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The ground-breaking Adventist Health Study (AHS-2) explores the links between lifestyle, diet and disease among Seventh-day Adventists, most of whom follow unique dietary habits. More than 96,000 church members from the U.S. and Canada are participating in the current study led by researchers at Loma Linda University. Two earlier studies of California Adventists were conducted during the past 40 years.

One Adventist study looked at people following a range of diets:

  • Non-vegetarians
  • “Flexitarians” (those who eat meat weekly, but not daily)
  • Those who eat no meat except fish
  • Those who eat no meat at all
  • Those who eat no meat, eggs or dairy
What were the results of the Adventist Health Studies?

Results showed that eating a plant-based diet incrementally lowered one’s risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Studies also found that eating brown rice, cooked green vegetables, beans (including chickpeas, split peas, lentils), and dried fruit was associated with decreased risk of colorectal polyps. In the U.S., colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, but in some parts of the world, like Uganda, it is nearly non-existent.

In the AHS-2 study, the largest of its kind, researchers sought to determine whether a plant-based diet was protective against diabetes. They noted as much as a 78% lower prevalence of diabetes among those eating a strictly plant-based diet. Protection accrued incrementally as people transitioned from eating meat to eating less meat or just fish and then no meat, and then finally to eating no meat, eggs or dairy.

Adventist and Okinawan Diets

The Adventist diet compares favorably to the traditional Okinawan diet, which consists of less than 1% each of fish, meat, dairy and eggs. The long-lived Okinawans’ highly anti-inflammatory diet was 96% plant-based, yet the Adventist vegetarians in California, with a 100% meat-free diet, enjoy an even higher life expectancy of 87 for men and nearly 90 for women when they abstain from smoking and exercise regularly. This is 10 to 14 years longer than the life expectancy of the general population.

Topic summary contributed by Dawn Handschuh

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