Herbert Douglas writes from Weimar, California.

Can you name the North American woman whose writings have been translated into 148 languages? She wrote mainly on the topic of spiritual life. But her works discuss also a variety of themes such as education, social relations and nutrition. The amazing thing is that even though she died in 1915 and science has had a tremendous progress since then, what she wrote about it is still true.

As early as 1848, Ellen G. White warned on the harmful effects of tobacco, tea, and coffee. This happened in a moment when smoking was recommended to heal tuberculosis and when the impact of caffeine had not been considered. By 1865, Ellen G. White was talking about health principles that included subjects such as psychosomatic medicine, nutritional health and the value of exercise.

By that time the typical North American diet was full of fats and sugars. Usually the diseases were blamed on God's will, the imbalance of body fluids, pungent smells or even the nocturnal air. The homemade methods to treat diseases included "laxatives, induced vomiting and drugs."

So when Ellen G. White started to point out certain dangers in the prevailing notions for the causes of diseases and the medical practices of the time, her warnings were startling to almost every one, including her family members!

"Worse for the fishes"

For example, Ellen G. White said that the majority of "medicines" used at that time killed more people than all the other causes of death combined. The medical theory then was that creating body tension would induce a "defense" and as a result "fight" against the disease. So the preferred drugs of the time were: strychnine, opium, calomel, mercury and quinine, which were really poisons. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, professor of Anatomy at Harvard University (and later judge of the Supreme Court) agreed with Ellen G. White's position. He wrote: "If the total medical literature, as is now used, should be sent to the bottom of the sea, it would be better for humanity but worse for the fishes." 1

Other teachings that shocked the people of the XIX century were: the dangers of eating pork (this was before trichinosis was discovered), that tobacco is a poison, that foods rich in fat and sugar are harmful, and that one should allow time between meals, for good digestion. Pure water should be used frequi to preserve health and heal diseases (at a time when" baths were rarely recommended); that outdoor exercise is important for the mental and physical health and that the will power is closely related to resistance to disease and is a stress reliever.

In 1905, in her clear teachings about a healthy diet, she concluded what she emphasized during decades. She wrote: "Cereals, meaty fruits, nuts and legumes constituted the foods chosen for us by our Creator."2 About the treatment of diseases she wrote: "Pure air, sunshine, abstinence, rest, exercise, a healthy diet, water and trust in the divine power are the true medicines." 3

Not all these concepts were new. Writers who mixed them with other ideas that soon disappeared when investigated promoted many of them in conferences. What was extraordinary about the writings of Ellen G. White on health was that only that which was true was promoted.

Dr. Kellogg

One of the first promoters of the principles of Ellen G. White was the young Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who became worldwide famous as director and principal surgeon of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. The list of patients, the largest health institution of its time, included presidents of the United States, industry tycoons, famous inventors and other world leaders: people like Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford.

In 1897, Dr. Kellogg said: "It is impossible for any man who has not had special medical studies to appreciate the marvelous character of the instructions received through the writings of Ellen G. White. It is extraordinary when you examine retrospectively her writings given thirty years ago, and then pick up a scientific magazine and find some new discovery made with the microscope in the chemical laboratory; to see how exactly both harmonize . . . there is not one principle related with the healthy development of our bodies and minds, exposed in these writings of Ellen G. White, that I'm not ready to prove conclusively based on scientific evidence."4 Closer to our time, we have Dr. Clive M. MacCay, professor of Nutrition at Cornell University (where he taught for 37 years: 1925-1962). Dr. MacCay was recognized as a pioneer and an authority in history of nutrition, theory and research. 5

One of the advance students of Dr. MacCay presented to him the writings of Ellen G. White on health principles, particularly her book Counsels on Diet and Foods, a compilation of her writings on a healthy diet and its relation to the physical, mental and spiritual health. MacCay believed that anything written before 1900 was not scientific, so he was surprised when he saw the date on the material that appeared scientifically correct. When someone said that there were rumors that Ellen G. White was a plagiarist, that she had copied her material from contemporary health reformers, Dr. MacCay responded: "Nonsense! I can't accept that explanation, it creates a bigger problem than it solves. If she limited herself to copying her contemporaries, how did she know which ideas to borrow and which ones to reject of the confused collection of theories in use during the XIX century?"

The majority of them were irrational, and today are condemned. She had to be an exceptional person of knowledge superior to that of the people of her time, to know what ideas to take and which ones to discard.6

know what ideas to take and which ones to discard.6 In July of 1980 the departments of Agriculture and Health, Education and Social Welfare, united to publish her "Dietary Guide for North Americans": (1) Eat a variety of foods. (2) Maintain your ideal weight. (3) Avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. (4) Eat foods with enough carbohydrates and fiber. (5) Avoid too much sugar. (6) Avoid too much sodium. (7) If alcohol is consumed, use in moderation. 7

In 1995, the same offices published an updated version of the same "Dietary Guide" emphasizing that "vegetarian diets (another of Ellen G. White's recommendations) coincide with the Dietary Guides for North Americans and can provide the recommended amount of nutrients."8 The Pyramid of the Nutrition Guide that was part of this revision in 1995 placed greater emphasis in foods coming from plants.

The revised guide also recognizes that grains are associated with a substantially lower risk of many chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer. That antioxidant nutrients play a potentially beneficial part in reducing the danger of cancer and certain other chronic diseases, and that folic acid reduces the possibilities of serious types of birth defects. 9

A diet that prevents cancer

Twenty years ago nutritionists began studying the connection between the ideal diet and the disease worst feared by the American people: cancer.

In June 1982, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council published a joint report entitled "Diet, Nutrition and Cancer." Their results indicated that it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of developing cancer by introducing changes in the diet. They specifically urged the consumption of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables, and to reduce the intake of fats, sugar, salt and alcohol. 10 In February of 1983 the publication of the American Cancer Society, News on Cancer, published an article entitled, "At Last, an Anticancer Diet." The first paragraph pointed to the California Seventh-day Adventists as having a smaller proportion of rectal and colon cancer compared with the population in general. Further on in the article, studies revealed that breast cancer, colon and prostate cancer, "occurs significatively less among individuals who eat large quantities of vegetables." This "amazing discovery," says Walter Troll, Professor of Ecology Medicine at New York University suggests that vegetables contain substances "capable of inhibiting cancer in man."11

Therefore, in July 1988, Dr. C. Everett Koop published the first report on nutrition by a Surgeon General of the United States. Based on more then 2,500 scientific papers, his prescription for better health was: "Less fat, more vegetables, and fruits." 12 And in recent years lead articles in outstanding magazines such as Times, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report have reported the latest results: studies that validate the findings of more than a century of Ellen G. White's writings. Not one of her surprising counsels has been discarded. What she said about prenatal influence; that cancer is of a viral origin and in many other areas related to mental and physical health, have been proven as much as her teachings on nutrition.

The members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church believe that their knowledge about spiritual and physical health are more than just good guessing. They see in it a fulfillment of the biblical promise of prophetic guidance shortly before Christ's return. Those who abide by E. G. White's inspiration will improve in all aspects of their lives.

Herbert Douglas writes from Weimar, California.


1. Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health, p. 49.
2. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 228.
3. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 89.
4. Herbert E. Douglas, The Lord's Messenger, p. 283.
5. Dr. MacCay wrote more than 150 scientific articles and was cofounder in 1942 of The Archives of Biochemistry.
6. Francis D. Nichol, Why I Believe in Mrs. E. G. White, p. 57-59.
7. Home and Garden Bulletin, N. 231, 1980, p. 1.
8. Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fourth edition, December 1995.
9. Nutrition Review, vol. 53:376-379, December 1995.
10. Washington, D. C.: National Academy Press, 1982.
11. Reader's Digest, February 1983, p. 78-82.
12. A Call to Get the Fat Out, U.S. News & World Report, August 8, 1988, p. 59-61.

Translated by Antonio A. Rios