Seventh-Day Adventists have a lower cancer risk and a longer life expectancy than the general US population, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that early death rates among the religious group were 33 percent lower than the rest of the country and cancer incidence rates were 30 percent lower.
Similar results were found when they compared black Adventists to the black general population.
Death rates and cancer rates were 36 percent and 22 percent, respectively, lower.
The team, from Loma Linda University, in California, says Seventh-Day Adventists have created one of the world’s five ‘Blue Zones’ – geographic areas with low rates of chronic disease and home to some of the world’s oldest people.
A new study from Loma Linda University has found that Seventh-Day Adventists have 33% lower early death rates and 30% lower cancer rates than the general US population. Pictured: Seventh-Day Adventists eat at a food back in DC, November 2013
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church was founded in the 1840s and many settled in the tiny town of Loma Linda, tucked into San Bernardino.
Loma Linda is one of five ‘Blue Zones’, small pockets around the world where people tend to live well into their 90s and even their 100s, which includes towns in Costa Rica, Greece, Italy and Bhutan.
Health is central to the Adventists’ faith and they have strict rules on diet, exercise and rest.
Adventists typically avoid meat and dairy products and follow a ‘biblical diet’, or the way that those who lived thousands of years ago ate.
It’s a vegetarian diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Their go-to-snack is nuts.
Residents don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol or caffeine – sticking only to water – and exercise regularly.
For the study, published in the online journal CANCER, the team looked at data on cancer rates and early death rates from the Adventist Health Study-2 and the US Census population.
They found that Adventists had 33 percent lower rates of death from any cause and 30 percent lower rates of all cancers combined.
When it came to specific cancers, Adventists had 30 percent lower rates of breast cancer, 16 percent lower rates of colorectal cancer, 50 percent lower rates of rectal cancer and 30 percent lower rates of lung cancer.
The team then looked at early death rates and incidence of all cancers among black Adventists compared with to the general black population.
Black Adventists had 36 percent lower rates of early death and 22 percent lower rates of all cancers.
‘This is the first confirmation of previous reports, now using national populations,’ said lead author Dr Gary Fraser, a professor in the school of public health at Loma Linda University.
‘In addition, this is the first report that includes a comparison among black individuals alone.’
Researchers say that although their findings don’t specify why Adventists reap these health benefits, other studies have shown the benefits of a plant-based diet, suggesting the religious group has their high-veggie, low-meat diet to thank.
A plant-based diet lowers the risk of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and even certain cancers.
So Adventists are religiously compelled eat more healthily than most people in the US do.
‘Thus, the findings in this report comparing all Adventists…to average Americans are largely as expected,’ said Dr Fraser.
‘[It] strongly suggest[s] that these health advantages may be available to all Americans who choose similar diets, in addition, of course, to other well-known prudent lifestyle choices such as regular physical activity, avoiding smoking, and care with body weight.’