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Choosing a vegetarian diet that includes a wide variety of plant foods adds numerous health benefits to your lifestyle. Outlined below is the health statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It explores research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the benefits of being vegetarian. Since Seventh-day Adventists live longer and healthier lives than just about anybody in the world, they can speak with authority on this subject.

> What is a vegetarian lifestyle?

> Research and guidelines by WHO
 (World Health Organisation)
> Benefits of being vegetarian


What is a Vegetarian Lifestyle?

For more than 125 years, Seventh-day Adventists have practiced the vegetarian dietary lifestyle because of their belief in the holistic nature of people. Whatever is done in eating or drinking is believed to honour and glorify God. The use of any food or substance that has been demonstrated as harmful is a dishonour to God, shows lack of respect for the body, and is a disservice to humankind.

The recommended lacto-ovo vegetarian diet includes:

  • generous use of fresh fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole-grain breads and cereal
  • legumes
  • nuts, low-fat milk and low fat milk products
  • it is suggested that dairy products should be unripened and eggs should be used sparingly
  • Adventists advocate the avoidance of meat, fish and fowl (especially beef, shellfish and pork) and coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco products .

Has Any Research Been Done?

In the 1960s, Loma Linda University, in cooperation with the National Cancer Institute, began to study the health of Seventh-day Adventists. Later, in the 1970's and '80's, data on the Adventist lifestyle was collected and analysed under contract with the National Institute of Health and the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. View the Adventist Health Study.

Adventists, in general, have 50% less risk of heart disease, certain types of cancers, strokes, and diabetes. Recent data suggests that vegetarian men under 40 can expect to live 8.9 years longer and women 7.5 years longer than the general population. More specifically, Adventist vegetarian men live 3.6 years longer than Adventists who eat meat.

How Can I Apply This to My Life?

Researchers believe this added length of life and quality of health is due in general to a healthier lifestyle, particularly the dietary intake of more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as the avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee and meat. Current evidence demonstrates that the closer a person follows the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, the lower the risk of the major diseases of the western countries. Likewise, the more lax a person is in the implementation of the recommended dietary and lifestyle changes, the higher the risk.

What Does Current Research Demonstrate?

1. There is a significant correlation between the consumption of a high-fat, high-cholesterol, animal-products diet, the frequency of their use, the duration of time used, and the incidence of fatal heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke and diabetes.

2. There is a compounding disease potential related to the number of negative lifestyle habits. For example, meat eating and the lack of exercise cause more potential for disease than either one alone.

3. Vegetarians are exposed to fewer carcinogens, mutogens and pesticides from meats, but they also have reduced risk from certain diseases because of their increased consumption of dried beans, fruits, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables.

4. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts may be less expensive to produce and the users of these products may be more environmentally responsible.

5. Vegetarians can have a greater variety of foods, ethnic dishes and exciting menus compared to meat-and-potatoes, hamburgers-and-chips, coffee-and-doughnut routine.

Guidelines

Since 1954, well over 250 articles have been published in scientific journals on Adventist lifestyle and health. In 1989, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended a comprehensive set of nutrition guidelines. In 1991, the World Health Organisation (WHO) produced guidelines which include upper and lower intake limits.

Nutrition guidelines -

 

Guidelines National Academy of Sciences World Health Organisation
Servings of fruits and vegetables Five or more servings (1/2 cup or more) of fruits and vegetables every day - especially green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. Lower limit: 400 grams/day of which at least 30 grams should be in the form of pulses, nuts and seed.
Starches & carbohydrates Six or more servings daily of combinations of whole-grain bread, cereals and legumes. Complex carbohydrates
- Lower Limit: 50% of energy
- Upper Limit: 70% of energy
Free Sugars
- Lower Limit: 0% of energy
- Upper Limit: 10% of energy
Dietary Fibre
- Lower Limit: 16g/day
- Upper Limit: 24g/day
Protein Maintain protein intake at moderate levels. If extra calories are needed, increase complex carbohydrates rather than the protein. Total Protein:
- Lower Limit: 10% of energy
- Upper Limit: 15% of energy
Food intake Balance food intake and physical activity to maintain appropriate body weight. In view of the major diseases linked to obesity, a prevention policy is the only long-term solution.
Salt intake Limit daily intake of salt to 6g or less (1 tsp = 5g). Lower Limit: not defined
Upper Limit:6g/day
Calcium intake Maintain adequate calcium intake (suggested daily RDA:800mg). No specific recommendations, however calcium intake is of particular importance.
Dietary supplements Avoid taking dietary supplements in excess of the Recommended Dietary Allowances. No specific recommendations, although they recommend nutrient dense foods rather than energy dense foods.
Fluoride intake Maintain an optimal intake of fluoride. No specific recommendation given.
Alcohol intake Avoid the consumption of alcohol. The use of alcohol is discouraged.
Fat intake Reduce total fat intake to less than 30% of total calories; saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories; and cholesterol to less that 300mg per day. Total Fat:
- Lower Limit: 15% of energy
- Upper Limit: 30% of energy
Saturated Fat:
- Lower Limit: 0% of energy
- Upper Limit: 10% of energy
Polyunsaturated Fat:
- Lower Limit: 3% of energy
- Upper Limit: 7% of energy
Mono unsaturated Fat:
- No Limits Defined
Dietary Cholesterol
- Lower Limit: 0mg/day
- Upper Limit: 300mg/day

 

What Does the General Conference Nutrition Council Recommend?


The General Conference (world headquarters for the Adventist Church) Nutrition Council recommends the generous use of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, a very limited use of high fat and high cholesterol foods, and the abstinence from tobacco and alcohol, coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks.

The General Conference Nutrition Council supports the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organisation. Next to tobacco and alcohol, foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol (such as meat) are the greatest risk factors in decreasing life expectancy from atherosclerosis, cancer and premature death. It is recommended that all meat, fish and fowl are eliminated from the diet, and the use of egg yolks be limited to three or less per week. Foods of animal origins are no longer viewed as dominant items in an optimal healthy diet.

The Adventist Health Study clearly reveals a significant advantage for those who choose a meat-free diet over those who eat meat confirming the benefits of the traditional health teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

References

"Position of the American Dietetics Association: Vegetarian Diet," Journal of American Dietetic Association, vol. 88: 351-355, 1988.
"Proceedings of the First International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition," Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48: 707-927 (3) September, 1988, Supplement.
Dwyer, Johanna, "Nutrition and Vegetarianism," Annual Review of Nutrition, vol. 11: 61-92, 1991