This is a special diet and nutritional philosophy which is based in traditional Chinese medicine, and which is primarily practiced in Japan and the USA. The diet has the objective of maintaining the energy values of fresh, whole foods in balance, to ensure that the Qi force important for life is maximized. Macrobiotics means “magnificent life”
Macrobiotic theories were introduced in the US by George Ohsawa (1893-1966) a Japanese teacher who studied the writings of the physician Sagen Ishizuka (1850-1910). Ohsawa is said to have cured himself from a serious illness, by changing his usual diet to a simple traditional Japanese diet (brown rice, miso soup, sea vegetables and other traditional dishes). He developed the macrobiotic philosophy by combining western and eastern elements.
In the 70s and 80s there were changes in the focus and content of the macrobiotic movement, which to a great extent were introduced by Michio Kushi who emigrated to the USA from Japan in 1949. Kushi and other leaders of the macrobiotic movement adhered to some of Ohsawa’s elements, but at the same time they introduced a variety of more complex components into the macrobiotic philosophy. The macrobiotic standard diet was developed, which Kushi described in 1983 in his book: The Cancer Prevention diet. According to the macrobiotic teachings of Kushi, cancer is caused by nutritional factors, environmental/social factors, and personal factors. He writes that cancer is not the result of extraterrestrial influences over which we have no control, rather it is the result of our daily behavior, including our thinking, our lifestyle, and what we eat daily.
50-60% of the daily diet includes boiled organically grown grain (e.g. brown rice, barley, millet, rye, wheat, buckwheat, etc.).
5-10% soups (app. 1-2 large cups daily with vegetables, grains or beans, seasoned with miso or Tamari soy sauce)
25-30% should be local, biologically produced vegetables (e.g. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, carrots, etc.)
5-10% in the form of different types of beans.
Occasionally fresh fish (flounder, snapper, trout) as well as local biologically grown fruits and nuts can be eaten. Foods to avoid are: Meat and poultry, animal fat, eggs, dairy products, refined sugar, chocolate, molasses, honey, soft drinks, artificial drinks, aromatic or stimulating types of tea, coffee, all artificial colorings, preservatives, injected or chemically treated food products, all processed or polished grains and flours, canned food, frozen food products, hot spices and alcohol.
The therapy first determines whether Yin or Yang dominates the illness. This is determined by the locality of the primary tumor in the body and the locality of the tumor in a specific organ. Then a diet is selected to return this state of imbalance to equilibrium. Different cooking instructions are prescribed depending on the type of illness.
In one study Carter and colleagues compared the survival time of 23 patients with pancreatic cancer who were given a macrobiotic diet, and comparable patients who were given conventional therapies. The authors reached the conclusion that average survival time significantly longer in the macrobiotic group. (Source: Carter, Saxe & Newbold, 1990, Tulane University, New Orleans/USA)
Personal opinion: Certainly the macrobiotic diet is a comtemporary theory of modern nutrition. Unfortunately there is insufficient data relative to cancer patients, so that cancer patients are better advised to rely on the oil protein diet or the Gerson diet. This is not a negative comment assessement of the macrobiotic diet, it is just an assessment based on the available data.