Ellsworth Wareham didn’t retire from open heart surgery until he was 95.
At age 100, Ellsworth continued to mow his own lawn and reported no aches or pain in his body.
Mentally, Ellsworth was sharp. He could hold a conversation, recall names, and even recite articles he had read in the past. This year, Ellsworth turns 103 years old.
What’s Ellsworth secret?
He’s a Seventh Day Adventist from Loma Linda, California.
In my last article, we talked about Blue Zones, areas around the world with the lowest rate of disease and longest life expectancy. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the lifestyle of the only Blue Zone group in the Western world: Seventh Day Adventists.
Could the Adventist lifestyle heal acid reflux? Let’s find out.
Loma Linda, California
Loma Linda is a small affluent city about an hour East of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County. It is home to one of the largest Seventh Day Adventists populations in the whole world. Nearly 70% of Loma Linda’s population are Seventh Day Adventists.
The city is a vegetarian’s paradise. The largest supermarket doesn’t sell meat. Most cafes have vegetarian menus. And even the local McDonalds which was only recently built—and hotly contested—offers veggie burgers. (1)
What’s a Seventh Day Adventist?
Adventists are Christians who like religious Jews, advocate observing the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sundays. According to Adventist teaching, what we put in our bodies can have both physical consequences and spiritual consequences.
Seventh Day Adventists adhere to a strict pesco-vegetarian diet. That means their diet is plant-based with little to no meat, with the exception of fish. Adventists tend to be happy, care-free, and down-to-earth people.
The Adventist Diet
The positive benefits of Seventh Day Adventism may be beneficial for GERD sufferers. It turns out, that an Adventist diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, which as I covered before, may help reduce GERD symptoms. What’s also interesting about Adventists is they have very low rates of esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is a big fear for many GERD sufferers. (6) (7)
Adventists base their diet on the scripture verse, Genesis 1:2 found in the Bible, where God says:
“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
So basically, Adam and Eve ate a plant-based diet—no meat. For Adventists, foods like shellfish, pork, and reindeer listed unclean in the Bible, are prohibited. Water is promoted over alcohol and smoking is out of the question.
Let’s take a look at the top healthy foods/drinks that Adventists include in their diet.
Beans are the main protein source for Adventists and are packed with nutrients. A cup of beans contains protein, zinc, iron, potassium, folate, and fiber. Plenty of studies have shown that beans can actually reduce your risk for cancer. (8) (9)
Oatmeal is an Adventist centenarian favorite. It makes a great breakfast food as it is nutrient dense and contains good fats, protein, iron, B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates.
Several studies have suggested that oatmeal consumption lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and is even good for the liver.
Adventists slow cook their oatmeal and eat it with spices, nuts, and fruits. You can even add soy milk to your oatmeal for flavor and smoothness.
Nuts are another staple in the Adventist diet. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios—all nuts are great for your health. One study showed nuts can actually increase your life expectancy. (9)
The next Adventist favorite is avocados. Avocados taste fantastic and can be used in a variety of vegetarian dishes. Avocados have been shown to reduce blood pressure and the risk of stroke. (9).
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains are a versatile food too. You can eat whole grains with vegetables, nut butters, soups, or even make yourself a bean sandwich. The possibilities are endless.
The Adventist diet advocates drinking plenty of water. There are many benefits to drinking a lot of water. Not only does a water flush out toxins and waste from our bodies but some studies found that water can promote better blood circulation and prevent clotting. (10)
The World Health Organization recommends 11 cups a day for women and 10-15 cups a day for men. (9)
7. Soy Milk
Adventists drink soy milk instead of cow’s milk. Typically, Adventists consume soy milk with cereals or oatmeal. Adventists also use it as a milk supplement for tea.
Natural soy milk is healthy. Studies have found that phytoestrogens in soy milk may reduce the risk of cancer. (9)
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
The second major component of the Adventist lifestyle is keeping the Sabbath. Adventists perform no work from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Instead, Adventists focus on resting and connecting with both God and their social network.
The principle of the Sabbath comes from the book of Genesis in the Bible. In the biblical account of the creation of the world, God spends six days creating light and day, the stars, the heavenly bodies, and the creatures of the earth. On the seventh day, God decides to rest from His work and blesses the seventh day.
Adventists believe that God intentionally blessed the Sabbath and set it up as a way for humans to rest and connect with Him. Moreover, ceasing from work expresses faith in God as Sustainer and hope for the future.
The famous Adventist centenarian Ellsworth Wareham, once said that connecting with God on the Sabbath “provides a sense of security and peace for him.” In one interview, Wareham described himself as a relaxed person with no worries in his life. (10) (11) (12)
Wareham attributes his sense of peace and well being to his belief in a loving and caring God who is in charge of his life. His philosophy?
“He takes care of the universe, He can certainly take care of me. (11)
The Sabbath Meal
Adventists generally spend the Sabbath with family and friends. Unlike many Christian denominations today, Adventists place a special emphasis on Sabbath afternoon potluck meals held after church service. During Sabbath meals, church members spend a significant amount of time connecting with each other in meaningful ways. The Sabbath is the high point of the week for Adventists.
Typical distractions like secular music, radio, TV, video games, newspapers, books, and magazines are discouraged on the Sabbath day. Instead, Adventists promote restful activities such as nature walks, hiking, visiting the sick, and encouraging people.
The two factors that seem to contribute to the long healthy lives of Seventh Day Adventists are diet and stress management. Interestingly, diet and stress are the two most common triggers of acid reflux.
Though the prevalence of acid reflux among Seventh Day Adventists hasn’t been studied extensively yet, following their lifestyle principles may help treat GERD.
It’s obvious that the Adventist lifestyle offers many health benefits. I suspect future studies will report low incidences of acid reflux among Adventists—if at all.
*This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure here.