Madeline Steele Johnston
My husband Bob and I are grateful for relatively good health at 91 and 87, respectively. He still teaches as needed in the seminary of Andrews University. I keep wondering how I found time to work. We recognize that our lifestyle is not a guarantee, yet we feel it has helped. For our 65 years of marriage we have been vegetarians. He was one before that, though in childhood his parents forced him to eat meat when he simply didn’t like it.
For several years we have been part of the Loma Linda University Adventist Health Study 2, which does clearly show not only several extra years of life, but also a better quality of life toward the end, in vegetarians over carnivores, and even more in vegans. I am a third-generation vegetarian on both sides, and a fourth- or maybe even fifth- on my mother’s side. And several of those on my mother’s side had lifelong asthma but still lived pretty long lives. My mother lived to 78, despite an enlarged heart and emphysema in her later years because of the asthma. Her mother had it, and her father, and his mother—that’s as far back as we know about. And my brother (only sibling) had it, so I have always been thankful I did not inherit that.
In the past several years, Bob and I have gone more the vegan route, though we occasionally slip back for some cheese or ice cream. About a year after going mostly vegan, I noticed stuffy sinuses one day. I suddenly realized they had been clear for maybe about a year—after having some stuffiness my whole life, figuring it was inherited from my mother’s allergies, and just thankful I had not inherited worse. On the day I noticed this, I had eaten some cottage cheese. I wondered, Could there possibly be a connection with the change in diet? So I tested it for a week or two. Every time I ate something dairy, I plugged up a little; when I had none, I breathed clearly. I have wondered whether my mother would have been helped by giving up dairy, but during her lifetime there was little talk of any benefits there, even though my father and her father were physicians.
We have also been blessed with four children with sound bodies, no asthma, and good minds, all honor students through college. They have chosen a similar lifestyle, and we enjoy 6 healthy and brilliant grandchildren (when I try, of course, to be very objective). Again, I know our lifestyle does not guarantee any of these, and I maintain sympathy for friends and their children who may not experience these advantages. Also, just to be sure to remain balanced, I must add that my husband’s family consisted of heavy meat-eaters who had longevity. Still, I am very grateful for the heritage given to me, and this lifestyle certainly has not harmed us or our descendants.