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Impressions of Loma Linda

from EVU News, Issue 2 /1997 - Italiano

Paul Appleby and his Russian wife Galina. Contact: Oxford Vegetarians, c/o 57 Sharland Close, Grove, Wantage OX12 OAF, UK
Tel: +44 1865 450793
Loma Linda University was the venue for the Third International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition (22-24 March 1997) which I was fortunate enough to attend recently. The Congress attracted more than 600 delegates from a wide variety of countries, united by a shared interest in vegetarian nutrition, and featured 34 research presentations, 40 poster presenations and several workshops.

Loma Linda (meaning 'Hill Beautiful' in Spanish) is located in Southern California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The town and the nearby city of San Bernardino are surrounded by mountains, and the resort of Palm Springs and the Joshua Tree National Park are a short drive away. Southern California is famous for its orange groves (although, sadly, many have been destroyed to make room for development) and many gardens have orange, grapefruit and lemon trees. The climate is hot in summer and mild in winter. Loma Linda University specialises in the health sciences and its Medical Centre is internationally famous for pioneering medical research (notably infant-to-infant heart transplantation), and high-technology service-oriented medical care.

Loma Linda Medical Center evolved from a sanitarium founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1905. The sanitarium was established by John Burden, a Seventh-day Adventist minister who was acting on the instructions of Ellen White, one of the founders of the Church who wrote extensively on health matters and advocated a vegetarian diet. At the dedicatory service for the sanitarium, she said: „Loma Linda is to be not only a sanitarium, but an educational centre ... A school is to be established here for the training of gospel medical missionary evangelists.“ Today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church operates over 450 health-care institutions and thousands of educational establishments, including three universities, worldwide.

One of the highlights of the Congress was the unveiling of a Vegetarian Food Pyramid. The pyramid identifies whole grains an legumes as the basis of a healthy vegetarian diet. Fruit and vegetables should also be eaten liberally along with smaller amounts of nuts and seeds. Other items, including diary produce and eggs, are regarded as optional, so that a vegan diet is considered compatible with good health, although vegans are advised to include a reliable source of vitamin B12 in their diet.

Two of the research presentations featured the results of work conducted by myself and colleagues in Oxford, London and Dunedin, New Zealand. In the first of these Dr Tim Key presented the results of a meta-analysis of mortality in five prospective studies of populations containing large numbers of vegetarians. Two of these studies (the Adventist Mortality Study and the Adventist Health Study) are supervised by Dr Gary Fraser at the School of Public Health, Loma Linda University. The Health Food Shoppers Study and the Oxford Vegetarian Study are run from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, and the Heidelberg Study is supervised by Dr Jenny Chang-Claude in Germany. Altogether, data were available for a total of 76,172 persons, including 27,808 vegetarians, of whom 8,330 died before the age of 90 after an average of 10.6 years of follow-up. After adjusting for age, sex, smoking habits and study, vegetarians were found to have a 25% reduction in mortality from ischaemic heart disease (the most common cause of death in the Western world), and a 9% lower all-cause mortality compared with non-vegetarians, both results being highly statistically significant. However, there was no evidence to suggest that vegetarians have a lower mortality than non-vegetarians for colorectal cancer, breast cancer or prostate cancer (mortality ratios 1.00, 1.02 & 0.89 for vegetarians versus non-vegetarians respectively), or, indeed, for any of the other common causes of death studied.

In the second presentation arising from research conducted by myself and colleagues, Dr Margaret Thorogood presented the latest results from an analysis of mortality in the Oxford Vegetarian Study in which the effects of various dietary factors on ischaemic heart disease and all-cause mortality have been investigated. These show that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol from animal foods are major risk factors for ischaemic heart disease mortality.