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macrobiotic

A type of diet characterized by optimizing the balance of yin and yang. George Ohsawa (1893-1966) started the macrobiotic movement with the publication of his Zen Macrobiotics in 1965. Michio Kushi popularized the movement in the United States. The basics of the diet promoted by Kushi were established by Sagen Ishizuka, a 19th century Japanese army doctor, although a German physician, Christoph Hufeland, published a book on preventive medicine which he called Macrobiotik in the late 18th century.*

Ishizuka claimed that foods have yinness and yangness, and that a proper diet balances yin and yang. Ohsawa makes such claims as that schizophrenia is a yin disease and one who is so afflicted should drink yang fluids. Kushi makes such claims as that cancer "is the body's own defense mechanism to protect itself against long-term dietary and environmental abuse." How he knows this is a mystery. There is no reputable evidence that a macrobiotic diet is beneficial for cancer patients. The only reports of efficacy (for cancer) are testimonials by patients, many of whom received traditional medical treatment, according to the American Cancer Society.*

If a macrobiotic diet is healthy it is by accident, since foods are selected not for their physical or nutritional qualities, but for their metaphysical properties. Or, it is quite likely that many people, like its founders, improve physically on the diet not for what they take in but for what they discontinue, such as refined foods, meat, milk, and other animal products. All assignment of metaphysical properties to foods is arbitrary, but may be based on sympathetic magic.

The macrobiotic diet consists mainly of whole grains, vegetables, and beans.

See also alternative health practice.

reader comments

further reading

books

Barrett, Stephen and William T. Jarvis. eds. The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America(Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993).

Raso, Jack. Mystical Diets : Paranormal, Spiritual, and Occult Nutrition Practices (Consumer Health Library) (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993).

websites

Quackwatch on macrobiotics

A Kushi Seminar for Professionals (1989) Jack Raso, M.S., R.D.

Macrobiotic and Zen diets British Columbia Cancer Agency

The History of Macrobiotics

Last updated 19-Dec-2013

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