28 April 2019 | A lifestyle feature on NBC television’s website recently examined what could be learned from Loma Linda residents about living longer.
NBC interviewed researcher Dan Buettner, who first developed the idea of Blue Zones – regions in the world where people live the longest.
“I found that Seventh-day Adventists lived between seven and 11 years longer than people in its Northern American counterparts,” said Buettner. “The highest concentration of them is in or around Southern California, specifically Loma Linda. I [qualified] it as a Blue Zone namely because these were verifiably the longest-lived Americans, given available data in 2005.”
Buettner said that living longer in Blue Zones was not the result of “one special diet or one other thing; they’re living longer because of a cluster of mutually supporting factors that enable [residents] to do the right things long enough and avoid doing the wrong things long enough so as to [lower risk] of developing a chronic disease.”
The article noted that vegetarianism was practiced by a significant percentage of Adventists.
“Around 30 percent of Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarian, and within that group are mostly lacto-ovo vegetarian, meaning they consume no flesh but they do eat dairy and eggs,” said John Westerdahl, PhD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and an Adventist who graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
The article also noted that practicing Adventists typically abstain from caffeine and alcohol. They also are likely to surround themselves with other Adventists. This reality means that social gatherings tend to have less opportunity to “cheat” on such lifestyle choices.
“Seventh day-Adventists [observe] their sabbath from sunset Friday through all day Saturday,” said Buettner, addressing another pillar of the Adventist lifestyle. “No matter how busy they are or what their parenting schedule dictates, they stop everything and spend the day with family and usually go on a nature hike. There’s no TV, no internet and no work at all.”
Buettner also stated that Adventists like to volunteer for various causes and that this has a positive effect on health.
“Volunteers live longer than non-volunteers,” said Buettner to NBC. “We also know that loneliness kills. In America, it shaves eight years off your life expectancy. An Adventist in Loma Linda has such a strong face-to-face social network. You go to church with them, you hike with them, they’re there for you and you’re there for them. These are subtleties that are enormously powerful but vastly under celebrated because there is no profit in them. If social connectedness and volunteerism were pharmaceuticals, they would be blockbuster drugs.”