Messenger of the Lord


Dietary Aspects of Health Reform

Has anyone ever become sick or sicker by following these health principles? Have the health reform principles advocated by Ellen White proved to be unfounded or dangerous? MOL 320.7

Yeast germ in bread. Ellen White penned that bread should be “thoroughly baked that, so far as possible, the yeast germs shall be destroyed.” She was scoffed at for this statement, even as late as the 1940s. For years popular magazines advocated eating a cake of live yeast daily! We now know that live yeast cells “take up B vitamins from the food material in the intestine, thus making them unavailable for the body.” 6 MOL 320.8

Butter. In 1870 Ellen White wrote that “from principle” she had discarded the use of meat, butter, mince pies, spices, and lard. 7 In 1903 she stated that “as for myself, I have settled the butter question. I do not use it.” 8 Health principles, for Ellen White, guided one’s plan of life in determining what the best choice should be under all circumstances. At times, in the absence of the best, we must settle for the good. MOL 321.1

Here again we see her principle of “progressive” diet reform: “Let the people be taught how to prepare food without the use of milk or butter.” 9 Further suggestions included: “Butter is less harmful when eaten on cold bread than when used in cooking.” 10 “When properly prepared, olives, like nuts, supply the place of butter and flesh meats.” 11 MOL 321.2

What’s bad about butter? Two basic problems: disease and health factors relating to fat and cholesterol in the diet. Regarding disease, in the late 1800s butter “was often rancid ... a mixture of casein and water, or of calcium, gypsum, gelatin fat [sic] and mashed potatoes.” 12 MOL 321.3

Referring to the future, Ellen White wrote: “Tell them that the time will soon come when there will be no safety in using eggs, milk, cream, or butter, because disease in animals is increasing.” 13 MOL 321.4

Apart from the danger of disease, butter is almost pure fat. It has many of the long-chained saturated fatty acids that tend to increase serum cholesterol (as well as short-chained fatty acids which do not cause the problem). One tablespoon of butter contains 33 mg. of saturated fats and cholesterol. MOL 321.5

The American Heart Association stated on May 13, 1994: “Because butter is rich in both saturated fat and cholesterol, it is potentially a highly atherogenic food [causing hardening of the arteries]. Most margarine is made from vegetable fat and provides no dietary cholesterol. The more liquid the margarine, i.e., tub or liquid forms, the less hydrogenated it is and the less trans fatty acids it contains. Therefore, though still high in fat, margarine is a preferable substitute for butter, and soft margarines are better than hard ones.” 14 MOL 321.6

Dietary fiber. Ellen White warned that “fine-flour bread cannot impart to the system the nourishment that you will find in the unbolted-wheat bread. The common use of bolted-wheat bread cannot keep the system in a healthy condition.” 15 MOL 321.7

The body needs two major types of fiber in the diet. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The best sources are oats, beans, apples, barley, and buckwheat: thus these foods help reduce the risk of a heart attack. Insoluble fiber can be found in wheat bran, which reduces the risk of colon cancer. Foods high in fiber help to reduce the risk of carcinogenic agents in the intestines. The fiber attaches to the cholesterol and bile acids that have been secreted by the gallbladder, and removes them from the intestinal tract rapidly. MOL 321.8

Animal products have little or no fiber. Refined grains and other refined products have very little. In an Adventist Health Study, 16 men who often ate whole wheat bread had only 56 percent of the expected non-fatal heart attack rate and 89 percent of the expected fatal heart attack rate. MOL 321.9

Numerous recent studies relate the risk of colon cancer to the lack of fiber in the diet. Gastrointestinal transit time is seventy-seven hours when on a refined diet, but thirty-five hours on an unrefined diet. 17 Populations on a refined diet have a higher incidence of colon cancer than in countries where most are on an unrefined diet. 18 Colon-cancer risk decreases as the fiber in the diet increases. Experts such as Dr. D. P. Burkitt, world-renowned British surgeon and medical researcher, state that a lack of dietary fiber is a major cause of appendicitis, varicose veins, diverticulosis, colon cancer, hiatal hernias, constipation, and other health problems. 19 MOL 321.10

Flesh foods. In 1866 Ellen White wrote that “the liability to take disease is increased tenfold by meat eating.” 20 Further, in 1869 she said that “meat should not be placed before our children.” 21 MOL 322.1

Why was she so explicit? Because the practice of meat eating is detrimental to physical, mental, and spiritual health. MOL 322.2

Physical impact: Ellen White wrote that meat eating increases the “liability to disease ... tenfold.” Further, it causes obesity, 22 sudden death (heart attack or stroke), 23 “unwholesome condition” of bones (probably osteoporosis), 24 and cancer. 25 Contrary to conventional thinking, she called it “a mistake to suppose that muscular strength depends on the use of animal food. The needs of the system can be better supplied, and more vigorous health can be enjoyed, without its use.” 26 In addition, “the use of the flesh of animals tends to cause a grossness [obesity] of body.” 27 MOL 322.3

Mental impact: She cautioned that “students would accomplish much more in their studies if they never tasted meat. When the animal part of the human agent is strengthened by meat eating, the intellectual powers diminish proportionately.” 28 MOL 322.4

Spiritual impact: Even more important than the physical and mental liabilities of meat eating is the fact that the “religious life can be more successfully gained and maintained if meat is discarded, for this diet stimulates into intense activity lustful propensities, and enfeebles the moral and spiritual nature.” 29 MOL 322.5

For Ellen White, “diet reform is progressive.” 30 For this reason, she said frequently that she never felt it her “duty to say that no one should taste of meat under any circumstances. To say this when the people have been educated to live on flesh to so great an extent, would be carrying matters to extreme.” 31 MOL 322.6

At the same time, she did not soften her words when eternal issues were at stake. In the context of those who were proclaiming the messages of the three angels (Revelation 14) and thus were preparing for Christ’s return, she said: “Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet.” 32 Meat eating will be eliminated “before His people can stand before Him a perfected people.” 33 MOL 322.7

Ellen White spoke directly to church leaders regarding meat eating: No one should be a “teacher of the people” who, by teaching or example, “contradicts” the principles of health reform. 34 Physicians “who use flesh meat and prescribe it for their patients, should not be employed in our institutions.” 35 Ministers who eat meat “set an evil example,” and make it difficult for others to have “confidence” in them. 36 MOL 322.8