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Numerous anecdotal reports exist of medical conditions improving dramatically on a macrobiotic diet. In addition, some people with serious medical conditions, including cancer and AIDS, try this diet because they have heard it may help cure their disease. To date, such claims have not been substantiated by controlled research.
Although the therapeutic benefits of the macrobiotic approach have not been studied extensively, proponents of the diet point to the results of a 1993 study involving patients with pancreatic cancer. In this study, 52% of those who followed a macrobiotic diet were still alive after one year, compared to only 10% of those who made no dietary changes.
In addition, the macrobiotic diet encompasses many of the dietary elements linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease in other research. The diet is low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in cruciferous vegetables and soy products.
According to macrobiotic proponents, living within the natural order means eating only what is necessary for one’s condition and desires, and learning to adjust in a peaceful way to life’s changes. Learning the effects of different foods allows one to consciously counteract other influences and maintain a healthy, dynamically balanced state.
Many nutrition experts disapprove of the limited number of foods allowed on the macrobiotic diet, but concede that a moderate approach to macrobiotics poses no real harm. However, strict macrobiotic diets can be deficient in calories, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and iron. As a result, this type of diet is not suitable for children or for pregnant or lactating women without appropriate supplementation.
Critics caution that claims that the macrobiotic diet can cure specific diseases—most notably cancer—are to this point unsubstantiated. Until more conclusive research is available on the health benefits of the macrobiotic diet, individuals with serious medical conditions should continue to seek the support of qualified medical providers in conjunction with any dietary changes.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.