A wide array of studies of respected institutions, unconnected with the LDS Church, confirms the “fruits of Mormonism” in many areas including the following: Charity, Youth Development, Health, Longevity, Mormon Women’s Political Firsts, Education, Science, Observations of Guru Peter Drucker.
Part 3: HEALTH
Throughout their history, Mormons have pursued a healthy lifestyle, which has demonstrated the fruits of Mormonism. They do not smoke or drink alcohol. They are encouraged to eat ample fresh vegetables and fruits, and are generally physically active. They have a wholesome balance of meeting the practical challenges of life with spiritual dimensions such as gratitude to God and happily helping other people. They take the biblical teaching that the body is the temple of the spirit to heart and treat the body carefully. As a result they have showed up well in countless health studies.
As early as 1925, eminent scientist Franklin S. Harris and Newbern Butts published Fruits of Mormonism revealing low Mormon rates in such diseases as cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia and kidney diseases — as well as suicide and homicide.
In 1937, John A. Widtsoe, an Apostle, a noted chemist and former President of University of Utah, wrote a book on the Word of Wisdom: a Modern Interpretation. An expert on sugar, he implored people to curb eating refined sugar and to emphasize fresh vegetables. He also attributed to the doctrinal Word of Wisdom low Mormon death rates from many diseases including an extraordinary 50 percent reduced rate for diabetes.
In March 1975, Dr. James Enstrom of UCLA School of Public Health (not a Mormon) reported to an American Heart Association Conference that Mormon deaths from heart and cardio problems were from one third to one half less than average in the U.S..
Then came an independent study by established epidemiologist, Dr. Joseph Lyon that Mormons in Utah were contracting cancer 25 percent less frequently than non-Mormons.
Soon, Enstrom, Lyon and others examined and confirmed Elder Widtsoe’s 1938 statistics that Mormon diabetes was 50% less and bladder and kidney disease 51 percent less than average.
The nation was concerned about the loss of life and costs of dreaded diseases and the good news from reliable studies about Mormon lifestyle was welcome. Illustrative was the Washington Post with a front page headline “Study Shows Low Mormon Cancer Rate” on 11/18/74.
More Enstrom studies brought more front page headlines such as USA TODAY (with top circulation in U.S.) declaring “Mormon lifestyle is healthiest” on 12/6/89. The lead stated: “The lowest death rates ever reported from heart disease and cancer have been found in a group of 10,000 Mormons, a new study suggests.”
Also the same day the WALL STREET JOURNAL reported “Mormon Rules Aid Long Life, Study Discloses”.
In 1997 a new study produced a new cycle of stories such as the Los Angeles Times headline “Mormons Among Nation’s Healthiest, Researchers Say” on 4/26/97.
A path-breaking study of fasting by the Intermountain Medical Center produced an astonishing finding that Mormon-type fasting of 24 hours the first weekend of each month causes a 40 percent reduction of risk for dreaded Coronary Artery Disease.
The potential prevention of pain, death and cost are enormous. Heart attacks, 99+% of which are based on coronary artery disease, are the leading cause of death in the United States and other industrialized nations — with a total estimated U.S. cost of $165.4 billion in 2009 according to the American Heart Association.
Through statistical regression analysis, fasting was separated from other health-influencing factors such as physical activity, smoking, socio-economic status and frequent church attendance which were controlled to obtain the amazing conclusion that what could be described as Mormon-type fasting, all by itself, cut coronary artery disease almost in half.
These surprising results were presented to the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Nov. 2007 by lead researcher Benjamin Horne, PhD, MPH, who directs Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City. This caused excitement and was one of a few presentations that produced a press release by AHA. In 2008, the American Journal of Cardiology published the full results in an article by 14 researchers (both non-Mormon and Mormon) who had worked on the study and wanted to be identified with this breakthrough.
This discovery was so astonishing that Dr. Horne did the study again, and the previous conclusion was completely reaffirmed. The results of this new study were recently published by the Journal of Cardiology “Relations of Routine Periodic Fasting to Risk of Diabetes Mellitus and Coronary Artery Disease” (June 1, 2012).
Dr. Horne believes a 24-hour fast “may allow the body to rest and reset metabolism, increasing the body’s sensitivity to glucose and insulin.” He cautions that the “compelling findings” on fasting do not apply to random skipping of meals. In our interview, Dr. Horne indicated that he was doing follow-up studies on fasting, including its relationship to genes that affect health.
Read Part One: How the World Evaluates Mormonism: Charity
Part Two: How the World Evaluates Mormonism: Youth
Mark W. Cannon has a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard. He has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Staff Director for Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution; Administrative Assistant to Chief Justice Burger (13 years); Director, Institute of Public Administration, New York; Chairman, BYU Political Science Department; Staff, Senator Wallace Bennett; Administrative Asst. Congressman Henry Aldous Dixon.