Macrobiotic Diet

Author: James Metz, MD
Content Contributor: Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Reviewed: November 01, 2001

Various dietary regimens have been promoted for both the prevention and treatment of cancer. The macrobiotic diet was first described by George Ohsawa (1893-1966). He developed a diet consisting of 10 stages, with each stage more restrictive than the previous stage. The final stage consisted of only rice and water. The American Medical Association and various governmental health agencies opposed the macrobiotic diet due to its restrictive nature. In fact, there were a number of reports of health problems and even deaths.

The diet has subsequently been modified and is regaining popularity in the United States. It generally consists of 50-60% whole grains, 20-25% vegetables, 5-10% beans and sea vegetables, and 5% soups. Some variations of the diet allow small amounts of fish. There may be variations on the diet depending on the disease process.

The Kushi Institute is a strong proponent of the macrobiotic diet. The Institute is based in Massachusetts and teaches the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle. It recommends specific foods for the individual cancer patient. There have been numerous testimonials supporting the effectiveness of the macrobiotic diet in battling cancer. However, there have not been any controlled studies evaluating the Kushi Institutes' methods. The basic cost of the one week program is $1495 which includes the program, meals, and a room. Private counseling sessions are $225 each.

Here are some cautions for the cancer patient regarding the macrobiotic diet:

  • The diet is very rigid and restrictive.
  • Participants may lose significant weight, which can make standard cancer treatments harder to tolerate.
  • Pregnant or nursing women should not use the macrobiotic diet.
  • Children should not be placed on a macrobiotic diet. Kids may not get the required nutrients to support proper growth and development.
  • Avoid any promoters of dietary regimens who advise patients to stop conventional cancer treatments.
  • If you are considering the macrobiotic diet, wait until completion of all conventional cancer treatments. This will allow you to have the full benefit of a proven cancer therapy. Using the macrobiotic diet after conventional therapy is completed may help you regain control of your life.

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