Sophia is 73 years old. In March she was preparing to die. High-blood pressure and cholesterol levels, diabetes and chest pains meant she had been hospitalised. Severe varicose veins meant she could no longer walk. Today her blood pressure has dropped from 180/110 to 128/80. Her blood glucose is down from 14 to 3.5 mmols. Her chest pains are gone and she now walks two hours a day.
What has caused the transformation? For the last seven weeks she has been following a programme called CHIP (Coronary Health Improvement Programme). It puts the emphasis on the word 'improvement' and challenges our western lifestyle with health principles that have been demonstrated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over 160 years.
The November 17, 2007 Daily Mail has carried several stories reporting research that demonstrates that the diet and lifestyle advocated by the Adventist Church adds four or more years to the average lifespan and radically improves the quality of life. A November report from The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research corroborates what Adventists already know.
As the most comprehensive report on cancer prevention ever produced it has resulted in 10 recommendations on food and lifestyle choices that affect the development of cancer. These include maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity, avoiding sugary drinks, processed foods and red meat and replacing them with vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.
Putting this into practice has changed the lives of a group in Wallington, Sutton. Connie had undergone many hospital treatments for her severe digestive problems. She was bloated and severely constipated. Part way through the CHIP programme she now feels like a new woman and has been "regular" for the first time in years. Along with others in the group she has experienced weight loss without starving, increased energy levels, and a drop in cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Programmes such as CHIP in Sutton, Healthy eating clubs in Cumbria, Oxford and Port Talbot, and a host of other initiatives across the UK are based on principles that Adventists discovered in the 1860's at a time when doctors were still treating illness with arsenic, tobacco and other poisons.
Starting off with developing breakfast cereals as a healthy start to the day, Dr J K Kellogg founded the breakfast industry and established Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan, USA. Noted for his investigations and treatments of cancer and his many books and articles advocating prevention, he is just one of the Adventist health advocates who over the last 140 years has worked to improve health around the world both by lifestyle management and through research and medicine.
In 1958 the work of cancer prevention was widened with the ground breaking "Five-day Plan to Stop Smoking". The first programme of its kind, pioneered at the New Gallery Centre in London's Regent Street the programme caused a sensation with its graphic links between lung cancer and smoking. It was the start of the process that has led to today's understanding of the dangers of nicotine. Adventist owned Loma Linda University Medical Centre in California has also been significantly involved in cancer prevention and treatment including collaboration on the current European Prospective Investigation in Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
With an emphasis on healthier living and a great belief that prevention is better than cure you might think life is boring. But knock on the door of Sharon Platt-McDonald, Health Ministries director for the Adventist Church in the British Isles and you will find a smiling, vibrant person. She connects with another tip off for longevity, a sense of humour. "There's no point living four years longer if you're miserable," she says. "Following the tips for healthy living generally makes people happier in other areas of their life as well."
The "Adventist Advantage", as it is sometimes called is based on the plant based diet outlined in the first chapter of the Bible and other health principles of hygiene, holistic lifestyle and positive choices outlined in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
To view a short interview on CHIP click here.
[Story and Photos: Victor Hulbert]