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Vibrant Life Magazine Marks 125 Years

By Kim Peckham

Eggs tainted with disease cause a nation to panic. Research shows that secondhand tobacco smoke is more dangerous than previously thought. Alcohol abuse turns movie star Lindsay Lohan into a punch line for late-night comics. Meanwhile, Adventists can say, “We warned you about all that a long time ago.”

In 1885, the editor of Signs of the Times launched a different kind of outreach magazine—one that focused on the church’s new health message. He firmly believed that his denomination had been given the secrets of good health and a long life. “Very much of the sickness of every age is unnecessary,” wrote a confident Waggoner in the first issue of the Pacific Health Journal and Temperance Advocate. “Correct habits of living would prevent most of it.”

The magazine that would eventually be named Vibrant Life spoke loudly about the dangers of eating pork, the evils of alcohol, and the perils of tobacco. Waggoner showed a kind of table-pounding passion for his subject that is normally reserved for political blogs. At one point he ridicules the idea of tapering off of smoking as being equivalent to tapering off of horse stealing.

The magazine also took time to skewer the fashions of the age, especially women’s corsets. It had advice for people suffering from poor digestion, and you could find advertisements offering to ship eight pounds of granola to your door for less than a buck.

Many health concerns that people had a century ago, such as the problem of sleeping in damp beds, seem to have faded away. Others are timeless. The subject of being overweight comes up year after year. In 1906 a reader wrote for advice on what to do because they were growing “fleshy.”

The magazine’s name was changed to Life and Health, and its popularity grew. By the 1940s an army of Adventists sold copies door-to-door, raising the circulation to 250,000. Wartime rationing resulted in a wave of interest in coffee and meat substitutes. One ad for Loma Linda Foods claimed that their Gluten Stakes were “so meatlike that they fooled a butcher.” Strangely, readers were not given the name of the butcher.

Vibrant Life promotes the same principles that it did 125 years ago, but they seem as fresh as the evening news. When Adventists share the magazine, their friends and relatives are surprised with how pertinent the articles are to their health problems. Sometimes an interest is sparked in deeper spiritual truths.

“Health and diet trends come and go,” says editor Heather Quintana. “But our health message continues to amaze people with its enduring power and relevancy. It is a gift to have this understanding of God’s design for the mind, body, and spirit.”

Find out how you can share the gift of our health message with your friends by visiting