Research has shown that vegetarian nutrition is good for people and the planet.

The impact of Seventh-day Adventist dietary philosophy on the development of global dietary practices, especially the rise of vegetarianism, is the focus of an article released today in the peer-reviewed journal Religions.

Titled “The Global Influence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Diet” — the article, written by lead author Jim E. Banta, PhD, MPH, associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, documents historical developments related to the Adventist emphasis on plant-based nutrition starting in the mid-19th century.

Since Adventist vegetarianism is linked to the New Testament emphasis on the importance of treating the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, Banta and his Loma Linda University co-authors — Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Georgia Hodgkin, EdD, Jerry Lee, PhD, Zane Yi, PhD, and Andrea Fanica, MS — present an overview of church teachings on many health-related topics.

Starting from the Second Great Awakening, a 19th century religious and social movement that gave birth to Mormonism, Shakerism and Millerism, Banta and his team trace the articulation of Adventist health principles in the writings of Ellen G. White. They go on to discuss the establishment of Adventist sanitariums and hospitals in the 1860s, the invention of breakfast cereals and plant-based meat substitutes, and the church’s 21st century global network of healthcare institutions, colleges and universities.

The authors also discuss how the Seventh-day Adventist organizational and institutional structure supports its perspective on diet and how the denomination has used professional education and research to advance vegetarianism. 

The most widely cited research on the health benefits of the Adventist lifestyle are three prospective-cohort studies, conducted over a period of 50 years at Loma Linda University Health. Collectively known as the Adventist Health Studies, the National Institutes of Health-funded projects evaluate data gleaned from 96,194 Adventists in North America.

The church’s success in its efforts to promote vegetarianism is attested by the popular Blue Zone books and worldwide interest in plant-based nutrition not only for its substantial longevity benefits — Adventists often outlive their peers by 7 to 10 years — but also as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Lessons learned from the Seventh-day Adventists include the importance of social engagement, family, faith, moderate physical activity and no smoking or alcohol. Food-specific lessons include plant-based diet, and consuming plenty of legumes, including soy, whole grains, and nuts,” Banta observes.

For additional information on benefits of the Adventist diet, visit the website of the Center for Nutrition, Healthy Lifestyle and Disease Prevention.