A new study averaged the mood swings of 60 vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists and 78 meat-eating Adventists. Each participant took a 30 minute survey, listing some meals and ranking their moods from the previous week.

The expected result would be for omnivores to be happier because of the DHA they get from fish, but no, it turned out the vegetarian Adventists were in a better mood than their less devout, flesh-hungry brethren. This means, say the researchers, that the case for DHA may be overstated.

"Terrific," say vegans, who tend to have an even worse Omega-3/Omega-6 balance than vegetarians. 

Is anyone else sick of studies on Seventh-Day Adventists that support a vegetarian diet? Their prophet Ellen G. White received a revelation from God that vegetarianism was the proper diet for mankind; Adventists are encouraged to become dietitians and disseminate their prophet’s ideas on “health reform.” What Adventist wouldn’t use this opportunity to report how great they feel and prop up their prophet and their church?

The authors of the study were aware of this possibility:

Our data may have been influenced by response bias, since SDA vegetarians may be more defensive about their diet choice than SDA omnivores, however, participants were not aware that the focus of the study was on vegetarian diets. Also, vegetarians may make better dietary choices, and may generally be healthier and happier. In exclusively surveying the SDA community, we were able to identify vegetarian participants and analyze a relatively homogenous population of vegetarians and omnivores, thus minimizing potentially confounding lifestyle differences. These results, however, may not be generalizable to non-SDA populations.

But even if, despite that last sentence, this study might be somewhat relevant to non-Adventists, I have to question the claim that “participants were not aware that the focus of the study was on vegetarian diets.”

Adventists are the go-to group for vegetarian nutrition studies because some of them are vegetarian and some are not, but their other lifestyle factors are supposedly identical. All the major studies on vegetarianism in the United States were conducted on Adventists (and by Adventists). Adventists know they are the vegetarian guinea pigs. I don’t think that “Hey vegetarian Adventists and meat-eating Adventists, we’re going to ask you about food, but we can’t tell you why” is going to leave many of them guessing.

And then there’s the acknowledgments section of this study, which even makes me doubt that none of the Adventists were directly told that it was a study about vegetarianism:

We would like to thank Dr. John Westerdahl, Director of the Bragg Health Foundation in Santa Barbara, California, for his assistance in enlisting participants in the Santa Barbara SDA community.

The Bragg Health Foundation, which recommends a vegetarian diet, is the non-profit wing of the health food company that produces vegan staples like Bragg Liquid Aminos and Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar. It is not an unbiased scientific institution.

As for Dr. Westerdahl, he is a vegan Seventh Day Adventist and was Director of Nutrition for John McDougall’s Right Foods, Inc. and Nutrition Editor for Veggie Life Magazine. In a “Health Moment with Dr. John,” Westerdahl explained that animal protein causes rheumatoid arthritis because “these are foreign proteins from other animals that you’re putting into your body,” which the body then attacks. And on his program “Tasty and Meatless,” Dr. Westerdahl did a feature on reversing heart disease through a low-fat vegan diet, the Caldwell Esselstyn way.

Westerdahl openly has an agenda. Why is anyone using him to recruit subjects for a study on vegetarianism?

At least the authors of this study admitted the possibility of bias, but they underplayed the need that Adventists have to make vegetarianism look good. Adventist dietitians and study subjects can be trusted about as much as Mormon archeologists.

When science supports vegetarianism, Adventists see it as validation of their prophet and their religion. Vegetarianism is key to the Adventist “Health Message,” which they dissiminate through “Medical Missionaries” who practice “Heath Evangelism.” Medical missionary work is considered “the right arm of the gospel,” a possible way to bring people into the fold.

An ex-Adventist elaborates:

I cannot find any scriptural foundation for teaching your choice of diet and level of health will affect your ability to be holy.  The Seventh-day Adventist church, from its very origins, has made this a monumental issue.  Ellen White presented this as a vital part of process of sanctification, without which your very soul could be in danger. 

I heard more than once as an Adventist that the health message was the “right arm of the gospel” and this avenue is often used to gain proselytes, using health seminars as a way to get their foot in the front door of people’s acceptance. We left the SDA church several years ago, but long after we left I was still absolutely convinced a vegan diet was the most healthy, even if I wasn’t following the regimen.

So it’s no wonder that The Seventh Day Adventist Dietetic Association was formed with the explicit purpose of influencing the American Dietetic Association into supporting a vegetarian diet, which the ADA eventually did, after making an Adventist their president.

The book Health to the People: Stories of Public Health, Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine, and Medical Evangelism Training and Outreach, Loma Linda 1905-2005 chronicles the successful infiltration of Adventists into the nutrition science world:

The book recounts many exciting ways God has blessed this first church operated School of Public Health. Founded in 1905, [Loma Linda] University, initially called the College of Evangelists, began by developing health education training of “medical evangelists.” In 1922, the School of Nutrition and Dietetics (SND) was established and went through twenty years of disappointment in its many efforts to get approval of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The ADA finally recognized the benefits of plant based diets and Loma Linda was fully vindicated when its vegetarian Professor of Nutrition, Katherine Zolber, was elected president of the ADA and was given the Cypher Award, ADA’s highest.

U. D. Register, an Adventist dietitian who was a reviewer for the ADA’s 1988 position on a vegetarian diet (along with Mrs. Zolber), called it “Nutritional Prophesy Fulfilled” when studies backed the claims of their prophet Ellen White:

Nutritional Prophetic FulfillmentsThe Nutritional Prophesy lecture!

And it doesn’t seem like Adventists are any less eager to vindicate their prophet through nutritional studies today. Here’s a quote from Gary E. Fraser, lead researcher for the latest Adventist Health Study:

I believe that the Lord gave the health message to the Adventist Church not only for its own members but also to share with others. The main goal of the [Adventist Health Study-2] research is to play a small part in improving the health of the nation, indeed the world, and so enhance people’s lives. The 96,000 members of AHS-2 all play a vital role in this endeavor. … The efforts on the part of all participants will pay off handsomely.

Yeah, I’m not going to trust that study either.