Diet, Life Expectancy, and Chronic Disease: Studies of Seventh-Day Adventists and Other Vegetarians

By Gary E. Fraser | Go to book overview

Appendix
The Epidemiologic Studies of Adventist Health:
Their Design, Size, and Number of
Disease Events

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MAJOR HEALTH STUDIES OF ADVENTISTS

Although Adventists have long been convinced of the benefits of their special lifestyle, it was not until the early 1950s that the first scientific studies (Hardinge and Stare, 1954a, 1954b) were conducted to document the validity of this belief. Around this same time, with the Framingham Heart Study in its infancy and the seminal work of Ancel Keys and his colleagues attracting more attention, medical scientists developed an interest in dietary fats and blood cholesterol, and their effects on cardiovascular disease. Consequently, Adventists became an attractive group in which to test these theories, particularly those associating diet and the absence of cigarette smoking with risk of both cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In 1958, Drs. Frank Lemon and R. T. Walden received funding from federal sources to conduct a large epidemiologic study of nearly 23,000 Adventists in California. The researchers, based at Loma Linda University— a Seventh-day Adventist institution in southern California, continued collecting data intensively through 1965, and others continued follow-up less formally until 1985. This study was labeled the Adventist Mortality Study. The Adventist Mortality Study found that, overall, of 100 non-Adventist California men who died of cancer at a particular age, only 60 Adventist men of the same age died of cancer; Adventist women had a risk of 76% as compared with their similar-aged counterparts. Death from coronary disease among Adventist men as compared to non-Adventist men was 34% less; and for Adventist women, 2% less at the same ages. Of course, even Adventists eventually die, and the causes of death (irrespective of age) in Adventists and others is a different question that is addressed in Chapter 4.

In 1974, Drs. Roland Phillips and Jan Kuzma, also researchers from Loma Linda University, received funding from the National Cancer Institute to conduct a second large study of diet, cigarette smoking, and risk of cancer, again among California Adventists. The study began in 1974,

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