The Amish are well-known for their horse-drawn buggies and aversion to modern technology or clothing. But what many people don’t realize about the Amish is that their population is minimally affected by cancer, according to a new study. The study was published in the Cancer Causes and Control journal and showed that cancer rates among these yesteryear people were significantly lower than the cancer rates of the average population.
A study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute originally set out to study cancer rates among the Ohio Amish population, thinking results would show an increased occurrence of cancer, due to the community’s overall avoidance of modern medicine. The study instead found that cancer rates were lower, likely due to the lifestyle of the Amish. Because Amish tend to avoid tobacco, alcohol, and processed foods, researchers surmised that this lifestyle contributed to the reduced occurrence of cancer among the population.
Another important aspect of the Amish lifestyle that contrasts significantly to the lifestyle of the average adult is the amount of physical labor the Amish partake in. Building, growing, harvesting, and producing for themselves the various items needed for life, from houses to vegetables, the Amish are physically working every day; they are not stuck inside an office building staring at a screen like most of us. With the rising concern about sedentary lifestyles and its relation to obesity and cancer, it really is no surprise that the Amish community has lower cancer rates.
Not a factor studied by the research group from Ohio, but one that is obviously related, is the fact that the Amish grow all of their own food sources. Everything is natural and no pesticides or artificial fertilizers are used. Cows are not fed GMO-laden grain and their chickens are not pumped full of antibiotics. Their produce is not sprayed with harmful chemicals, nor is any of their food combined with artificial colorings or preservatives.
It is also interesting to note that the Amish people live a life that is much less defined by stress and deadlines than the hustle-bustle world many of us live in. Taking the findings of this study one step further, one may insinuate that the lack of technology also contributes to the reduced cancer rates. Perhaps we should consider unplugging a little more often and winding down in some other manner, maybe by reading a book or just chatting with our neighbors.
While not entirely conclusive on its own, this study is certainly very interesting. It gives more weight to many of the other hypotheses out there that point to our personal environments (stress, alcohol, the food we eat, lack of exercise, etc.) as the main culprit behind the rise in cancer diagnoses. It may just be time to take a page out of the Amish book and begin living a simpler, healthier lifestyle.