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Adventist Health Study- The vegan argument

by Milos Pokimica ND

by Milos Pokimica ND

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"Adventist Health Study showed that Seventh-day Adventists do have a measurable lower risk than other Americans for most of the Western diseases."

In rural China or other places that are still poor they do not suffer from modern diseases, but also they do not give most of their income on good service of modern medicine. Even in religious groups who have a rigid lifestyle the situation is similar like for example, the Adventist Health Study showed.

Adventist Health Studies (AHS) is a group of long-term studies done by Loma Linda University. They do these studies to see if there is any link between lifestyle and mortality and diseases of Seventh-day Adventists. By a lifestyle they usually mean a plant-based diet with no cigarette smoking because from all lifestyle factors diet is the most influential one to the overall health. In the most recent study that is still being conducted, AHS-2, around 100,000 church members are enrolled from both the US and Canada.

Adventist Health Study Timeline
Adventist Health Study Timeline

For more than 100 years the Seventh-day Adventist Church had been promoting health behaviors that had become the regular part of daily living. These include not smoking, eating a plant-based diet, regular exercise, and maintaining healthy body weight. Seventh-day Adventists do have a measurable lower risk than other Americans for most of the western diseases. The connection is based on, as is in all other rural parts of undeveloped countries of the world, on dietary habits. Also, some part is exercise. Over the past 40 years, two Adventist health studies have been conducted involving 22,940 and 34,000 Californian Adventists.

The first significant study of Adventists started in 1958 and became known as the Adventist Mortality Study. It involved an intensive 5-year follow-up with a more informal 25-year follow-up. By comparing all causes of death Adventist men had a mortality rate of 66% and Adventist women had a rate of 88%. The overall mortality of cancer compared to their counterparts in the American Cancer Society was 60% for Adventist men and 76% for Adventist women. America is 100% baseline, so 60% meaning 40% lower rates. Lung cancer was 21 percent, meaning 80% lower rates, colorectal cancer deaths were 62 percent. Breast cancer death rates for Adventist women were 85 percent; prostate cancer death rates for Adventist men were 92 percent. Death due to coronary disease among Adventist men was 66%; for Adventist women, it was 98%. The stroke death rates for Adventist men were 72%; Adventist women 82%. We have to understand that the study was done back in the 60s.

Why is this important? Because they eat a plant-based diet for religious reasons not necessarily for scientific reasons. They eat a diet that is vegan but not necessarily optimized. Sugar is vegan, so is oil, salt and chips, and a bunch of other junk. Eating a plant-based diet essentially means little if we don’t know precisely why we eat or not eat something. Vegans who go into this kind of lifestyle for moral reasons may end up in worse health condition than before they consumed a standard Western meat-dominated diet if they do not know precisely what they are doing. Adventist diet is not fully optimized and actually, they do eat “clean” fish and meat like beef, chicken, or salmon. They do eat eggs. They like “clean” low-fat dairy. What they avoid are “unclean” meats like pork, shellfish, and rabbit, and high-fat dairy like ice cream, sour cream, and butter. They would avoid unclean and toxic substances like alcohol, caffeine, and smoking.

Adventist Health Study 2 Profile Members
Adventist Health Study 2 Profile Members

In scientific research, the most inflammatory meat beside processed meats is actually fish followed by chicken. It is not pork or red meat. Probably because of the pollution in fish tanks and fish meal is then also used as fed to the chickens as well. Game meat did prove in research to be someone less inflammatory. In more realistic scenarios on day to day basis, it doesn’t matter how your meat was raised or produced. If it is organic it would have less persistent pollutants accumulated in tissue because animal fed is also sprayed. If you want to feel good and want to have a cow that lived a happy life for psychological reasons then that is some other topic. We have to understand that meat is essentially meat, some worse than others, some terrible but it is not red meat and process meat bad, fish good. For example, if you eat regular store beef there would be around 40% more postprandial (post fed) inflammatory response than for the same amount of kangaroo meat that is one of the “cleanest” meats out there (5).

All animal products are pro-inflammatory because there are no antioxidants in them. All of the meat has cholesterol, saturated fat, dead bacteria that will cause endotoxemia, environmental pollutants and toxins, mutagens, and hormones. Also, bacteria that feed on meat in our gut are not probiotic like bacteria that feed on fiber, and that just by itself is pro-inflammatory.

Adventist diet is eaten for religious reasons and not health reasons. They would eat much more calorie-dense foods like vegetables and fruits than the rest of the population, but still, not all vegetables are made equal. This is not a scientifically based and nutritionally optimized diet.

The reason why scientists want to research this type of diet particularly is because in nutrition and health and medicine researchers believe that this type of diet is more realistic as a goal for the average individual. There is a belief that even if government go against the corporative interest and was truly to advise the most nutrient-dense, antioxidant and phytochemically rich, mineral and vitamin-rich no cholesterol, no fat and no animal products, whole food plant-based diet, that normal phycological response from the average individual would be to ignore it. Just a goal of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine avoidance is almost completely unrealistic for most of the population. This study was conducted to see what more realistic approach would have on a large scale population mortality rate. Most of the people in real life do not have an adequate level of education in the field of nutrition.

Adventists as a group are more educated than the rest of the Californians, and they did have to calculate that into the study as well. The more education we have the greater the chance is that we will go more to healthier food choices independently from any other factor. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, had eaten an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet just by his conviction of human anatomy. He did cut corpses for science.

In the end, mortality rates can be much better, and this study was done back in the 60s. The situation is worse today for the average American with skyrocketing obesity, diabetes, and so on. Current study Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS-2) which began in 2002 also had some sub-studies later. For example, (3) and (4). They concluded that: “Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality.”

The more plan based we go, the more all-cause and cause-specific mortality drops and not just that. We might live ten years longer or 15, it does not matter. What matter is that we would avoid most of the diseases of affluence which include osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and most of the other cancers, acne, gout, depression, and diseases related to vitamin and mineral deficiencies too many to count and all the prescription drugs side effects.

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Sources:

Passages selected from a book: “Go Vegan? Review of Science: Part 1” [Milos Pokimica]

Find out more about Adventist Health Studies and Loma Linda University on adventisthealthstudy.org

  1. Vegetarian diets in the Adventist Health Study 2: a review of initial published findings. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.071233
  2. Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts. doi: 10.3390/nu6062131
  3. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473
  4. Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2 doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2011.07.004
  5. Differences in postprandial inflammatory responses to a ‘modern’ v. traditional meat meal: a preliminary study. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510001042

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October 21, 2021

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