The Adventist Health Study: Related Investigations and Future Plans
Two more related investigations should be mentioned:
Adventist Health and Smog Study (AHSMOG): 1976-Present
AHSMOG is made up of 7,000 participants from the first Adventist Health Study. Through funding by the Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. David Abbey of the Center for Health Research and fellow investigators are in the midst of studying the effects of various air pollutants--both indoor and outdoor--on lung function. The EPA has been especially interested in the Adventist population because nearly all abstain from smoking. Testing of the 1,500 participants at more than 30 locations throughout California has been completed. The data is now being analyzed by the researchers.
[Read scientific publications about AHSMOG.]
A clinical study with walnuts, conducted by researchers led by Dr. Joan Sabaté, one of the co-investigators in The Adventist Health Study, found that replacing a proportion of other fatty foods in one's diet with walnuts may help to reduce serum cholesterol in a significant way. His findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 4, 1993. The study received extensive national and international press coverage.
[Read more about Nut Studies.]
Whether Adventists live longer than others has always held some fascination. This, of course, needs to be coupled with "quality of life" to measure the real impact of the Adventist lifestyle. The research on this question has not yet been very intensive. Yet, data from the older Adventist Mortality Study (1960-1965) did indicate that Adventist men lived 6.2 years longer than non-Adventist men in the concurrent American Cancer Society Study and Adventist women had a 3.7-year advantage over their counterparts. These statistics were based on life table analyses. Whether certain subgroups of Adventists live longer yet is presently unknown.
In February of 1992, grant money was received to further examine the existing data and address questions that have been raised about the longevity of Adventists. Initial analysis will include a mortality follow-up of the 34,198 individuals from the original study through 1988, a time span of 12 years. Questions such as, "Do diet or exercise patterns influence longevity?" or "Which dietary components are important?" will be asked. Or, "If Adventists with particular habits live longer, is it due to the fact that they tend to live closer to a certain maximum life span and die rapidly, or is there an increase in the maximum life span and the entire distribution of ages at death?" Certain factors are known to increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. Of all Adventist deaths, 56.7 percent were from cardiovascular diseases and 20.9 percent from cancer. These figures are quite similar to those of the non-Adventist population. The difference lies in the fact that Adventists develop these same problems at a later age
In April 1993, Adventist Health Study investigators received further funding to prepare for a new large study of Seventh-day Adventists in California. This new study will hopefully include 50,000 White and 10,000 Black subjects, with equal emphasis placed on both groups. Cancer and cardiovascular disease will again serve as the primary focus. Many questions raised and only partially answered by the previous studies will be more fully answered in the upcoming study. For instance, what kind of nuts are most effective in reducing the risks of coronary heart disease--peanuts or tree nuts? Or does the consumption of beta-carotene protect against certain cancers or heart disease?
In addition, this time around the researchers hope to use this valuable data set to also investigate the causes of other diseases, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and hypertension. This new study will undoubtedly take a long time to collect the data and to analyze it. The results may not be available for a decade. However, the findings should be worth the wait.
The findings of the Adventist Health Study have supported many of the health principles long held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Known as "the health message," these beliefs are based on principles put forth in the Bible and in the writings of Ellen White, one of the foremost pioneers in Adventism who penned her inspired words more than a century ago. The premise that our bodies are the "temple of the Holy Ghost," as stated by the Apostle Paul in his book to the Christians in Corinth, is good advice for today's world. lt just makes good sense to be healthy!