This treatment modality is thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health. Macrobiotics should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does macrobiotics therapy involve?
Macrobiotics therapy is a combination of diet, spiritual and social philosophy and a way of healthful living. The macrobiotics philosophy combines elements of Buddhism with dietary principles based on simplicity and avoidance of “toxic” animal products. Although a relatively new therapy, macrobiotics teaches that it is necessary to maintain balance and harmony between two antagonistic but complementary forces, Yin and Yang, a traditional Chinese medicine concept (for more information, see traditional Chinese medicine). The diet, originally termed the "Zen macrobiotic diet," was very restrictive and has since been modified by other practitioners in the macrobiotic movement. The diet consists mainly of whole grains, vegetables and beans with the occasional use of fish and some fruits. Foods not allowed in the diet include coffee, dairy products, eggs, sugar, meats and processed foods. The macrobiotics diet also requires special methods of food preparation such as using only pots, pans and utensils made of certain materials. There is not a single diet for everyone, but rather a diet "principle" that considers different climates, ages, sex, level of activity and changing personal needs.
How is macrobiotics thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health?
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that imbalances of Yin and Yang lead to illness. Therefore, macrobiotics attempts to rebalance Yin and Yang and regain health through diet and a change in lifestyle and life philosophy. The macrobiotics diet can lower fat and cholesterol and, like other fat-reducing diets, may help prevent some cancers that appear to be related to higher fat intake, such as colon cancer. This fat-free diet can also lower blood pressure and reduce the chance of heart disease. Other aspects of the macrobiotics therapy may promote a reduction in stress.
What has been proven about the benefit of macrobiotics?
According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, peer-reviewed research concerning the ability of the macrobiotics diet to cure cancer is currently limited. After an extensive search only three human studies on macrobiotics applicable to cancer were found. None demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that macrobiotics therapy should be viewed as a curative therapy. Macrobiotics is a "lifestyle" approach that can help prevent cancer, promote wellness and optimize health.
What is the potential risk or harm of macrobiotics therapy?
A nutrient, vitamin and calorie restrictive diet can be dangerous for frail cancer patients. The most serious effects occur when the diet is deficient in calories, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, protein and iron. Increased caloric needs to fight illness and recover from treatment may not be met with the macrobiotics diet, which is high in bulk and low in fat. Children on the macrobiotics diet tend to have growth and nutrient deficiencies.
How much does macrobiotics therapy cost?
The cost of consuming a macrobiotics diet is probably comparable to consumption of a typical American diet when all factors are taken into consideration. Higher costs for macrobiotics include the initial setup of a macrobiotics kitchen and special foods. However, eating a macrobiotic diet can decrease costs because of the elimination of meat and poultry and the tendency to dine outside the home.
For additional information:
Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer by Michael Lerner. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998.
The Cancer Prevention Diet by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack. St. Martin's Press, revised edition, 1993.
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030
Telephone: (800) 392-1611
Web site: http://www.mdanderson.org/departments/cimer
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.