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Can Faith Help Curb a Health Crisis

A new study from Johns Hopkins University estimates that if current trends continue, by 2015, 75 percent of adults in the United States will be overweight and 41 percent will be obese. The team of researchers arrived at these estimates after looking at national surveys and health journal studies that examine current nutritional and health trends. In 2003 and 2004, 66 percent of U.S. adults were either overweight or medically obese. One member of the research team told MSNBC, “Obesity is likely to continue to increase, and if nothing is done, it will soon become the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”

Some would argue that there is a Christian response to good health. A recent study found that a whopping 85 percent of doctors believe that religion contributes to positive physical outcomes in patients. They polled more than 1,000 doctors and and found that just 1 percent said they believe religious faith and spirituality have a negative effect. A small majority, 54 percent, believes God intervenes to help patients. Regardless of their belief in supernatural intervention, many doctors have observed a positive outlook in religious patients. And though many believe that faith may be beneficial for sick individuals—which would point toward a direct link between faith and health—does the findings about America’s obesity epidemic warrant lifestyle changes among Christians?

Many believers point to a verse in 1 Corinthians when arguing for healthy habits. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (6:19–20, TNIV). But despite how one interprets this verse, the link between physical health and spiritual wellness has been observed by others outside the medical doctors polled in the study. In his column, Faith and Fitness Magazine editor Brad Blood writes, “[Health professionals] say, ‘We know how to gain proper nutrition and cut cholesterol levels. We can help people achieve greater muscular strength and improved stability. We understand what it takes to reduce the risks of disease and increase endurance. We have very good science that works. BUT—we also know that until a person’s spiritual needs are being met, the physical science will not have a complete and lasting impact.’” Even a recent story in Men’s Health magazine noted the negative health effects of harboring aggression, another link between spiritual/mental wellness and overall health. And though doctors have noted various links to health and habits (everything from depression to entertaining television shows), the answers to a healthy lifestyle may actually start with spiritual growth and biblical principles of moderation.

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