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Lillian Wilson

The Blue Zone Of Loma Linda: Secrets Of Adventists’ Diet And Lifestyle

Discover the secrets to a long and healthy life from the residents of Loma Linda, California, who have an average life expectancy of up to ten years longer than other Americans.

The Blue Zones, Loma Linda

California is usually associated with the blistering sun, beaches, celebrities that have just stepped out of glossy magazines and, of course, Hollywood. However, we rarely associate this state with vegetarianism, religion and outstanding longevity.

The city of Loma Linda, with a humble population of 23,261 people, brims with long-livers. In California, Adventists have a 7.28 years longer life expectancy than other white Californians at the age of 30. And these are Americans, a nation that is unfortunately notorious for having high chronic disease rates, with people having a stroke every 40 seconds.

loma linda blue zones usa california

The long-livers of the Loma Linda Blue Zone dispel the myth that your surroundings influence how you live and how long you will live. Think for a minute. These people are living among us, sharing the same fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, air, and jobs. However, they have a life expectancy that surpasses the rest of Americans by up to ten years.

Let’s have a look at the diet and lifestyle practices of Loma Linda’s centenarians and how to incorporate them into our own lives and increase the chances of becoming one of the long-livers.

Diet – a key to the longevity of people of Loma Linda

The Adventists of Loma Linda have a plant-based diet with an emphasis on nuts, whole grains, beans, and soy products. The long-livers’ diet excludes products that are considered ‘unclear’ by The Bible, including pork and shellfish, and is also low in meat, dairy, and eggs.

Approximately 40% of Adventists have a plant-based diet; others are vegetarians that consume eggs, low-fat dairy, and fish. A smaller number of Adventists are vegans, avoiding all animal products.

Despite the critique it so often receives, a well-balanced vegetarian diet is very beneficial for health and is proven to promote longevity. A study called the Adventist Health Study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health and monitored 34,000 Adventists in California for 14 years. According to the analysis, Adventists who adhered most strictly to their religion’s teachings lived about a decade longer than those who did not.

After narrowing down the practices that contribute to longevity, scientists identified five life habits that each added roughly two years to life expectancy, including consuming a plant-based diet, refraining from smoking, maintaining moderate body weight, consuming a handful of nuts four to five times per week, and engaging in regular physical activity.

Top eight Adventist longevity foods

The diet of Loma Linda

1Avocado

Avocado is not only an excellent source of healthy fats that will give you energy but is also especially beneficial for your heart health. Avocados, which have a high amount of potassium and a low amount of salt, assist in decreasing blood pressure and the possibility of a stroke. One avocado has 30% more potassium than a banana, which is a common dietary choice for individuals who have high blood pressure.

2Salmon

The Adventists who live the longest follow a pesco-vegetarian diet, consisting mainly of plant-based foods and one serving of fish per day, particularly salmon which is known for its heart-healthy properties. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health found that individuals who consume one to two three-ounce (85-gram) servings per week of fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have a one-third lower risk of dying from a heart attack.

3Nuts

Nuts are a beloved food of Adventists and they are often spotted snacking on them. In the 1990s, a study discovered that consuming a handful of nuts five times a week could add two to three years to Adventists’ lifespan compared to those who did not consume nuts.

Nuts are another heart-healthy food. Studies have found that people who eat nuts have lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and inflammation.

A study during the 1990s found that Adventists who ate a handful of nuts at least five times a week lived two to three years longer than people who didn’t eat any nuts. More research since then found links between nut-eaters and lower rates of cholesterol, blood pressure, chronic inflammation, diabetes, and myriad other troubles that lead to cardiovascular disease. According to Adventist Health Study, up to 50% of heart attack risks can be reduced by eating nuts several times a week.

4Beans

Like all the people in Blue Zones, Adventists have legumes in their diet. Vegetarian Adventists rely on beans and legumes like lentils and peas as essential sources of protein.

Legumes are a superfood when it comes to combating and preventing cancer. In 2007, the American Institute for Cancer Research published a comprehensive study on diet and cancer, which reviewed around 500,000 studies. The study recommends eating whole grains and legumes with every meal for cancer prevention. This means including foods like beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas in every meal.

5Water

Ellen G. White, the founder of the Adventist Church, recommended drinking six to eight glasses of water daily, which not only keeps the body hydrated and helps to flush out toxins but also may improve blood flow and reduce the risk of clotting. According to Adventist Health Study, drinking five or more glasses of water a day may reduce the likelihood of heart conditions by 50%.

6Oatmeal

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Oatmeal has settled into the diet of many of us, including long-livers. To Adventists, slow-cooked oatmeal is a common breakfast choice and is often cited as the breakfast meal of American centenarians. This food offers a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates, plant protein, and fats, in addition to good amounts of B vitamins and iron. Furthermore, its high fibre content makes it satiating, and the addition of nuts and dried fruits can enhance its flavour and nutritional value.

7Whole wheat bread

Adventists, like many other Americans, often have to eat lunch on-the-go at school or work. They often use 100% whole wheat bread to make a sandwich with nut butter or avocado. True 100% whole wheat bread provides a variety of nutrients and its high fibre content also helps minimize the need for unhealthy mid-afternoon snacking.

8Soy milk

Adventists opt for unsweetened and unflavored soy milk as a substitute for dairy in various meals. With a high protein and low-fat content, it is rich in phytoestrogens that can potentially prevent some types of cancer. Its versatility makes it a suitable choice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

According to Adventist Health Study, prostate cancer may be reduced by 70% when soy milk is consumed more than once daily.

Fun & curious facts about long-livers of Loma Linda

  • Loma Linda’s average male lives to 89 years, and the average female lives to 91 years – both are ten years longer than the national average.

  • Almost 40% of Loma Linda citizens are Seventh-day Adventists. They observe a weekly ‘sanctuary in time’ from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, during which they attend church, avoid distractions like TV and movies, and engage in quiet contemplation. They also participate in potluck lunches and take nature walks in the afternoon with family and friends, while shunning smoking, drinking, and dancing.
    These practices are definitely beneficial for health and longevity. What’s more, studies have found that regular attendance at religious services prolongs life by about four years.

Four non-food habits that make Adventists live into their 100s

1Do not smoke

Smoking has been linked to lower life expectancy rates as well as a risk factor for various chronic diseases from COPD to different types of cancers.

Long-livers of Loma Linda stand out due to their smoking-free lifestyle. In fact, in 1993, Loma Linda became the first-ever smoke-free city in San Bernardino County. The study shows that current smokers may subtract 10 years from their lifespan when compared to never-smokers. This study also concluded that individuals who stopped smoking between the ages of 25 to 34, 35 to 44, or 45 to 54 years old experienced an increase in life expectancy of approximately 10, 9, and 6 years respectively compared to those who continued smoking.

2Stay within a healthy weight range

Maintaining healthy body weight is extremely important for overall health because excess body fat is linked to higher susceptibility to certain diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Adventists are people with a healthy BMI due to their active lifestyle and plant-based diet. They also tend to have lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol and have decreased chances of succumbing to cardiovascular diseases than their fellow Americans who have higher BMI.

3Engage in regular physical activity

Being physically active is one of the key longevity secrets of people who live in Blue Zones. According to the Adventist Health Survey, engaging in low-intensity exercises such as daily walks can lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, contributing to an increase in life expectancy, without the need for high-intensity exercises such as marathons.

loma linda blue zones

4Maintain a sense of purpose

Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, who often volunteer and focus on helping others, serve as an example of how a strong sense of purpose can stave off depression and promote longevity. According to an analysis of data from the Health and Retirement Study, individuals over the age of 50 with the strongest sense of purpose had a 15.2% lower risk of death compared to those with the least sense of purpose, with no significant differences based on race or ethnicity.

Let’s sum up

The remarkable longevity of the Adventists in Loma Linda, California, challenges the negative stigma associated with the American lifestyle and serves as a powerful reminder that anyone can prioritize their health and well-being by making conscious food and lifestyle choices.

By following a plant-based diet, avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and having a sense of purpose, they have extended their life expectancy by up to ten years. By incorporating their diet and lifestyle practices everyone can increase their chances of becoming a long-liver.

Let us take inspiration from the long-livers of Loma Linda and make healthy choices that can lead to a longer and healthier life, regardless of our environment.

Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues

In this video, Dr. Ellsworth Wareham shares insights into the practices of the long-livers of Loma Linda. Dr. Ellsworth Wareham has been vegan since his 50s and is a famous cardiothoracic surgeon who retired at 95. Using Loma Linda’s Adventist Health Studies as evidence, he believes his healthful lifestyle contributes to his longevity.


Healthypedia FAQ

The Adventist diet is plant-based, with an emphasis on whole grains, nuts, legumes, and soy products. This diet is low in meat, dairy, and eggs. The Adventist diet is proven to promote longevity, and a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that Adventists who adhered most strictly to their religion's teachings lived about a decade longer than those who did not.

The top Adventist longevity foods are avocado, salmon, nuts, beans, water, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and soy milk. These foods are beneficial for the heart, reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes, and inflammation, and prevent cancer.

Non-food habits that make Adventists live into their 100s include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and having a sense of purpose. Adventists tend to have a smoking-free lifestyle, a healthy BMI due to their active lifestyle and a plant-based diet, engage in low-intensity exercises such as daily walks, and focus on helping others.

The long-livers of Loma Linda have an average life expectancy of 89 years for males and 91 years for females, which is ten years longer than the national average. Almost 40% of Loma Linda citizens are Seventh-day Adventists, who observe a weekly 'sanctuary in time' from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, participate in potluck lunches, take nature walks, and avoid smoking, drinking, and dancing. Studies have found that regular attendance at religious services prolongs life by about four years.

Loma Linda, CA, is the sole Blue Zone in the USA, where around 9,000 Seventh-day Adventist Church members reside. These individuals usually live 10 years longer than the average American.

Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California, USA.

Despite being Americans surrounded by convenience and fast food options, Adventists in the US have a distinct diet that primarily includes organic whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. They also avoid unclean foods like pork and most seafood, except for fish.

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