2 September 2018  |  The impact of Adventist teachings about diet on the development of global dietary practices, especially the rise of vegetarianism, is the focus of an article released last week in the peer-reviewed journal Religions.

Written by a team of authors led by Dr. Jim Banta, associate professor at Loma Linda University (LLU) School of Public Health, documents historical developments related to the Adventist emphasis on plant-based nutrition starting in the mid-19th century. Co-authors are Dr. Joan Sabaté, Dr. Georgia Hodgkin, Dr. Jerry Lee, Dr. Zane Yi and Andrea Fanica, all faculty members at LLU.

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, the article includes 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 healthcare institutions, colleges and universities.

The authors also discuss how the 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. Collectively known as the Adventist Health Studies and funded by the United States National Institutes of Health, the scientific 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 Zone books and worldwide interest in plant-based nutrition not only for its substantial longevity benefits, but also as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Adventists often outlive their peers by 7 to 10 years and if a plant-based diet were more widely adopted, it could also mitigate problems related to climate change.

“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 plant-based diet, and consuming plenty of legumes, including soy, whole grains, and nuts,” Banta observes. These concepts have begun to inform public health policy in many nations around the world.

For additional information on benefits of the Adventist diet, visit the Web site of the Center for Nutrition, Healthy Lifestyle and Disease Prevention:  https://publichealth.llu.edu/centers/center-nutrition-healthy-lifestyle-and-disease-prevention

The photo has the noted sculpture of Christ’s parable of The Good Samaritan in the foreground and the central tower of the Loma Linda University Medical Center in the background.

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