Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) have been taught that following a health code known as the Word of Wisdom leads to improved health and greater longevity. In 1989, Journal of The National Cancer Institute reported that LDS suffer from less cancer and live longer than other populations.
In June 2006, just 17 years later, Brigham Young University reported LDS have since become the most obese of religious populations in the world, a trend associated with decreases in longevity and increases in degenerative diseases.[i]
With diet-induced diseases on the rise, some LDS are asking if the dietary counsel in the Word of Wisdom
might provide needed answers. This article presents compelling evidence to suggest a trial upon the word
still offers great promise.
So why did the generation of LDS who died in the 1970s enjoy far better health than LDS enjoy today? The credit for their longevity has been given primarily to their observance of the don’ts
of the Word of Wisdom—don’t smoke or drink. Less credit has been given to the way they ate—the do’s.
Research reveals that rural Chinese suffer just a fraction of the LDS cancer rate, even though nearly all adult Chinese smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Dietary superiority is responsible in large part for their lower disease rates.
Let’s compare LDS who died in the 1970s with LDS today. These long-living seniors were born in the 1800s and got their dietary lifestyle start long before today’s eating trends. Similar to today’s older generation in Okinawa that boasts the highest rate of centenarians in the world, long-living LDS who died in the 1970s continued to eat sensibly even as eating trends worsened for LDS in general.
Similarly Okinawa centenarians follow more healthful and traditional Japanese eating patterns today, yet the youth of Okinawa are now the most obese of all youth in Japan. Due to U.S. military presence, U.S. fast-food chains have become well established in Okinawa and the youth have developed an appetite for Western fast-food eating trends.
Let’s look at USDA food trend statistics. They reveal significant changes in eating patterns that have occurred which can help us better understand why LDS health today isn’t what it was in the 1970s, even though LDS still practice temperance. Consider the following trends that occurred between 1909 and 1999, as reported by the USDA:
- Animal Based Foods: intake has more than doubled
- Fat: intake has more than doubled
- Sugar: intake rose from 5 to 135 pounds per person per year
- Soda: intake is more than seven times greater
- Salad Oil: intake has increased more than 1300%
- Fresh Garden Produce: intake has decreased by 1300%
- Grain Consumption: is 100 lbs less per person per year.[ii]
- Overweight: rose from one in 150 people to two in three who are now overweight; greatest changes came after 1970.
Today 93% of the average American’s caloric intake comes from sugar, oil, refined grains, and animal-based foods (see 9 through 12 below) and only 7% come from whole garden foods (see 1 through 8 below).[iii]
By comparison, long-living LDS who died in the 70s ate two-thirds of their calories from whole garden foods and less than one-third from sugar, oils, refined and processed grains, and animal-based foods.
Foods are listed below in order of highest to lowest, based upon nutrient density, or in other words, based upon which foods provide the very most nutrients per calories consumed. The higher you center caloric intake on this list, the slimmer you will become and the longer you will live:
- Leafy green vegetables: kale, leaf lettuces, spinach…
- Solid green vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage...
- Non-green, non starchy vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes…
- Fruits: all varieties
- Legumes: beans (red, white, black, etc.), lentils…
- Starchy vegetables: cooked carrots, corn, potatoes…
- Whole grains: amaranth, barley, rice, millet, wheat…
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts…
- Animal-based foods: all dairy, eggs, fish, fowl, meat…
- Refined and processed foods: all varieties
- Refined oils: all varieties
- Refined sweeteners: sugar, Nutrasweet, Equal…
Fruits and Vegetables
The Word of Wisdom teaches that fruits and vegetables are for the nature and constitution of man. Genesis 1:29 teaches herbs and fruits are to be our meat. Science reveals, per calorie, fruits and vegetables possess more vitamins, phyto-chemicals, and minerals than all other foods. Consuming whole fruits and vegetables abundantly, as did long-living LDS predecessors, provides the best support possible for sustainable vitality and good health. Together, fruits and vegetables provide the perfect balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Meat and grains should be used primarily to complement fruits and vegetables. Let’s look more closely at grains and animal-based foods and why they should be secondary to fruits and vegetables in a healthful dietary lifestyle.
Science has demonstrated that most everyone can consume up to 10% of their caloric intake from animal-based foods, without producing detrimental effects, but that as caloric intake exceeds the mid teens degenerative conditions begin to rise. Why does exceeding certain caloric limits with animal-based foods cause disease rates to rise?
The human body requires only so much protein for growth, repair, and maintenance. When that level is surpassed, protein is broken down and is converted to energy or is excreted from the body. Harmful byproducts of animal-protein breakdown lay the foundation for many of today’s most common diseases. They retard bone formation, leading to osteoporosis; they initiate autoimmune disorders; they lead to cancer; they lead to premature aging, arthritis, and so forth. The over consumption of animal protein and fat are linked to numerous diseases.
To enjoy vitality we must either eliminate animal-based food consumption or consume it sparingly. In general Americans and LDS eat four times more animal protein and fat on a daily basis than can be ideally metabolized.
Grain is the staff of life for man and animals. A staff is a secondary support tool, to be leaned upon as needed. Using grain as a primary, rather than secondary food source, leads to problems for both man and animals. For example, grasses are the primary food for horses; the over-consumption of grain by horses leads to arthritic symptoms and allergies. Similar conditions are triggered in man as fruits and vegetables are under-consumed and grain is over-consumed. Fruits and vegetables meet the vital nutritional needs of the body with the fewest calories while providing the greatest volume. Use grains and legumes to complement and to fill caloric needs that remain unmet with fruits and vegetables.
While President Benson was Secretary of Agriculture for the United States he saw first hand what was happening in the U.S. food industry, as whole foods are converted to shelf-stable foods. On at least two occasions, he encouraged LDS to begin eating in a healthier manner, like the prophet Daniel of the Old Testament. The following quote was part of a prophetic challenge given to the Latter-day Saint population.
"To a significant degree, we are an overfed and undernourished nation digging an early grave with our teeth, and lacking the energy that could be ours.... We need a generation…, who, as Daniel, eat in a more healthy manner than to fare on the 'kings meat' —and whose countenances show it." [iv]
Based upon recent population studies and dietary trends, this counsel is good for LDS, the youth of Okinawa, and for all populations who have trended away from whole garden foods toward significant increases in refined and processed and animal-based foods. Do you really want to consume 93 percent of your calories from sugar, oil, refined and processed foods, and animal-based foods? Remember, prior to these downward shifts in U.S. food trends, just one person
in 150 was overweight. Nowadays, two in three Americans are overweight and suffer from the highest rates of diet-induced disability, illness, and disease in the world. You cannot avoid these realities by practicing temperance alone.
Well, if you are satisfied with your present body weight and your health, then keep doing what you are doing. But, if not, consider adopting the dietary habits of the slimmest, longest living, and most disease-free people in the world. Today’s most healthful populations eat very similar to the way long-living LDS ate, who died in the 1970s. Learn how you can enjoyably center your eating patterns high on the nutrient-density chart by accepting Daniel’s Challenge
Become a Modern Daniel
What is Daniel’s Challenge? Daniel was an Israelite prophet whose dietary habits enabled him with great health, strength, and wisdom. Daniel's Challenge is a challenge to follow the Word of Wisdom and the dietary habits of the healthiest people in the world for just six weeks. You will notice a difference in how you feel, in how easily you lose excess weight, and in measurable improvements with health biomarkers (such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels). It is common to lose 20 to 40+ pounds during the six-week challenge and all excess body weight as the challenge is continued long-term. It is also common to arrest and begin the reversal of diet-induced diseases. Based upon your six-week results, you will then choose whether to adopt these habits for a lifetime. LDS Health Today website and our weekly call-in show are here to support your efforts for a lifetime.
Browse LDS Health Today website and enjoy the many free online resources that are devoted to helping you improve your diet. They include helpful articles, such as the Five Success Habits of Healthful Populations, and show-me-how videos of recipes and meal plans, a weekly broadcast, a discussion forum, local support groups, live chat, and special events.
In addition to these extraordinary online resources, Original Fast Foods and Daniel’s Challenge teach the what, why, when and how of a sound dietary lifestyle. The resources found on this website provide their greatest benefit, only as you gain a sound understanding and knowledge of how to best integrate this information into your daily life. Gain this understanding by reading Original Fast Foods and Daniel's Challenge. With more than 160 recipes, meal plans, and extraordinary information, they help lay a solid foundation for your long-term success. Click on the following link 3-in-1 Special for further details.
To Your Best Health!
Jim and Colleen Simmons
[i] BYU Scroll Online, Spiritually fit but not physically fit, June 7, 2006, http://www.byui.edu/Scroll/archive/20060606/news3.html
[ii] Major Trends in U.S. Food Supply, 1909-1999; Food Review Volume 23, Issue 1;
Credit and Source: USDA’s Economic Research Service; http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/foodreview/jan2000/frjan2000b.pdf
[iii] Fuhrman, Joel, Eat To Live, pp. 49-50.
[iv] Benson, Ezra, T., compare Ensign, September 1988, p. 5; and an earlier speech, In His Steps, given at Brigham Young University on March 4, 1979 http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6718