Have you ever known about macrobiotic diet? Or you may have heard it as one of the anti-cancer diet? Let's explore more on this topic today.
What is a Macrobiotic Diet?
In simple term, macrobiotic is defined as “long life”, originated from the Greek words macro means large or long, and bio means life. This diet was developed by a Japanese philosopher called George Ohsawa in the 1920s which promotes natural healing. This diet is based on the Eastern philosophy that foods are either in yin(cool) or yang(warm) and certain dietary principles with the goal of balancing spiritual and physical wellness. It is a vegetarian-based diet, which consists largely of whole grains, cereals, plant-based protein, fruits, vegetables, and avoid foods containing toxins such as dairy products and meats.
Principles of Macrobiotic Diet
Macrobiotic diet emphasizes on a high complex carbohydrate and low-fat diet. The food used are recommended to be organic and minimally processed. In general, the diet is made up of:
- 40–60% from whole cereal grains, which includes brown rice, barley, millet, oats, wheat, corn, rye, buckwheat
- 20–30% from vegetables (smaller amounts of raw or pickled vegetables is allowed)
- 5–10% from beans, bean products (tofu, tempeh or natto), sea vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, white-meat fish
- Avoid food such as meat and poultry, animal fats including lard or butter, eggs, dairy products, refined sugars, foods containing artificial sweeteners or other chemical additives, as well as genetically modified foods
#1 Is Macrobiotic Diet Recommended for Cancer Patients?
Dietitian: There is NO FIRM SCIETIFIC EVIDENCE to prove that a macrobiotic diet can cure or treat cancer although it is claimed so. It is considered as strict diet since certain food groups such as dairy and meats are lacking, which are great food sources of protein. You may get the benefits through the increased consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, in addition to reduced intake of fats, sugar and salt. However, it is essential for cancer patients to achieve adequate calorie and protein requirement to support the treatment therapy, avoid from muscle wasting and rapid weight loss and maintain good quality of life.
#2 Is It Safe for Cancer Patient to Practice Macrobiotic Diet?
Dietitian: In general, cancer patients who have undergone treatments may have problems such as decreased appetite, early satiety, unable to digest and absorb their food adequately which put them at risk of developing malnutrition. This diet is high in bulk, low in fat, and consists of mostly plant protein. Therefore, cancer patients with early satiety may expose to the risk of extreme weight loss due to inadequate energy and protein intake, since they need to consume lots of food to achieve adequate nutrition. If this diet is not properly planned to be nutritionally adequate, cancer patients may develop nutrient deficiency. In addition, research has shown that this diet is naturally deficient in calcium and vitamin B12, mainly due to the restriction from dairy products.
In conclusion, there is still lacking scientific evidence on macrobiotic diet as a dietary approach to cure cancer. It necessitates a properly designed clinical trials to confirm on its true benefits. Cancer patients should have healthy and balanced diet which incorporates complex carbohydrates, protein sources, vegetables, fruits and dairy products to maintain optimum nutritional status especially during treatment. It is also essential to manage the symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment which may also lead to compromised nutritional status.
Simple and Cancer-Friendly Tips
American Cancer Society (2020). Nutrition for People with Cancer: Eating Well During Treatment. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/once-treatment-starts.html
Cancer Research UK (n.d). Macrobiotic diet. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/macrobiotic
Constance Brown-Riggs, C. (2013, January). Diabetes and Complementary Care — More Patients Are Following Alternative Diets to Manage the Disease. Today’s Dietitian, 15(1), 18. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/010713p18.shtml#:~:text=Macrobiotic%20Diet,%2C%20whole%20grains%2C%20and%20vegetables.
Hanan, M. (2018, April 20). The Zen Macrobiotic Diet. Dietetically speaking. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://dieteticallyspeaking.com/the-zen-macrobiotic-diet/
Horowitz, J., & Tomita, M. (2002). The Macrobiotic Diet as Treatment for Cancer: Review of the Evidence. The Permanente Journal, 6(4), 34–37. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220645/
Kushi, L.H., Cunningham, J.E., Hebert, J.R, Lerman, R.H., Bandera, E.V., & Teas, J. (2001). The Macrobiotic Diet in Cancer. The Journal of Nutrition, 131(11), 3056–3064. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/131.11.3056S
Macrobiotic diet [Image](n.d.). Retrieved https://www.zliving.com/wpcontent/uploads/2018/09/macrobioticdiet.jpg
Macrobiotic Diets for the Treatment of Cancer. (1989). CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 39(4), 248–251. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.39.4.248
Mahan, L.K., Escott-Stump, S., & Raymond, J.L. (2012). Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process (13th Edtiion), Philedelphia: W.B. Sounders Company.
Malaysian Dietitian’s Association. (2013). Medical Nutrition Therapy Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (2nd ed). Malaysia: Malaysian Dietitian’s Association.