By Colleen Tinker
A study out of Austria completely contradicted everything I had been taught about diet and health this week: the data showed that vegetarians tend to be sicker than meat-eaters. This study revealed vegetarians were twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and they had twice as many allergies and 166% more cancers!
This data did not compute with all I had believed from my earliest years. What about that “health message”?
Adventism is proud of its health message. In fact, when the Adventist organization targets a city for evangelism, their habit is to lead with free health clinics and lectures. This public service face of Adventism is no accident; Ellen White called it the “right arm of the message” and, in her book Evangelism on p. 513, 514 she called it the “entering wedge…the door through which the truth for this time is to find entrance to many homes…It will do much toward removing prejudice against evangelical work.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that Adventism has capitalized on disseminating its cherished belief that vegetarianism, exercise, water, sunshine, and abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and stimulants including caffeine provides greater health, longer life, clearer minds, and sharper spiritual perception. In fact, its Adventist Health Study conducted by Loma Linda University has reported that vegetarianism contributes to the fact that Adventists live about 10 years longer than the average population.
Adventists grow up believing that eating meat will shorten their life expectancy and cause disease. These beliefs are explicitly taught from earliest childhood, and they are believed because Ellen White said them. For example, she said “the liability to take disease is increased tenfold by meat eating” (Counsels on Diet and Foods [CDF], p. 386). In the same book is her statement that “meat should not be placed before our children” (p. 389, 390).
Shockingly, she also said this: “students would accomplish much more in their studies if they never tasted meat. When the animal part of the human agent is strengthened by meat eating, the intellectual powers diminish proportionately” (CDF, p. 389). Not only did Ellen White implicate meat in reduced intellectual powers, but she also linked meat eating to low spiritual awareness: the “religious life can be more successfully gained and maintained if meat is discarded, for this diet stimulates into intense activity lustful propensities, and enfeebles the moral and spiritual nature” (p 389).
If these warnings were not enough to scare people away from eating meat, Ellen White also cited meat eating as an obstacle to being ready to meet Jesus when He returns. She said, “Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet” (CDF, p. 380, 381). She also said meat eating would be eliminated “before His people can stand before Him a perfected people” (p. 381).
Moreover, she condemned ministers and physicians who ate meat, saying doctors “who use flesh meat and prescribe it for their patients, should not be employed in our institutions” (CDF, p. 290), and stating that meat-eating ministers “set an evil example” and make it hard for people to have “confidence” in them (p. 399, 402, 404).
These dire pronouncements have become the underlying foundation of the Adventists’ persistent promotion of their health message, promising longer and happier lives to those who give up meat and adopt an Adventist lifestyle. In fact, their own self-reporting and promotion of their beliefs has resulted in international attention. Adventism’s vegetarian cooking schools and free health screening clinics pave the way for thousands of people to become members of the Adventist organization.
This week, however, I stumbled onto documentation that completely contradicted Adventism’s “entering wedge”. I came across an article published by the online magazine NoTricksZone.com three years ago on March 30, 2014. The article was provocatively entitled “University of Graz Study Finds Vegetarians Are Unhealthier, More Mentally Disturbed Than Meat-Lovers”. The title, of course, grabbed my attention, and I read a succinct summary of an Austrian study about which I had not heard.
Because the website seemed to have a strong political motive behind it, I wanted to check the facts, so I followed a link to the English translation of the original study which contained all of the data related to the detailed study; the article’s reporting is accurate. A link to this study is at the end of this article.
What I found amazed me. The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Graz “evaluated data from the Austrian Health Interview Survey (AT-HIS), which is also part of an important and valuable EU survey (European Health Interview Survey).”
The NoTricksZone article referred to data released to the press when the study results were first published. Because the press release was written in German, I will quote some conclusions as reported in the online article I found. (For those who may want to read the original German copy, I will include a link at the end of this article.)
First, “The scientists examined a total of 1320 persons who were divided up into 4 groups of 330 persons each. All groups were comparable with respect to gender, age, and socio-economic status. The study also accounted for smoking and physical activity. Also the BMI was within the normal range for all four groups (22.9 – 24.9). The only thing that really was different among the four groups was the diet. The four groups were: 1) vegetarians, 2) meat-eaters with lots of fruit and veggies, 3) little meat-eaters and 4) big meat-eaters. More than three quarters of the participants were women (76.4%).”
The findings of this study contradicted the popular beliefs about diet and health: “Vegetarians have twice as many allergies as big meat-eaters do (30.6% to 16.7%) and they showed 166% higher cancer rates (4.8% to 1.8%). Moreover the scientists found that vegans had a 150% higher rate of heart attacks (1.5% to 0.6%). In total the scientists looked at 18 different chronic illnesses. Compared to the big meat-eaters, vegetarians were hit harder in 14 of the 18 illnesses (78%) which included asthma, diabetes, migraines and osteoporosis.”
Anxiety and Depression
Not only were vegetarians shown to have poorer health, but the study’s data supported an earlier study done at the University of Hildesheim; there were “more frequent psychological disorders among vegetarians.”
Analysis of the The University of Graz’s data “found that vegetarians were also twice as likely to suffer for anxiety or depressions than big meat eaters (9.4% to 4.5%). That result was confirmed by the University of Hildesheim, which found that vegetarians suffered significantly more from depressions, anxiety, psychosomatic complaints and eating disorders . The U of Graz scientists also found that vegetarians are impacted more by illnesses and visit the doctor more frequently.”
This U of Graz study is not unique in its findings: “The world’s largest study on nutrition (EPIC) indicated that vegetarians in general tend to die earlier.”
Finally, in a statement particularly important for those of us who cut our teeth on broccoli, blueberries, and bulgar wheat and learned that we were outsmarting cancer and early death by eating vegetarian diets, the study’s press release says, “Concerning cancer prevention through fruits and vegetables, Prof. Rudolf Kaaks of the German Cancer Research Center DKFZ recently stated: ‘There’s no relationship, zero-point-zero.’”
We have come to believe that Ellen White was a false prophet. She taught a false gospel, an incomplete atonement, a fallible Jesus, and a fanciful pre-history account of Jesus, Lucifer, and God that resembles Joseph Smith’s ramblings. Nevertheless, many of us have retained an inarticulate, visceral attachment to vegetarianism. We have believed that science supported the Adventist health message, and although we could not explain our convictions, we deeply suspected that eating Thanksgiving turkey or a steak was infecting us with cancer “germs”. We believed we had science on our side, that God’s original Eden diet was actually His will for us.
We missed His telling Noah “every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Gen. 9:3). We completely missed Mark’s comment in Mark 7:19, after Jesus said no food can make a person clean or unclean, “Thus, He declared all foods clean.”
Instead of believing that the Bible revealed God’s will for man—that following the flood meat was a part of His gracious provision for the life and health of humanity—we believed Ellen White and told ourselves that God gave man meat to shorten his life after the flood.
Adventism never hints that meat might improve one’s health both physically and emotionally, but research is showing that it does.
Admittedly, today this news about the health benefits of meat is not popular. Vegetarianism is growing across the culture and finds support from animal rights activists and new age practitioners as well as from religious groups such as Adventism and Buddhism. To be sure, vegetarianism is an option not to be scorned by those who eat meat, but meat is not the enemy we were taught it was.
The Father who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to bear our sins and die for our salvation would not trick us. He would not crush His Son to save us on one hand and then, on the other, give us a diet that would compromise our lives and kill us. Our Father is consistent. He is sovereign, and He knows our frame. He knows us, and He has graciously provided what He knows we need for life and godliness.
Will we believe the claims of a religion whose gospel is founded on a false prophet, or will we believe God’s word when He says,
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:8-10).