Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Does the prescriptive lifestyle of Seventh-day Adventists provide ‘immunity’ from the secular effects of changes in BMI?

Lillian M Kenta1 c1 and Anthony Worsleya2

a1 Deakin University, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health and Behavioral Sciences, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Melbourne, Victoria 3125, Australia

a2 VicHealth, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Objective To examine the effect of Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) membership on ‘immunity’ to the secular effects of changes in BMI.

Design Three independent, cross-sectional, screening surveys conducted by Sydney Adventist Hospital in 1976, 1986 and 1988 and a survey conducted among residents of Melbourne in 2006.

Subjects Two hundred and fifty-two SDA and 464 non-SDA in 1976; 166 SDA and 291 non-SDA in 1986; 120 SDA and 300-non SDA in 1988; and 251 SDA and 294 non-SDA in 2006.

Measurements Height and weight measured by hospital staff in 1976, 1986 and 1988; self-reported by respondents in 2006.

Results The mean BMI of non-SDA men increased between 1986 and 2006 (P < 0·001) but did not change for SDA men or non-SDA women. Despite small increases in SDA women’s mean BMI (P = 0·030) between 1988 and 2006, this was no different to that of SDA men and non-SDA women in 2006. The diet and eating patterns of SDA men and women were more ‘prudent’ than those of non-SDA men and women, including more fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes, and less alcohol, meat, sweetened drinks and coffee. Many of these factors were found to be predictors of lower BMI.

Conclusion The ‘prudent’ dietary and lifestyle prescriptions of SDA men appear to have ‘immunised’ them to the secular effects of changes that occurred among non-SDA men’s BMI. The dietary and lifestyle trends of SDA women did not reflect the increase in their BMI observed in 2006.

(Received August 21 2007)

(Accepted March 06 2008)


c1 Corresponding author. Email