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Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer

Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer

A macrobiotic diet consists of eating natural foods mostly made up of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. There have been many studies done that prove this kind of diet has health benefits. The macrobiotic diet also includes exercise and having a positive mental outlook. Macrobiotic diets have been around for a very long time, but have only gained popularity in the United States in the last 10 years.  The connection between the macrobiotic diet and cancer in particular has gained ground in the thinking of many.


Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer Research

While there have been many documented cases of people claiming that they were saved from cancer by a macrobiotic diet there is not enough scientific evidence to prove them correct. In an attempt to prove the effects of macrobiotics on cancer there was a study proposed in 1986 whose funding the American Institute for Cancer Research turned down because it did not believe that it would lead to tangible results.

After securing private funding, the study began by sending out surveys to patients of Michio Kushi, the humanist who can be considered the pioneer of the macrobiotics diet concept in the 1950s. He believes that cancer patients can be treated with non-traditional methods using macrobiotic diets.  The results of the survey showed that out of the 336 patients that were considered, half were still alive and the same half had received a macrobiotic diet alongside traditional cancer treatments.

Most respondents said they had an increased tolerance to chemotherapy and overall feeling of well-being. All respondents said that the macrobiotic diet was responsible for their feeling better. Although the results of this research could not definitively say one way or the other the true benefits of macrobiotics due to lack of true scientific data, the study did indicate that most cancer patients appeared to benefit from the diet in conjunction with traditional treatment. The results also indicated that most people found some resistance from their doctors over pursuing such a diet.

Another study was attempted at Tulane University in about the same year. In this study people that had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had attempted a macrobiotic diet were surveyed. In this study a very small amount of the people responded to the request to be surveyed. The biggest problem with this study was, once again, the lack of scientific evidence that the macrobiotic diet had anything to do with their survival.

Researchers in Pennsylvania looked at the case histories of six cancer patients to study the effects of macrobiotics on cancer.  An independent panel of doctors, both traditional and non-traditional, reviewed the cases. In every case the patients had followed a macrobiotic diet and had survived their cancer. The independent panel reviewed each case, but despite their efforts, could never say for sure if the diet was connected with the survival of the patients. While macrobiotics was given credit for some of the survival, it could never be proven without a shadow of a doubt that macrobiotics was the underlying cause. In every case there was something else that could have caused the positive results.

A study in 1996 never took off because of lack of funding.


Macrobiotic Diet:  A Victim of Not Being Taken Seriously

Some people have said that the study of the effect of macrobiotics on cancer is a waste of time and money. Today, as we know it in the field of alternative medicine, a proper diet (whether labeled as “macrobiotic” or otherwise) is crucial to the recovery of the cancer patient when used alongside other methods to combat the cancer.  The response of a person to a diet-mediated recovery from cancer has many variables, and is extremely difficult to study scientifically.  But the subtle everyday impact of diet is undeniable for those who have experience leading patients to their recovery from cancer.



1. Sattilaro, A. J. & Monte, T. (1982) Recalled by Life: The Story of My Recovery from Cancer Houghton Mifflin Boston, MA.

2. Kohler, J. C. & Kohler, M. A. (1979) Healing Miracles from Macrobiotics: A Diet for All Diseases Parker Publishing West Nyack, NY.

3. Kushi, M. & Jack, A. (1993) The Cancer Prevention Diet: Michio Kushi’s Macrobiotic Blueprint for the Prevention and Relief of Disease St. Martin’s Press New York, NY.

4. Brown, V. & Stayman, S. (1984) Macrobiotic Miracle: How a Vermont Family Overcame Cancer Japan Publications New York, NY.

5. Faulkner, H. (1993) Physician, Heal Thyself One Peaceful World Press Becket, MA.

6. Nussbaum, E. (1992) Recovery from Cancer Avery Publishing Group Garden City Park, NY.


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