored by Loma Linda University, followed 34,000 California Adventists and reported similar results. A third and larger study is now in progress throughout the United States and Canada.

Lodi has a population of approximately 2,000 Seventh-day Adventists. Estimates are between 16 and 20 million worldwide. Three centers of worship are located here, including a Spanish-speaking congregation, which can be found on Central Avenue.

Adventists are famous for their health care, and sponsor a number of hospitals throughout California and the world. The closest are in Sonora and St. Helena. They also have a medical school located in Southern California, as well as others in Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru.

Good eating and health habits began with Adventists long before these guidelines became part of our pop culture. Their church prophet, Ellen G. White, was way ahead of her time, as evidenced by her publications about proper nutrition during the 19th century. She promoted vegetarianism, and prohibited pork, shellfish, alcohol and smoking. Kellogg's Corn Flakes were developed from her emphasis on alternative foods. Mrs. White died in 1915 at the age of 87.

The second study previously referenced covered a time span from 1974 to 1988. Attempts were made to discover which components of the Adventist lifestyle contributed to longevity and promoted protection against disease. Findings were numerous. Here are some:

1. Plant-based diets, eating nuts, regular exercise and maintaining average body weight, increased longevity by up to 10 years.

2. Increased consumption of red and white meat was associated with an increase in colorectal cancer. Eating legumes (peanuts, peas, beans, lentils, etc.) helped protect against this type of cancer.

3. Consumption of nuts several times per week reduced heart attack risk by 50 percent.

4. Whole grain instead of common white bread reduced heart attack risk by 45 percent.

5. Five glasses of water per day could reduce heart disease by 50 percent.

6. Men who ate large quantities of tomatoes reduced prostate cancer by 70 percent.

Of course, this is just one extensive study, and conclusions should not be drawn based simply on its findings. Genetics play a large role in aging and disease, along with dietary and environmental factors as well.

But Adventists' increased longevity over the general population has been — and is — a long-established fact. One can only conclude that these folks must be doing something right.

So, while contemplating our next meal, should we all have a bowl of vegetable soup and Boston baked beans, or should we just grab a batch of salty fries — coupled with a triple-bacon cheeseburger?

Steve Hansen is as Lodi writer.

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