The Adventist health advantage 

Keep family and friends informed by sharing this article.

The Adventist Health Study in the USA is old news. With 96,000 participants since 1974, the ongoing study has shown that Seventh-day Adventists live 11 years longer on average and experience a high quality of life in their later years. The Adventist population in Loma Linda were determined by Dan Buettner to be one of six “blue zones” where there are many people who live an active life more than 100 years old. There is no doubt Adventists have a health advantage. But what is that advantage?

Our basic knowledge of health principles is even older news. Some believe the advantage is this knowledge, originally drawn together by Ellen White from the 1860s onwards. Today we have many programs—NEWSTART, Creation Health, CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program), LMA (Live More Abundantly—a Pacific version of CHIP), ELIA with the seven principles of wholistic health and others—that emphasise the elements of a healthy life. These include plenty of fresh air; getting out into nature—whether beach, mountain, forest, river or lake to exercise or reflect on life; sunshine for vitamin D (but not too much UV); a plant-based diet (the more natural and less processed fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains in any diet the better, with plenty of colour variety); water—at least eight glasses a day and good washing and hygiene; activity in work including at least 30 minutes walking; rest (a good 7-8 hours sleep each night) but also time to stop and reflect weekly with the seventh-day Sabbath; and trust in the loving almighty God. These are simple and basic health principles. Many know them but don’t follow them. All over the world there is a basic interest in health and many others outside our faith community are coming to similar scientific conclusions regarding life practices that bring health. Such knowledge alone is not an advantage.

I recently participated in a combined churches discipleship conference in the USA with some other pastors and lay people from our denomination. All of us Adventists heard other Christian leaders acknowledge the grace of God in the Sabbath and many publicly recognised the benefits of having a Sabbath for physical, emotional and mental health. Not all of them followed the seventh-day Sabbath but some did. Sabbath is an advantage that others are picking up. So, what is the Adventist health advantage?

There was a time 20 years ago when I thought I was healthy because I basically followed Adventist health principles and I hadn’t been to a doctor for years—there was no need. Until I needed vaccinations to go on a Mongolian Mission trip. Before the doctor would vaccinate me they ordered a thorough health check. The results were shocking—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, poor fitness . . . The doctor made these plain to me and said I needed to make changes to my lifestyle immediately. 

It was then that I found the relevancy to health of one of my favourite verses—2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (or fear) but of power, love and self-discipline.” The health information scared me but the action came from the Holy Spirit. All Christians can have the advantage of being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have the power of choice and spiritual power to do more than we can imagine with the Spirit within (Ephesians 3:16–20). We have love; we love God and our neighbours as ourselves, and we are to love our bodies as they are God’s gift to us (Ephesians 5:28,29). If we love ourselves, we will look after ourselves in all aspects of health. And we have self-discipline, a spiritual determination to form habits that build life one choice and step at a time (Galatians 5:23). 

When I heard the doctor’s news, I immediately made a choice to walk with my wife every morning for at least 30 minutes, to drink mainly water (fruit juice, soft drink and hot drinks are a rarity), and to stop eating so many cakes, biscuits and carbs. It was a challenge but as each habit embedded in my lifestyle, I have added more health tips and principles. I feel better than I did 20 years ago. For me the Adventist Health advantage is the Holy Spirit who gives us the power, love and self-discipline to make it a reality. What do you think?

Related Stories