Are Adventists Too Biased to Conduct Nutritional Research?
22 November 2019 | An article published today in Grand Forks Herald highlights the strong influence that Adventist researchers have on nutritional trends and beliefs. It questions whether Adventist religious bias in favor of vegetarianism should be disclosed alongside research that advocates for plant-based diets.
A recent widely reported study led by Mayo Clinic clinician Dr. John Shin and four colleagues was cited as an example of this bias, as the paper linked dairy consumption to prostate cancer and received a lot of attention in its advocacy for plant-based eating.
Shin is Adventist. The article adds that so are “thousands of other clinicians across the country” and their “ministry of healing” includes a duty to advocate for vegetarianism. This, the article suggests, is a bias that doesn’t receive enough attention.
The Grand Forks Herald piece also claims that the studies Shin and his team used to inform their anti-dairy, pro-plant push were based on weak science and that most of the outcomes showed no effect, “protective or harmful,” for foods in relation to prostate cancer. Shin justified his findings by saying that of the studies that actually showed findings, the majority favored vegan-friendly diets to prevent cancer.
The Grand Forks Herald also quotes Adventist history researcher Ronald Numbers on Adventist co-founder Ellen White’s advocacy for vegetarianism and how this oriented the denomination in terms of dietary views.
Australian writer Belinda Fettke, who blogs about Adventism and health, is quoted as saying that Adventism began as a “health religion” and that members are therefore “compromised in making broad decisions about society’s health.”
Shin’s response to accusations of Adventist bias is that every researcher has a bias and that his just happens to be more visible. He added that implying that someone of faith is less worthy of conducting research would be discriminatory.
Numbers, for his part, says that an Adventist researcher would have a hard time making a dietary recommendation contrary to his or her faith. Asked if Adventists should have to disclose their religion when doing nutritional research, Numbers calls the issue “an incredibly interesting question.”