Adventism's Gift to the World: Empiric Evidence for a Roadmap to Better Health

Speaker: Categories: Sep 13, 2003


[1hr, 17min, 36sec / 46min, 10sec]


"You are what you eat!"No doubt you've heard this adage on a variety of occasions, beginning as a young child. Perhaps you have internalized the concept and find yourself pondering the options at various serve-yourself opportunities - fellowship luncheons, the cafeteria, Home Town Buffet, or other such eating establishments. If you are the food preparer at your home, there may be some awareness of the meaning of the adage as you plan menus. If you're the consumer of the nutritional offerings, you may, at least occasionally, heed these words of wisdom as you consider seconds.

But have you considered the flip-side of the adage:"You are not what you don't eat?"Might it be that what you don't eat has even a more profound effect on your person - attitude, anatomy, physiology, and well-being - than what you do eat?

Of course there are other factors that affect the above, but it's likely that readers of this newsletter have a particular sensitivity to those nutritional components which go into the body - and also those which do NOT.

Dr. Gary Fraser, AAFSD speaker for September, provides a fascinating perspective on this matter, particularly as related to SDAs. He notes:

"For more than 40 years the federal government has invested millions of dollars with Loma Linda University -- first to evaluate the health of Adventists as compared to others, and more recently to find the specific lifestyle components that lead to reduced risk of chronic disease and increased life expectancy. First there was the Adventist Mortality Study which began in 1960 (directed by Dr. Frank Lemon and Dr. Richard Walden), then the Adventist Health Study (Dr. Roland Phillips and Dr. Jan Kuzma) beginning 1974-76. Over the last two years a yet more ambitious endeavor, AHS-2, has been begun and on which we are working hard. (You have already enrolled, have you not!)".

Further, he adds,"The results of previous studies have been very provocative. There is little doubt that Adventists live longer, and experience less heart disease and cancer than others in the same communities. Adventistvegetarianslivemuchlonger and havemuchless heart disease than non-Adventists."

"The previous studies have given some evidence, but mainly only hints, about which particular components of the Adventist lifestyle and diet are those that protect. Much more evidence is needed from very large studies such as AHS-2. Interestingly, Adventists as a group have certain characteristics that give our studies special power to find answers that will inform the whole world."

Before going on, please reread that preceding sentence. You might find yourself asking about the potential impact of such research and the wide-spread publication of its findings.



Gary E. Fraser grew up in New Zealand, his father having been a long-time employee of the Sanitarium Health Food Company and later the North New Zealand Conference. Fraser received his medical degree in 1969 from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and his Internal Medicine specialty qualification (FRACP) in 1973. In 1977 he received a postgraduate Diploma in Mathematical Statistics, and in 1979 a PhD in epidemiology, both from the University of Auckland. In 1977 he and family moved to Minnesota, supported by fellowships from the New Zealand National Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council. While in Minnesota he earned a MPH at the famous Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene, founded by Ancel Keys. In 1979 he moved to Loma Linda University, Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

A year later he was awarded one of a small number of Preventive Cardiology Academic Awards (a 5 year grant) from the National Institutes of Health, Washington DC. In 1983 he became Board Certified in Clinical Cardiology. In 1986 his first book was published by Oxford University Press, titled"Preventive Cardiology". This was used as a textbook for several years at prestigious universities such as Stanford University and UCSD.

Over the next several years he received major research funding from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Aging and the National Cancer Institute, having the distinction of being awarded the grant with the highest priority score, and another (AHS-2), the largest research grant, ever awarded to Lorna Linda University. During 1995-96 he spent a very enjoyable and productive year on sabbatical at the Biostatics Unit, University of Cambridge, UK. This was supported by a Senior Research Fellowship from the U.S. National Institutes Health. Two months ago his second book was published, also by Oxford University Press, titled"Diet, Life Expectancy and Chronic Disease: Studies of Seventh-day Adventists and Other Vegetarians". He has more than 90 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Presently he is Director of the Adventist Health Study, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Lorna Linda University. He enjoys hiking, visiting New Zealand, and, until recently, playing the pipe organ, having received an Associate degree in piano performance from the Trinity College of Music, London, many years ago.

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