Air quality must not have much to do with a long life if people in Loma Linda are living so long. The air there is horrible.
LOMA LINDA, Calif. — In this small city, home to a large Seventh-day Adventist community, the average lifespan goes well past 80, and it has one of the highest rates of longevity in the world according to some estimates.
When researchers descended on this affluent city east of Los Angeles several years ago to determine why, the theories piled up: Perhaps it was the vegetarian diet kept by many Adventists? Maybe it was their close communal ties? Or the frequent use of sprawling trails in the parks here?
But one thing seemed certain to researchers: residents were not living into the next century by eating fast food.
So last week, when the City Council approved Loma Linda’s first McDonald’s restaurant, many residents bemoaned the decision, worrying that the officials were jeopardizing the city’s reputation as a paragon of healthy lifestyles.
Wayne Dysinger, a physician and public health professor in the preventive medicine department at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine, grew up in the city and remembers a time when there were no such restaurants. A generation ago, it was nearly impossible to even find meat within city limits. Now, he worries about his children.
“We know from research that if a school is near a fast-food restaurant, the kids there are more likely to be obese,” he said. “We will never eliminate unhealthy choices, and pretty much everyone has an unhealthy treat once in a while. I am going to drive by that intersection every day and it’s fairly likely that they will say ‘Oh Daddy, can we stop there’ more often. Why do we need to encourage that?”
The new McDonald’s restaurant would hardly be the first fast-food joint around — there are already a handful of places offering assembly-line burgers and fries within the eight square miles of the city. And the area has deep roots to the icon that so many residents detest: the site of the original McDonald’s restaurant is less than five miles away, in San Bernardino.
Still, in one sign of Loma Linda’s historical distaste for fast food, restaurants are required to go through a special approval process for drive-through windows. Once, when business proved slightly sluggish, a local chain crafted a special vegetarian menu dubbed “Loma Linda specials.”