Was Ellen White More Accurate than Other Health Reformers?

By Dirk Anderson, Sep. 2009

In 2005, Seventh-day Adventists Leonard Brand and Don McMahon published a book entitled The Prophet and Her Critics. In this book Brand explains how he determined that Ellen White's health writings were more accurate than other health reformers of her day. He selected five reformers (Sylvester Graham, William Alcott, L.B. Coles, Caleb Jackson and J.H. Kellogg) and concluded that Ellen White's reforms correlated much higher to being accurate (according to today's standards) than any of the other reformers. Brand claimed Ellen White's health teachings in Spiritual Gifts were amazingly accurate:

"Of the 46 'whats' in Spiritual Gifts, 96 percent have been verified by modern medicine, with 70 percent being significant to health, and 26 having a minor effect. In contrast, the health principles ('whats') of the five other health reformers studied ranged from 35-45 percent verified. ... The accuracy of her health principles cannot be derived from any human source available anytime during her lifetime."1

Brand asks several leading questions, designed, no doubt, to encourage faith in Ellen White's gift:2

  1. "Since Ellen White had very little formal education, and certainly no medical education at all, how did she know how to avoid those principles that may have seemed valid 150 years ago but are now known to be very wrong?"
  2. "And where did she get the numerous health principles that the other reformers did not espouse?"
  3. "Does anyone have another explanation?"

The first question is, how did Ellen White steer clear of all the medical nonsense of her day? This is a misleading question, because the fact is she did not steer clear of medical nonsense. She promulgated such false ideas as solitary vice and marital excess brought on disease. She taught the superiority of a vegan diet, that tea and coffee were poisonous, and that cinnamon, pepper, and mustard were bad for the blood, when in fact modern medical science has disproven all of these unfounded myths.

The question still remains, how did Mrs. White steer clear of some of the nonsense of mainstream medical science of her day? She has her parents to thank for that. She was raised a Methodist, and church founder John Wesley was a health reformer. He warned Methodists against the use of drugs, highly seasoned foods, alcohol, and tobacco, and recommended moderation, outdoor exercise, and cleanliness. There is little doubt she was raised believing in these principles. While still a teenager, Ellen became associated with Joseph Bates, a man who crusaded against tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee. Bates was also an early adopter of vegetarianism. But perhaps the most significant influence of all was that of Larkin B. Coles, a Millerite physician, who published a book that heavily influenced her own teachings on health.

"Does anyone have another explanation?"

As a matter of fact, yes! But first, let us clear up two misleading statements.

1. "Where did she get the numerous health principles other reformers did not espouse?" First, it is false to claim Ellen White espoused "numerous health principles" which other reformers did not. There is no significant health reform that is unique to Ellen White. In fact, as we will see in the evidence presented below, nearly every single health reform she ever espoused during her entire life was also espoused by a single individual: Larkin B. Coles. Only a handful of her "reforms" were not also taught by Coles, and those few can be shown to come from other reformers, such as Jackson, Trall, and Graham.

2. "The accuracy of her health principles cannot be derived from any human source available anytime during her lifetime." Again, this is completely false. Nearly every principle espoused by Ellen White was also taught by L.B. Coles, and there are no significant principles taught by Coles that are not also found in her writings. One can read L.B. Coles' book for themselves and discover that nearly everything he advocated was also later advocated by Ellen White.

Thus, the "explanation" is really quite simple: Ellen White copied nearly every health idea she ever taught from L.B. Coles. The evidence presented below will substantiate that fact. Furthermore, Ellen White was far from being 96% accurate in Spiritual Gifts, as will be demonstrated below. The study below looks at 28 health teachings proposed by Ellen White in Spiritual Gifts in 1864. This analysis shows the source of her teaching is Coles' book Philosophy of Health. Each health teaching will be compared to modern medical science. At the end, Ellen White's and L.B. Coles' scores will be compared to determine if she was somehow more inspired than Coles. The quotes below will be color-coded with GREEN for accurate, and RED for inaccurate.

Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts,
Vol. 4a, Chapter "Health", 1864
Larkin B. Coles,
Philosophy of Health, 1851
Medical Science EGW
Health Principle 1: Eating meat shortens the life-span
And he [God] permitted that long-lived race to eat animal food to shorten their sinful lives. Soon after the flood the race began to rapidly decrease in size, and in length of years. (p. 121.2) [No equivalent in Coles' book] The idea that animal foods shorten lives has never been proven. Dr. Byrnes writes:

"There is no proof that a healthy vegetarian diet, when compared to a healthy omnivorous diet, will result in a longer life. ... Russell Smith, PhD, in his massive review study on heart disease, showed that as animal product consumption increased among some study groups, death rates actually decreased! ...in a study published by Burr and Sweetnam in 1982, analysis of mortality data revealed that, although vegetarians had a slightly (0.11%) lower rate of heart disease than non-vegetarians, the all-cause death rate was much higher for vegetarians. ...the Aborigines of Australia, who traditionally eat a diet rich in animal products, are known for their longevity... Explorers such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson reported great longevity among the Innuit. Similarly, the people of the Caucasus Mountains live to great ages on a diet of fatty pork and whole raw milk products. ... In contrast, the largely vegetarian Hindus of southern India have the shortest lifespans in the world, partly because of a lack of food but also because of a distinct lack of animal protein in their diets."3

Health Principle 2: Pork is unfit for food
But God never designed the swine to be eaten under any circumstances. (p. 124.1) Swine's flesh-that worst of all flesh for eating-was even then prohibited. (p. 52) Of all the major meat groups, pork is generally considered by modern medicine to be the least healthy, due to fat content and other factors.
Health Principle 3: Alcohol is bad for the brain
Stimulating [alcoholic] drinks have been used freely, which have confused the brain and brought down man to the level of the brute creation. (p. 124.3) The man who uses alcoholic liquor, is steeping his brain and nerves in that poison. (p. 150) Alcohol is generally considered by medical science to be a toxin to the brain, particularly when injested in large quantities.
Health Principle 4: Alcohol is a "stimulant"
…ale, which stimulates for the time, but as soon as the influence of the ale is gone they sink as much lower, and a continual use of the ale keeps them stimulated and over-excited. (p. 125.2) Alcoholic liquors of all kinds…are all stimulants. … They give to the stomach an unnatural and forced action…(p. 75) Alcohol is a "depressant", which is the opposite of a "stimulant".
Health Principle 5: Tobacco is a slow poison that affects the moral/spiritual nature
Tobacco, in whatever form it is used, tells upon the constitution. It is a slow poison. It affects the brain and benumbs the sensibilities, so that the mind cannot clearly discern spiritual things… (p. 126.1) That man who chews and smokes his tobacco…is doing that to himself which should be called gradual suicide…His brain and nerves are tinctured…so deadened their moral sensibilities… (p. 151-152) Tobacco is generally considered detrimental, however there is no evidence it "deadens moral sensibilities" or prevents the mind from "discerning spiritual things". Half-credit to both White and Coles.
Health Principle 6: Tea and Coffee harm the health
Tea and coffee are stimulating. Their effects are similar to those of tobacco… Those who use these slow poisons… The whole system under the influence of these stimulants often becomes intoxicated. And to just that degree that the nervous system is excited by false stimulants, will be the prostration which will follow after the influence of the exciting cause has abated. Those who indulge a perverted appetite, do it to the injury of health and intellect. They cannot appreciate the value of spiritual things. Their sensibilities are blunted, and sin does not appear very sinful… (p. 128.2) The coffees and the teas…as well as that most deadly of all poisons in popular use, tobacco, should be rejected. (p. 229)
And not only are these physical functions injured, but the mental forces also; for the nervous system is the connecting medium…hence the wretched economy of all stimulants and narcotics on the nerves. The injury done to the electrical [nerve] forces by the use of such agents as the habitual use of tea, coffee, alcohol, opium, and tobacco…is far greater than is generally supposed. (p. 13)
Coffee is one of the most-studied elements in the scientific world, and the over-whelming majority of studies show more health benefits than harm. Likewise, studies of tea show overwhelming health benefits. To examine the evidence, click here.
Health Principle 7: Seasoned meat, or meat served with gravy, damages the stomach
They crave highly-seasoned meats, with rich gravies, and their appetite has become so perverted that they cannot be satisfied with even meat, unless prepared in a manner most injurious. The stomach is fevered, the digestive organs are taxed, and yet the stomach labors hard to dispose of the load forced upon it. (p. 129.1) The taking of condiments with meats is a crime against the stomach. … All these are as truly destructive to its tone and healthy action, as is alcohol. (p. 180) There is no evidence that heavily-seasoned meat, or meat served with gravy harms the stomach in any way. The stomach has acids sufficient to break down meat, and some spices are actually known to stimulate the secretion of digestive juices.
Health Principle 8: Eat Simple Foods two or three times a day
The remedy such require is to eat less frequently and less liberally, and be satisfied with plain, simple food, eating twice, or at most, three times a day. (p. 129.1) The more simple the diet, on the whole the better. Complicated food, especially that which is compounded with various kinds of condiments, is bad… (p. 59)
No individual…should take solid food more than three times in one day. (p. 36)
Medical science generally agrees that simple foods are easier to digest than complex ones. However there is no scientific proof that eating more than two or three meals a day is harmful, provided the meals are small. Some physicians recommend eating smaller meals more frequently. Half credit for both White and Coles.
Health Principle 9: Eat at regular intervals
The stomach must have its regular periods for labor and rest, hence eating irregularly between meals is a most pernicious violation of the laws of health. (p. 129.1) If persons intend to have health, their meals should be regularly timed and distanced. (p. 33) The general consensus of medical science is its better to eat at regular intervals than at irregular intervals.
Health Principle 10: Eating highly sweetened food is unhealthy
…rich cake, pies, and puddings, and every hurtful thing, are crowded into the stomach. (p. 130.1) Complicated food…is bad; such as rich puddings, cake, and pastry of various sorts. (p. 59) The general consensus of medical science is frequent eating of highly-sweetened foods is unhealthy
Health Principle 11: Meals should be spaced apart by two or three hours
Many eat three times a day, and again just before going to bed. In a short time the digestive organs are worn out, for they have had no time to rest. … A second meal should never be eaten until the stomach has had time to rest from the labor of digesting the preceding meal. (p. 130.1) …no food should be previously taken, in all ordinary cases, within the space of two or three hours… (p. 35) There seems to be general agreement that the stomach should be given opportunity to digest its contensts before new food is added.
Health Principle 12: Eat a light supper and not right before going to bed
Many eat three times a day, and again just before going to bed. ... If a third meal be eaten at all, it should be light, and several hours before going to bed. (p. 130.1) A late supper generally occasions deranged and disturbed sleep. (p. 35)
Supper should be the lightest meal of the day, and should be taken at least two hours before bed-time. (p. 117)
The advantages of eating a light supper are less obvious, but eating several hours before bedtime may contribute to better sleep, less weight gain, and less acid reflux problems.
Health Principle 13: Intemperance leads to other evil habits, destroys the intellect
Those who permit themselves to become slaves to a gluttonous appetite, often go still further, and debase themselves by indulging their corrupt passions, which have become excited by intemperance in eating and in drinking. They give loose rein to their debasing passions, until health and intellect greatly suffer. The reasoning faculties are, in a great measure, destroyed by evil habits. (p. 131.2) When we violate any law of the organic life…we create a lust which wars against the soul. …a civil war is instituted between the lower faculties and the higher… (p. 240)
…the bodily energies are so deranged and weakened as to hold the intellectual faculties in a state of comparative imbecility. (p. 51)
Whether or not intemperance leads to other "sins" is a subjective matter, but we will give White and Coles the benefit of the doubt here. It is generally agreed that "debasing passions" or immorality are unhealthy, at least from a communicable disease perspective, although it is questionable whether sexually transmitted diseases have an impact on intellect, except in the case of syphilis.
Health Principle 14: Improper diet for children can lead to health and moral problems
Children who eat improperly are often feeble, pale and dwarfed, and are nervous, excitable and irritable. Everything noble is sacrificed to the appetite, and the animal passions predominate. The lives of many children from five to ten and fifteen years of age seem marked with depravity. They possess knowledge of almost every vice. The parents are, in a great degree, at fault in this matter…(p. 132.2) One great cause of the feebleness of constitution with which the great body of community is at this day afflicted, may be found in the total ignorance or recklessness of parents and guardians of the laws of health, as applied to those under their care. (p. 90) While all are agreed an improper diet can lead to health problems, it is questionable whether diet affects the morals. White goes beyond Coles on this point, claiming diet can lead children into vice. Other evidence from White's writings shows that her primary concern is regarding children eating substances which caused vice (e.g. eating meat, butter, and eggs). Coles' primary concerns were rich foods and eating between meals leading to health (not moral) problems. There is no evidence that eating meat, butter, and eggs leads to vice. Hence, half credit for White, full credit for Coles.
Health Principle 15: Drugs are dangerous
I was shown that more deaths have been caused by drug-taking than from all other causes combined. If there was in the land one physician in the place of thousands, a vast amount of premature mortality would be prevented. Multitudes of physicians, and multitudes of drugs, have cursed the inhabitants of the earth, and have carried thousands and tens of thousands to untimely graves. (p. 133.1) …drugs…push you into the grave. (p. 177)
[Note: The whole theme of Cole's book is summed up in the title, which reads in part: "HEALTH CURE WITHOUT DRUGS"]
Taking drugs or medicines in the 1800s was a risky business. Some medicines, such as Quinine, were beneficial in cases of Malaria. Other drugs included toxic substances and could lead to fatal results. Overall, drugs in the nineteenth century did not have a high success rate, so credit to White and Coles.
Health Principle 16: Nature can heal better than drugs
Nature was doing her best to rid the system of an accumulation of impurities, and could she have been left to herself, aided by the common blessings of Heaven, such as pure air and pure water, a speedy and safe cure would have been effected. (p. 133.2) …in more than nine cases out of ten Nature will remove the difficulty without the aid of any kind of medicine. It is the most consummate quackery to prescribe medicine to cure a disease… (p. 170) Credit will be given to White and Coles because many drugs during the 1800s were ineffective or downright dangerous, although there were some drugs, such as Quinine, that were quite effective and saved countless lives from Malaria.
Health Principle 17: Water can be an effective natural remedy
But many have never experienced the beneficial effects of water, and are afraid to use one of Heaven's greatest blessings. Water has been refused persons suffering with burning fevers, through fear that it would injure them. If, in their fevered state, water had been given them to drink freely, and applications had also been made externally…(p. 136.2) A fresh-water bath is unquestionably the best where a fever…exists. (p. 120)
Water may be used in all feverish actions of the general system, or of parts of it. (p. 197)
Water-treatment can be effective in reducing fever.
Health Principle 18: Strychnine is dangerous
A branch was presented before me bearing large flat seeds. Upon it was written, Nux vomica, strychnine. Beneath was written, No antidote. I was shown persons under the influence of this poison. … If taken immoderately, convulsions, paralysis, insanity, and death, are often the results. Many use this deadly evil in small quantities. But if they realized its influence, not one grain of it would be introduced into the system. (p. 138.1) [No specific comment by Coles regarding strychnine, although he condemned drugs in general] Although White was correct about strychnine, her vision was wrong about "no antidote" because there are several antidotes. While Coles never mentions this specific drug, the theme of his entire book is anti-drug, so we must give him at least partial credit for denouncing drugs in general, if not this particular drug.
Health Principle 19: Opium is dangerous
I was shown that the innocent, modest-looking, white poppy yields a dangerous drug. Opium is a slow poison, when taken in small quantities. In large doses it produces lethargy and death. Its effects upon the nervous system are ruinous. (p. 138.3) The most violent poisons…opium..are not harmless; they expose their consumers to premature sickness, old age, and death. (p. 80) Opium is highly addictive and may lead to chemical imbalances in the brain.
Health Principle 20: Mercury, Calomel, and Quinine are dangerous
Mercury, calomel, and quinine have brought their amount of wretchedness, which the day of God alone will fully reveal. (p. 139.2) [No specific comment by Coles regarding any of these drugs, although he condemned drugs in general] Mercury and Calomel are essentially the same substance, since Calomel is Mercurous Chloride. There is no doubt mercury is poisonous. Quinine, on the other hand, was a beneficial drug that saved countless lives from malaria. Because of White's condemnation of the drug, some SDA missionaries refused to take it, and paid for that choice with their lives. Therefore, we can only give White partial credit. Once again, Coles never mentions mercury or quinine in particular, but the theme of his entire book is anti-drug, so we must give him partial credit for denouncing drugs in general.
Health Principle 21: Pores of the skin should be kept clean
Strict habits of cleanliness should be observed. … Impurities are constantly and imperceptibly passing from the body, through the pores of the skin, and if the surface of the skin is not kept in a healthy condition, the system is burdened with impure matter. (p. 140.2) Every person ought to be accustomed to periodical, or, at least, occasional bathing. The pores of the skin are likely to become chocked and impervious without it. …when the skin is thus coated, the whole system is affected by it. (p. 119) Medical science generally agrees upon the importance of keeping the skin clean.
Health Principle 22: Sleeping rooms should be well ventilated
Sleeping rooms especially should be well ventilated, and the atmosphere made healthy by light and air. Blinds should be left open several hours each day, the curtains put aside, and the room thoroughly aired. (p. 142.3) Another important matter, is living and sleeping in apartments well ventilated. … a window, or door, or both, should be opened in winter, as wells as in summer. (p. 191) This was probably more relevant to the 1800s when heating devices could lead to a build-up of impure air in the home. Even today, however, most medical professionals would agree that fresh air is important.
Health Principle 23: Bathing is healthful
Upon rising in the morning, most persons would be benefited by taking a sponge-bath, or, if more agreeable, a hand-bath, with merely a wash-bowl of water. (p. 143.3) Every person ought to be accustomed to periodical, or, at least, occasional bathing. (p. 119) Regular bathing is recommended by the medical community.
Health Principle 24: Shrubs and trees are bad around the home
Shade trees and shrubbery too close and dense around a house are unhealthy; for they prevent a free circulation of air, and prevent the rays of the sun from shining sufficiently through. (p. 144.1) [Not mentioned by Coles] If one were to believe Ellen White, then the Garden of Eden must have been an unhealthy place! Shrubbery and trees not only beautify the home, but provide a rich source of fresh oxygen and positively charged ions. Many healthcare professionals recommend plants not only around the house, but also inside the home. Trees provide wonderful shade against the sun's blistering rays. There is no known density of shrubbery which has been proven to be unhealthy.
Health Principle 25: Exercise outdoors
…exercise as much as possible in the open air, It is slow murder for persons to confine themselves days, weeks and months in doors, with but little out-door exercise. (p. 145.3) They do not go out enough and exercise in the open air, expand their lungs, and exercise their limbs. (p. 195) Outdoor exercise is generally considered healthy (so long as outdoor pollution levels are not too high).
Health Principle 26: Eating pork causes leprosy and cancer
It [swine's flesh] would fill the system with humors, and in that warm climate often produced leprosy. (p. 124.1)
The eating of pork has produced scrofula, leprosy and cancerous humors. (p. 146.2)
Scrofula is a disease which is inborn… This is chiefly the product of extensive meat-eating in their progenitors. (p. 164)
If we use good adapted to create cancerous, scrofulous, or any other humors, we run the risk of having such humors develop… (p. 15)
Scientists now know that pigs do not carry leprosy. Therefore, it is impossible for them to transmit leprosy to humans. White and Coles were closer to being accurate when it comes to pork causing cancer. Heavy red meat eating does raise the chances of a person developing colorectal cancers. However, the cause is not the one suggested by Mrs. White. It is a myth to suppose that eating cancerous meat causes cancer in humans. Even when injected with live cancerous organisms, laboratory animals do not develop cancers.
Health Principle 27: Confinement of animals is less healthy
…they are often confined in close stables, and are not permitted to exercise, and to have free circulation of air. Many poor animals are left to breathe the poison of filth …which is left in barns and stables. … Disease is conveyed to the liver, and the entire system of the animal is diseased… (p. 146.3) The process of stall-feeding is a forced and unnatural one, by which the fluids become diseased; and then we eat those diseased fluids. (p. 68) The concept of free-ranging animals is generally considered to be more healthy for the animals and results in better quality meat.
Health Principle 28: Taking animals to market makes their meat unhealthy
Many die of disease caused wholly by meat-eating, yet the world does not seem to be the wiser. Animals are frequently killed that have been driven quite a distance for the slaughter. Their blood has become heated. They are full of flesh, and have been deprived of healthy exercise, and when they have to travel far, they become surfeited, and exhausted, and in that condition are killed for market. Their blood is highly inflamed, and those who eat of their meat, eat poison. Some are not immediately affected, while others are attacked with severe pain, and die from fever, cholera, or some unknown disease. (p. 147.1) But the meat that is given us in the markets is very far from being pure. The very process taken to fit the animals for market, tends to produce a diseased state of their fluids. … Thousands upon thousands of those who have been afflicted with, or have died of fevers, small-pox, cholera, etc., might probably have escaped their deadly influence, if their fluids had not been vitiated by animal food. (p. 68) Coles and White both postulate that the act of driving cattle to market somehow inflames the blood which then poisons the meat, resulting in the deaths of those who eat it. There is no scientific evidence to support this.

Total Score out of 28 possible points:


It should now be apparent the source of White's health reforms in Spiritual Gifts was L.B. Coles. Nearly every health principle promoted by her was also promoted by Coles, and in the few places she differed from Coles, she was wrong more often than right.

If this were a test, Mrs. White would get a grade of a "D" and Coles a "C". In actuality, Mrs. White should get an "F" for cheating from Coles. This disproves the idea that Mrs. White had supernatural assistance in the development of her health writings, because her writings are not even as accurate as the writings she copied from!

Continues to copy from Coles after Spiritual Gifts

Just to prove that Mrs. White continued to use Coles as her primary source of health information throughout the remainder of her career, take a look below at the book Counsels on Diet, a carefully compiled and edited book published by the SDA Church some 23 years after Mrs. White died. In this book we repeatedly find Mrs. White promulgating the same concepts as Coles did in 1851.

Ellen G. White,
Counsels on Diets and Foods
, 1938
Larkin B. Coles,
Philosophy of Health, 1851
A close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. (p. 43.1) Great sympathy exists between the physical and moral nature. (p. 226)
The transgression of physical law is the transgression of God's law. (p. 43.3) To needlessly transgress a law of life, is therefore a violation of the law of God. (p. 211)
Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. (p. 81.2) Living on…the vegetable kingdom, is undoubtedly the most natural and healthy… (p. 52)
Fruits of various kinds are proper articles of diet… (p. 61)
You should avoid the use of drugs…(p. 82.5) …drugs…push you into the grave. (p. 177)
Exercise is important to digestion, and to a healthy condition of body and mind. You need physical exercise. … Neither study nor violent exercise should be engaged in immediately after a full meal… (p. 103.2) Time for exercise has an important connection with digestion, and is indispensable to health. … Just after a meal, they should be at leisure…for at least one hour. (p. 43)
The lungs should be allowed the greatest freedom possible. … A similar effect is produced by tight lacing. . . . (p. 104) Tight lacing…dresses are made too tight…chest should have free room to expand itself, and allow the lungs to fill with air. (p. 192)
Hot drinks are not required, except as a medicine. The stomach is greatly injured by a large quantity of hot food and hot drink. Thus the throat and digestive organs, and through them the other organs of the body, are enfeebled. … the free use of hot drinks is debilitating. (p. 106.2,3) Hot drinks of any kind are objectionable. … They excite by the force of the heat, and then debilitate the stomach. (p. 87)
Food should not be eaten very hot or very cold. If food is cold, the vital force of the stomach is drawn upon in order to warm it before digestion can take place. Cold drinks are injurious for the same reason; (p. 106.3)  
Food should be eaten slowly, and should be thoroughly masticated. This is necessary, in order that the saliva may be properly mixed with the food, and the digestive fluids be called into action. (p. 107.3) When food is taken, it should be thoroughly masticated…chewing causes the food to be mixed with the saliva, which is an important item in the preparation of it for the action of the stomach and its juice. (p. 25)
It would be much better to eat only two or three different kinds of food at a meal than to load the stomach with many varieties. (p. 110.2) The more simple the diet, on the whole the better. Complicated food, especially that which is compounded with various kinds of condiments, is bad… (p. 59)
It is not well to eat fruit and vegetables at the same meal… It is better to have the fruit at one meal, and the vegetables at another. (p. 112.3) As a general rule, fruit should be taken as a part of the regular dinner. Good, ripe fruit, taken in this way, is beneficial to health. (p. 61) [Note: Coles contradicts Ellen White on this point]
But the sugar and the milk combined are liable to cause fermentation in the stomach, and are thus harmful. (p. 113.2)
Wrong habits of eating and drinking destroy the health and prepare the way for drunkenness. (p. 123.3) …a deranged tone and action of that organ [stomach]…prepares the way for other unnatural habits of eating and drinking. (p. 91)
Intemperance in eating, even of healthful food, will have an injurious effect upon the system, and will blunt the mental and moral faculties. (p. 131.5) Intemperance of any kind will deaden the native acuteness of the perceptive organs. Over-eating will not only blunt the vigor of bodily health, but stupefy the intellect. (p. 223)
Indulgence of appetite is the greatest cause of physical and mental debility, and lies at the foundation of a large share of the feebleness which is apparent everywhere. (p. 135.1) Intemperance of any kind will deaden the native acuteness of the perceptive organs. Over-eating will not only blunt the vigor of bodily health, but stupefy the intellect. (p. 223)
Make your breakfast correspond more nearly to the heartiest meal of the day. (p. 173.2)
Many indulge in the pernicious habit of eating just before sleeping hours... If a third meal be eaten at all, it should be light, and several hours before going to bed. (p. 174.1) …no food should be previously taken, in all ordinary cases, within the space of two or three hours… A late supper generally occasions deranged and disturbed sleep. (p. 35)
In most cases, two meals a day are preferable to three. (p. 176.1) For persons having weak stomachs, and many person of sedentary habits, two meals a day, rightly distanced, might be preferable. (p. 36) [NOTE: Coles says two meals is only preferable for the sedentary, but Mrs. White expands that to include "most cases"]
After the regular meal is eaten, the stomach should be allowed to rest for five hours. Not a particle of food should be introduced into the stomach till the next meal. (p. 179.1) No two meals or luncheons should be allowed to come nearer to each other than a distance of at least FIVE HOURS. (p. 89)
Regularity in eating is of vital importance. There should be a specified time for each meal. (p. 179.5) If persons intend to have health, their meals should be regularly timed and distanced. (p. 33)
The well-being of the child will be affected by the habits of the mother. Her appetites and passions are to be controlled by principle. There is something for her to shun, something for her to work against, if she fulfills God's purpose for her in giving her a child. If before the birth of her child she is self-indulgent, if she is selfish, impatient, and exacting, these traits will be reflected in the disposition of the child. Thus many children have received as a birthright almost unconquerable tendencies to evil. (p. 217) A child, after birth…will give a living illustration of the feelings and immediate character of his mother during the period of her pregnancy. If the mother, during that period…indulge a gloomy, evil-foreboding state of mind, her child will give proof of it in after life. If she indulge a peevish, or fretful, or crying disposition, her child will give her ample testimony to the fact after birth. (p. 88-89)
Diseased children are born because of the gratification of appetite by the parents. (p. 220.3) By the unlawful course of parents in regard to themselves, the children suffer disease and premature death. (p. 144)
The mother who permits her child to be nourished by another should consider well what the result may be. To a greater or less degree the nurse imparts her own temper and temperament to the nursing child. (p. 226.3) …if it [the child] can draw its first nourishment from the fountain which the Author of its being has provided, it is better. (p. 92)
The character also of the child is more or less affected by the nature of the nourishment received from the mother. How important then that the mother, while nursing her infant, should preserve a happy state of mind, having the perfect control of her own spirit. By thus doing, the food of the child is not injured... (p. 228.2) The physical appetites, mental inclinations, and moral feelings, in a very large degree, are enstamped on the character of children so deeply in this way, that they may remain visible in all after life. (p. 90)
By the use of tea and coffee, an appetite is formed for tobacco, and this encourages the appetite for liquors. (p. 233.3) Thus, alcohol prepares the way for tobacco, and tobacco for alcohol. (p. 232)
Bread is the real staff of life, and therefore every cook should excel in making it. (p. 315.3) Bread may, with scientific exactness, be called "the staff of life." (p. 54)
The use of soda or baking powder in breadmaking is harmful and unnecessary. Soda causes inflammation of the stomach and often poisons the entire system. (p. 316.2)
When hot, or new, raised bread of any kind is difficult of digestion. It should never appear on the table. (p. 316.4) Hot bread, just from the oven, should never be ate till it has cooled and parted with its heated gases, which are hurtful to the stomach. (p. 60)
The stomach has not power to convert poor, heavy, sour bread into good food; but this poor bread will convert a healthy stomach into a diseased one. (p. 317.5)
Fine-flour bread cannot impart to the system the nourishment that you will find in the unbolted-wheat bread. (p. 320.2) Bread made of flour has a tendency to constipate them. But…bread mad of wheat meal, have a tendency to open them… (p. 31)
All wheat flour is not best for a continuous diet. A mixture of wheat, oatmeal, and rye would be more nutritious than the wheat with the nutrifying properties separated from it. (p. 321.1)
Sugar is not good for the stomach. It causes fermentation, and this clouds the brain and brings peevishness into the disposition. (p. 327.1) …sugar is too nutritious, i.e., too much nutrition in a given quantity, to be used alone as a meal; the digestive organs would soon break down with such an encumbrance. But sugar is a good article of diet… (p. 60) [NOTE: Unlike White, Coles regarded sugar as a "good" food]
Sweet cakes, sweet puddings, and custards will disorder the digestive organs; and why should we tempt those who surround the table by placing such articles before them? (p. 332.4) Complicated food…is bad; such as rich puddings, cake, and pastry of various sorts. (p. 59)
Cakes, sweet puddings, pastries, jellies, jams, are active causes of indigestion. Especially harmful are the custards and puddings in which milk, eggs, and sugar are the chief ingredients. (p. 333.3) Mince-pies, wedding-cake, and plum-puddings…should never be introduced into the human stomach. (p. 59) [Note: Coles did not forbid jellies and jam]
Plain, simple pie may serve as dessert… (p. 333.5)
[Note: This contradicts her 1864 statement forbidding "pie"]
Condiments are injurious in their nature. Mustard, pepper, spices, pickles, and other things of a like character, irritate the stomach and make the blood feverish and impure. (p. 339.3) The taking of condiments…is a crime against the stomach. …pepper and ginger and spice and mustard. All these are as truly destructive to its tone and healthy action…(p. 180)
The mince pies and the pickles, which should never find a place in any human stomach, will give a miserable quality of blood. (p. 345.3) Cucumbers [pickles]...should never be eaten. Mince-pies…should never be introduced into the human stomach. (p. 59)
The salads are prepared with oil and vinegar, fermentation takes place in the stomach, and the food does not digest, but decays or putrefies; as a consequence, the blood is not nourished, but becomes filled with impurities, and liver and kidney difficulties appear. (p. 345.6)
Butter is less harmful when eaten on cold bread than when used in cooking; but, as a rule, it is better to dispense with it altogether. (p. 349.3)
You place upon your tables butter, eggs, and meat, and your children partake of them. They are fed with the very things that will excite their animal passions, and then you come to meeting and ask God to bless and save your children. How high do your prayers go? (p. 366.2) flesh…excites the animal propensities to increased activity…it excites the animal passions. (p. 65-66) [Note: Coles only condemns meat, but White adds butter and eggs]
Cheese should never be introduced into the stomach. (p. 368.4)
Vegetables, fruits, and grains should compose our diet. Not an ounce of flesh meat should enter our stomachs. The eating of flesh is unnatural. We are to return to God's original purpose in the creation of man. (p. 380.2) Flesh-eating is certainly not NECESSARY to health or strength… (p. 64) Those who choose to eat flesh should take it only at dinner, and be satisfied with only one kind…The objections against eating flesh are, however, less forcible in the case of laborers than of those of intellectual and sedentary habits. (p. 71) [Note: Coles opposed meat-eating, but for non-sedentary laborers who chose to eat it, he recommended it once a day at dinner.]
A diet of flesh meat tends to develop animalism. A development of animalism lessens spirituality, rendering the mind incapable of understanding truth. (p. 382.3) One objection to eating…animal food lies in the fact that it increases the proportion of our animalism. (p. 65)
The common use of the flesh of dead animals has had a deteriorating influence upon the morals, as well as the physical institution. (p. 383.3) The objections, then, against meat-eating are three-fold: intellectual, moral, and physical. (p. 71)
The liability to take disease is increased tenfold by meat eating. (p. 386.4) Eating largely of meats tends, undoubtedly, not only to engender disease…. (p. 70)
Cancers, tumors, and all inflammatory diseases are largely caused by meat eating. (p. 388.1)
From the light God has given me, the prevalence of cancer and tumors is largely due to gross living on dead flesh. (p. 388.2)
Take the great many cases which require treatment for a humor, and it will generally be found that the individuals thus affected were…large eaters of flesh. Even the cancer can generally be traced back…to such an origin. (p. 67)
Those who use flesh meats freely, do not always have an unclouded brain and an active intellect, because the use of the flesh of animals tends to cause a grossness of body, and to benumb the finer sensibilities of the mind. (p. 389.1) …eating much flesh tends to diminish the intellectual activity… When we increase the proportion of our animal nature, we oppress the intellectual. (p. 66)
Swine's flesh above all other flesh meats, produces a bad state of the blood. Those who eat freely of pork can but be diseased. (p. 392.3) Swine's flesh--that worst of all flesh for eating… (p. 52)
Food should not be washed down; no drink is needed with meals. Eat slowly, and allow the saliva to mingle with the food. The more liquid there is taken into the stomach with the meals, the more difficult it is for the food to digest; for the liquid must first be absorbed. (p. 420.1) One or two common tea-cups of any kind of drink, taken with our meals, is sufficient. If we take more, it injures the digestive process. (p. 87) [Note: Coles is not quite so strict on drinking with meals as Mrs. White]
Tea, coffee, and tobacco are all stimulating, and contain poisons. They are not only unnecessary, but harmful, and should be discarded if we would add to knowledge temperance. (p. 420.2) The coffees and the teas…as well as that most deadly of all poisons in popular use, tobacco, should be rejected. (p. 229)
Never take tea, coffee, beer, wine, or any spirituous liquors. (p. 421.3) The essences of tea, and coffee, and alcohol…can never be converted into blood… (p. 33)
Through the use of stimulants, the whole system suffers. The nerves are unbalanced, the liver is morbid in its action, the quality and circulation of the blood are affected, and the skin becomes inactive and sallow. The mind, too, is injured. The immediate influence of these stimulants is to excite the brain to undue activity, only to leave it weaker and less capable of exertion. The aftereffect is prostration, not only mental and physical, but moral. (p. 422.3) And not only are these physical functions injured, but the mental forces also; for the nervous system is the connecting medium…hence the wretched economy of all stimulants and narcotics on the nerves. The injury done to the electrical [nerve] forces by the use of such agents as the habitual use of tea, coffee, alcohol, opium, and tobacco…is far greater than is generally supposed. (p. 13)
These stimulants produce a diseased action and excitement of the heart and arteries. (p. 16)
…it gives the skin a dead, dull, sallow appearance. (p. 79)
When these tea and coffee users meet together for social entertainment, the effects of their pernicious habit are manifest. All partake freely of the favorite beverages, and as the stimulating influence is felt, their tongues are loosened. (p. 423.1) See a party of ladies…soon come the tea…the tongue is let loose… (p. 82)
Tea and coffee drinking is a sin, an injurious indulgence, which, like other evils, injures the soul. These darling idols create an excitement, a morbid action of the nervous system…. (p. 425.3) Depression of spirits and melancholy are greatly increased, if not wholly produced, by unnatural stimulants on the nervous system. … Every drop, therefore, of tea or coffee should be strictly prohibited. (p. 187)
I was shown that the whole human structure is affected by this [flesh meat] diet, that by it man strengthens the animal propensities and the appetite for liquor. (p. 487) Eating largely of meats tends…to make a demand for stimulating drinks. (p. 70)


So where are the "numerous" health principles not espoused by other reformers? We only looked at a single reformer--Larkin B. Coles--and yet it is obvious that Mrs. White only had a few health principles not mentioned by Coles. Of those few that did not derive from Coles, their source can frequently be located amongst other health reformers. For example, several of the statements above made by Ellen White regarding bread can be derived from Sylvester Graham's 1837 book, Bread Making.4

Having examined all of this evidence, we will close with Dr. Brand's statement:

"The accuracy of her health principles cannot be derived from any human source available anytime during her lifetime."


And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (2 Thes. 2:11)

See also


1. Leonard Brand, Ph.D., College and University Dialogue, "Ellen White and her Critics", http://dialogue.adventist.org/articles/17_2_brand_e.htm, extracted Sep. 20, 2009.

2. Ibid.

3. Stephen Byrnes, M.D., "The Myths of Vegetarianism", Nexus Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 3, Apr-May 2002.

4. Examples taken from Sylvester Graham:

Ellen G. White,
Counsels on Diets and Foods, 1938
Sylvester Graham,
Bread Making, 1837
Fine-flour bread cannot impart to the system the nourishment that you will find in the unbolted-wheat bread. (p. 320.2) ...that which is made of superfine flour is always far less wholesome...that that which is made of wheaten meal. (p. 51)
The use of soda or baking powder in breadmaking is harmful and unnecessary. (316.2) Happy are they who can make good light and sweet bread...without employing saleratus, soda, or any other kind of alkali. (p. 86)
It is a religious duty for every Christian girl and woman to learn at once to make good, sweet, light bread from unbolted wheat flour. Mothers should take their daughters into the kitchen with them when very young, and teach them the art of cooking. (316.1) ...[Mothers] consider it of exceedingly great importance, that their daughters should possess this accomplishment [bread-making]... (p. 116)
Bread should be light and sweet. Not the least taint of sourness should be tolerated. (316.4) ...good, light, sweet, well-baked bread...delicate sweetness... (p. 87)

Category: Health Teachings
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