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The Adventist Advantage

By Dr. Winston J. Craig

            From Norway to the Netherlands, from California to Copenhagen, and Poland to Japan, the storyline reads the same:  Adventists enjoy better health, have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, and consequently live longer. But how much longer?

           Depending upon the geographical region, the increased life expectancy of an Adventist is about four years for women, and seven years for men. This differential between Adventists and their neighbors arises from the fact that death rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer, the major killers in Western society, occur at a rate among Adventists that is 30 to 50 percent lower than their non-Adventist neighbors.

 Extensive Research

            So what makes the difference? Adventists have been the subject of scientific investigations for four decades. To date, over 300 publications in scientific journals have reported on Adventists and their health. Researchers note that many Adventists avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful drugs. Regular exercise, a good quality of life, and the faith factor have also been suggested to explain the lower mortality rates in Adventists. Furthermore, a significant number of Adventists emphasize a diet in which plant foods play a significant role.

            In the Adventist Health Study, scientists observed that Adventist men in their 40’s, who ate meat at least four times a week, experienced four times the risk of a fatal heart attack compared to vegetarian men. On the other hand, consumption of whole-wheat bread instead of white bread was associated with a 40 percent decreased risk of heart disease.

            Consumption of red meat amongst Adventists increased their risk of colon cancer by two-to-three-fold, while legumes decreased their risk almost 50 percent. Adventists who regularly ate meat, eggs or cheese had higher rates of breast and prostate cancer, while eating tomatoes, legumes, soy products, and dried fruit decreased the risk of prostate cancer by 40 to 50 percent.

            Furthermore, men who drank two or more cups of coffee a day had a significantly higher risk of fatal bladder and colon cancer, while daily consumption of meat doubled the risk of developing both diabetes and dementia. In African-Americans, the frequent consumption of green salads, fruits, and nuts was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of mortality.

 Plus Ten

            Not carrying excess weight can add about 3 to 4 years to one's life, while engaging in moderate exercise may confer an additional 2 to 3 years of life. In addition, eating a vegetarian diet may add as much as 5 years to a man's life and 4 years to a woman's life.  Hence, if one has all three of these lifestyle factors one could enjoy an additional decade of life.

            Making healthy choices enables us to not only live longer but also to enjoy a better quality of life.

Winston J. Craig, PhD
Andrews University

Books by Dr. Winston Craig