Studies have shown that Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, from diverse genetic haplogroups, tend to live as much as a decade longer than the rest of us, which led to Loma Linda’s inclusion by author Dan Buettner as one of the five global longevity hot spots, which he calls “Blue Zones”, the only one in the United States. It is indeed noteworthy and somewhat surprising that there exists but one “Blue Zone” in a country of over 350 million people. One would think, with our economic prosperity and advanced healthcare technologies relative to most of the world, that we would have several other Blue Zones in our midst, yet we do not as of this writing. It may therefore behoove us to make an effort to identify the specific dietary and behavioral characteristics of Seventh Day Adventists that appear to contribute as ubiquitous influences on their extraordinary vitality and longevity.
The following features emerge as most pertinent:
- Low-meat diets, which we can take one-step further by proposing that what Adventists are really minimizing is not just meat per say, but rather the consumption of highly processed meats obtained from CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), i.e. animals pumped full of hormones/antibiotics and fed grains that are unnatural and harmful to them.
- Weekly fasting as a religious practice, which happens to facilitate autophagy, the metabolic process through which damaged or senescent cells are destroyed in vacuoles within the cells, preventing them from mutating into dangerous senescent cells that accelerate the aging process or, worse yet, the proliferation of cancer cells.
- Adventists tend to socialize only with other likeminded Adventists, thus less likely to engage in risky health behaviors because of their religion and more likely to be cared for by immediate family and a tight knit community as they grow older.
- Regular low-level aerobic exercise such as walking and bicycling, seniors exercising in groups, enjoying physically active hobbies such as gardening and home improvement projects.
- Frequent social events with peers, usually faith-based community events. In Buettner’s study of the Blue Zones, it was found that religious denomination did not seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month adds 4-14 years of life expectancy, independent of other factors. Social interactions with others, in person (not social media), is essential to our emotional well being and survival. Humans are pack animals by nature!
- No alcohol, no drugs, no smoking, no junk food. Any questions?
As stated repeatedly in this and other of my blog posts, a recurring theme which is surely worth repeating is that the true “secret” to longevity is mostly exclusionary in nature, a feature common to all the Blue Zones regions, including Loma Linda, i.e. their success is achieved primarily through the diligent elimination of harmful toxins and negative influences on their exposome. The exposome can be defined as the measure of all the dietary, chemical, and environmental exposures of an individual in their lifetime and how those exposures relate to health and longevity. It is noteworthy that 100 years ago, before the mass adoption of the deadly Standard American Diet (SAD), most Americans lived and ate much like Seventh Day Adventists do today, simply because modern processed foods and CAFOs did not exist back then. “Free range eggs” were just called “eggs” and “grass fed beef” was called “beef”. Want to live a long healthy life? Just roll the clock back to 1918 in your kitchen and be physically active throughout the day. Nobody sat on their butt all day in front of a computer in 1918!