Unformatted text preview: The Health and Longevity Among Seventh-Day Adventists
Travis M. Snyder
American Military University Abstract
Seventh-Day Adventists are among some of the healthiest people in America. They’re less likely
to develop cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and they have a longer lifespan compared to the
general population. This research paper will look at who the Seventh-Day Adventists are, and
why they tend to be healthier than the general population. In doing so, this paper will analyze
what they eat, what they avoid, and why. Furthermore, multiple studies and their findings will
also be examined as it relates to diet, health, and longevity among the Seventh-Day Adventists,
as well as other factors that may impact health outcomes, such as religious traditions, community
involvement, fasting, and their general lifestyle.
The Health and Longevity Among Seventh-Day Adventists
Numerous studies have been conducted showing that members of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith live longer and healthier lives compared to the general population (Land, 2014).
One reason for this is due to the seriousness, faithfulness, and emphasis that the church devotes
to health and wellness. For example, the church owns many colleges and universities dedicated
to public health services, one which is strictly devoted to health studies and conducting research
among members of the faith. The church also has their own health ministries, which is dedicated
to keeping members up to date on current health topics and issues. In addition, each church
congregation has a health and temperance director who provides education and support for
healthy living (Superville, Pargament, & Lee, 2014). Furthermore, the church teaches its
members “Eight Laws of Health” (SDA, 2019) which is one of their pillars of faith, and part of
their fundamental beliefs, in which claims that individual’s health will increase greatly by
following these eight laws of health (SDA, 2019). These eight laws include nutrition, exercise,
water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in God.
Who are the Seventh-Day Adventists?
Seventh-Day Adventists are commonly mistaken as members of the Latter-Day Saints
(Mormons), or Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, the Seventh-Day Adventist church is a Protestant
Christian denomination that was established in 1863, and currently has over 25 million
members worldwide (Land, 2014). Among the early founders, Ellen G. White, who is known as
the most prominent, even regarded as a prophetess by most members (Kaiser, 2016), wrote many
religious teachings in which are believed to be inspired by God, and are taught alongside the
Bible within the church. A large portion of these teachings are associated with nutrition as it relates to the Bible, and teaches what people should eat, as well as what foods to
avoid (Awaludin, Jamal, & Muttaqin, 2018). According to members of the church, these
teachings are in harmony with the Bible, and are used to gain a better understanding, or better
interpretation of biblical scripture.
The “Seventh-Day” is associated with their belief and importance of observing the
Sabbath, in which they believe is every Saturday, whereas other Christian denominations believe
it to be Sunday. Therefore, Seventh-Day Adventists attend church every Saturday, followed by a
potluck with members of their church (Superville, et al., 2014), and then rest for the remainder of
the day, in which they believe no work should be performed unless it’s in the form of helping
others. This belief is derived from the 10 commandments of the Bible, in which the fourth
commandment states “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:1-17).
The Sabbath is also an important factor of the health and wellness among Seventh-Day
Adventists, as it promotes stronger social relationships and influences other members to adopt
the church’s healthy lifestyle (Superville et al., 2014). In addition, each church has a local health
and temperance director, in which exposes, educates, and promotes healthy lifestyle choices,
such as proper nutrition, and the importance of having an active lifestyle, in which
includes outdoor activities, as getting proper amounts of sunlight is also an important health
factor promoted by the church. These teachings are typically presented during the Sabbath
service or during the potluck (Superville et al., 2014). Furthermore, during the Sabbath, quality
time is spent with the family, which usually involves bible studies, prayer, and relaxation, which
can be beneficial to one’s mental health, as it builds stronger relationships among the family, and
can reduce stress. Additionally, every four months, on the first Sabbath of each quarter, Seventh-Day
Adventists around the world participate in a day of prayer and fasting (SDA, 2019). The fasting
lasts 24 hours, in which the church often provides a topic for its members to observe, ponder, and
pray about during the fast, such as praying for the family, children, or world events (SDA, 2019).
Members often choose between three types of food fasts, which include a complete fast where no
food or water is consumed, a normal fast which only water is consumed, or a partial fast;
commonly referred to as the Daniel fast, in which one only consumes fruits and vegetables.
Prayer and fasting is also encouraged among members whenever they feel the need to become
closer to God, as well as for wisdom, and/or when requesting God’s help in times of crisis (SDA,
2018). Other common reasons to fast according to the church includes to gain better knowledge
of scripture, as a form of repentance, and marital relations; in which couples fast and pray
together as a way to strengthen their marriage and faith.
Not only does fasting bring Seventh-Day Adventists closer to God, they believe it also
provides mental health benefits throughout their lives, such as having better self-control, in
which they’re able to focus on their faith and health rather than food or other worldly things.
According to Dr. Doug Batchelor, a Seventh-Day Adventist Pastor, prayer and fasting practiced
among the church provides individuals stronger will-power and greater self-control over one’s
food choices, in which contribute to less overeating and obesity among Seventh-Day Adventists
(AmazingFacts, 2019). According to a study conducted among college students, Seventh-Day
Adventists have lower rates of obesity compared to students unaffiliated with the church
(Pawlak, & Sovyanhadi, 2009). Among other factors, regularly fasting can be contributed to
lower obesity rates among members of the faith.
Biblical Dietary Laws Seventh-Day Adventists believe in the biblical diet of the old testament, similarly to
Judaism, in which they do not consume any food that is considered unclean according to what's
written in the Bible, as it states that only animals with “cloven hooves, and chews the cud”
(Leviticus 11) as well as fish that have fins and scales, and includes a specific list of poultry that
are permitted to eat. Therefore, common animals permitted to eat include cows, deer, lamb,
chicken, turkey, duck, and fish such as cod, salmon, tuna, and other common fish with fins and
scales. Common foods that are considered unclean and prohibited according the Bible include
pigs, shellfish, rodents, most birds, and unscaled fish such as catfish.
However, Seventh-Day Adventists do not believe that an individual’s salvation is affected
by what they eat or don't eat, they do however teach that God told the people of the Old
Testament what to eat and what to avoid for a reason, in which was for the general well-being of
all humankind (SDA, 2018). They also emphasize the biblical scriptures that describe our bodies
as holy temples created by God, in which we should treat it as such by eating healthy and
avoiding what we know to cause harm, such as junk food, overeating, excessive amounts of
alcohol, smoking, etc. Therefore, Seventh-Day Adventists choose to avoid foods prohibited by
God mentioned in the Bible.
In addition, Ellen White taught that people should also avoid tea and coffee, as they can
cause sleep problems, headaches, and heart related issues such as palpitations and high blood
pressure (Awaludin et al., 2018). As more modern studies have been conducted, data shows that
caffeine can also cause anxiety, dependence, and even panic attacks in some cases. Therefore,
many Seventh-Day Adventists also avoid all caffeinated beverages, including sodas.
Vegetarianism Although Seventh-Day Adventists are encouraged to adhere to the old testament food
laws, the church actually takes it a bit further by promoting full vegetarianism as being an
important factor for a healthy lifestyle (Sábaté, Gelabert, Badilla, & Del Valle, 2016). Ellen
White practiced and taught a vegetarian diet as being what God had originally intended the
human diet to be according to the Bible, as Adam and Eve were originally instructed to eat only
from the garden (Genesis 1). According to their beliefs, before sin there was no suffering or
death, which included animals, in which were believed to all be herbivores, as the Bible states “I
have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.
And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals” (Genesis 1:29-30 New
Living Translation). Therefore, most members practice eating only naturally grown food, such as
fruit and vegetables, legumes, rice, and whole grain wheat products. However, many still include
fish and other meats in their diets as long as it’s considered one of the clean animals mentioned
Not only do members follow a healthy diet based on faith, they also use scientific
evidence to support it, as the church has conducted many studies through Loma Linda
University, a school of public health, owned and operated by the Seventh-Day Adventist church
(LLU, 2019). Studies conducted correlate with their religious beliefs and teachings on health and
diet, as findings show that they’re generally healthier than the general population, which not only
strengthens their faith and encourages them to keep practicing their diets and lifestyles, but it
also helps non-members of the church see the health benefits associated with these diets through
Religious Community Research has also shown that religiosity and church involvement have a
positive impact on health, as it influences healthy behavior, mood, and provides social
support, all of which is associated with increased longevity (Morton, Lee, Martin,
& Piedmont, 2017). Therefore, as it relates to Seventh-Day Adventists, they tend to have
strong faith in their beliefs, as well as strong social bonds and social support among their fellow
members, as they’re often actively involved within their religious community.
Consequently, Seventh-Day Adventists tend to influence one another when it comes to
diet and healthy living, resulting in overall healthier lifestyles. For example, one may have faith
in the church but still struggle with avoiding pork, however, this person would never bring pork
to a church potluck, and is more likely to eat it less often or avoid it all together, as those closest
to them do not accept pork in their diet due to church teachings. Therefore, members adopt these
healthier lifestyles of their peers, and in return they live longer and healthier lives.
According to long term studies conducted by Loma Linda University, Seventh-Day
Adventists live an average of six to ten years longer than the general population (Land, 2014). In
addition, the risk for developing cancer is much lower among Seventh-Day Adventists as
well. For example, the death rate by cancer among male members of the church is 40% lower
than the general population. Death rates from Cancer among Seventh-Day Adventist women is
24% lower compared to the general population. Furthermore, their chances of developing lung
cancer are nearly 80% lower, while colorectal cancer is approximately 40% lower than the
general population (Tantamango-Bartley, Jaceldo-Siegl, Fan & Fraser, 2013).
Furthermore, a National Geographic sponsored study indicated that Loma Linda,
California, in which is heavily populated with Seventh-Day Adventists, is one of the worlds five blue zones, in which the number of residents who are 100 years of age or older is 10 times
higher compared to other areas in the United States (Banta et al., 2018).
Researchers have looked deeper into these studies and found that certain components of
Seventh-Day Adventists diet and lifestyle impact specific health outcomes. For example,
reducing the consumption of red meat, and increasing the consumption of nuts, greatly lowers the
chances of developing colon cancer (Segovia-Siapco, & Sabaté, 2018). Consuming nuts, whole
wheat bread, and drinking at least five cups of water per day can decrease the chances of
developing heart disease or having a heart attack by 50% (Segovia-Siapco, & Sabaté, 2018). In
addition, a vegetarian diet along with regularly eating nuts, exercising, and avoiding smoking,
can increase the human lifespan up to 10 years. References:
AmazingFacts. (2019). Doug Batchelor: When you fast. Retrieved from
Awaludin, A., Jamal, J., & Muttaqin, M. (2018). The Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventist Church
on Food According to Ellen G. White. KALIMAH, 16(1), 51-70.
Banta, J., Lee, J., Hodgkin, G., Yi, Z., Fanica, A., & Sabate, J. (2018). The Global Influence of
the Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Diet. Religions, 9(9), 251.
Kaiser, D. (2016). The Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of Ellen G.
White’s Prophetic Gift.
Land, G. (2014). Historical dictionary of the Seventh-day Adventists. Rowman & Littlefield.
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Mediation by Psychosocial and Lifestyle Mechanisms. Psychology of Religion and
Pawlak, R., & Sovyanhadi, M. (2009). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among Seventh-day
Adventist African American and Caucasian college students. Ethnicity & disease.
Sábaté, R. S., Gelabert, R., Badilla, Y., & Del Valle, C. (2016). Feeding holy bodies: A study on
the social meanings of a vegetarian diet to Seventh-day Adventist church
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Segovia-Siapco, G., & Sabaté, J. (2018). Health and sustainability outcomes of vegetarian
dietary patterns: a revisit of the EPIC-Oxford and the Adventist Health Study-2
cohorts. European journal of clinical nutrition.
Superville, D. J., Pargament, K. I., & Lee, J. W. (2014). Sabbath keeping and its relationships to
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Seventh-Day Adventist. (2019). Beliefs. Official website of the Seventh-Day Adventist world
church. Retrieved from
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the Seventh-Day Adventist world church. Retrieved from
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incidence of cancer in a low-risk population. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention
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- Fall '16
- Seventh-day Adventist Church, Seventh-day Adventists