The Macrobiotic diet can sometimes be suggested to cancer patients by well-meaning friends and family, who have heard reports of it curing cancer in the press.

Going through cancer treatment is an emotional and stressful time, and patients can be willing to try anything that will help. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is it?

The Macrobiotic diet was created was developed and promoted by Michio Kushi and is based on concepts of the Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa The diet is based on ancient Eastern concepts of yin and yang, with the idea of balancing the effects of the foods eaten to adjust to the changes that occur in the body as we age.  Foods are classified as yin or yang depending on their effects on the body.

The diet emphasises the importance of vegetables, sea vegetables, beans and whole grains, which are seen as having the least yin and yang properties, making balance easier. Foods which are extremely yin or yang, such as animal products and processed foods are discouraged. Those who support the diet promote a flexible approach that will allow dairy, fish, or other additions as needed. For the most part it is a diet leaning heavily towards veganism.

Health Claims

The George Ohsawa foundation list the common benefits reported include everything from better sleep, less anger and better memory. They also report than many find relief from all illnesses, including cancer, however they do not provide any scientific proof of this.

Evidence

Evidence for the Macrobiotic Diet was reviewed by researchers in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. They concluded that there was insufficient evidence to rate the Macrobiotic Diet for many of it’s health claims. They did note that there was some research linking the Macrobiotic Diet to B12 deficiency, due to it’s lack of animal products. Deficiency in protein, B12, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D and calcium have been noted in infants who have followed the diet when compared to a standard diet, meaning that it is considered unsafe for children to follow due to the risk of harm.

A study published in 2016 found that a macrobiotic diet had fewer percentage calories from fat, and was higher in fiber and micronutrients than the average American diet. It was also found to be more anti-inflammatory, which may help in disease prevention.  This is not surprising, as we know that the standard American diet is low in fruits and vegetables, and is high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

While the Macrobiotic Diet may be healthier than the average American diet, there is no proof that it plays a role in helping to cure cancer. In fact, it may contribute to malnourishment if not undertaken correctly.

Cancer patients often have higher requirements for calories and protein than the average American. The Macrobiotic Diet may not provide enough of these key nutrients due to the avoidance of animal products and processed foods, which can play a role in helping to meet nutritional needs during difficult periods.

Conclusion

There are many healthy aspects to the Macrobiotic diet, however there is no evidence to show that it can play a role in cancer prevention or treatment. It also has the potential to cause nutrient deficiencies if not monitored by a qualified dietitian.

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