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J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;56(4):1429-1435. doi: 10.3233/JAD-160710.

Chronic Neurodegenerative Illnesses and Epilepsy in Danish Adventists and Baptists: A Nationwide Cohort Study.

Author information

National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Clinical Department of Neurology, Glostrup Hospital, Glostrup, Denmark.
Survivorship, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Research Unit of General Practice, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.
Oncology Clinic, Finsen Center, 5073 Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Limited knowledge of the influence of lifestyle risk factors and religious living on chronic neurological diseases exists. Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) do not consume tobacco, alcohol, or pork, and many adhere to lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, and Baptists discourage excessive use of alcohol and tobacco.


We investigated whether the incidence of four common chronic neurological illnesses: dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy in a large cohort of Danish Adventists and Baptists was different compared to the general Danish population. Three of the illnesses are neurodegenerative, whereas epilepsy can occur at any age.


We compared hospital admission rates for some major neurological diseases among members of the Danish Religious Societies Health Study comprising 6,532 SDA and 3,720 Baptists with the general Danish population. Standardized incidence ratios (SIR) stratified by sex, age, and calendar time were calculated.


SIR of dementia or Alzheimer's disease was significantly decreased for members of both communities (SDA, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.67-#x2013;0.90 and Baptists, 0.59; 0.47-#x2013;0.73). The SIRs of Parkinson's disease and epilepsy were not significantly different compared to the general population.


We observe reduced incidence for dementia or Alzheimer's disease in a large cohort of members of two religious communities characterized by lifestyle recommendations. More studies are needed to disentangle the interaction between such lifestyle and other components of the religious belief system.


Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; cognitive disorders; cohort study; epidemiology; epilepsy

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