Macrobiotics (“from macrobios, “long life”) was originally coined by Hippocrates and was used by classical thinkers and early biblical commentators to refer to individuals and communities of people who were healthy and long lived. In the East, parallel traditions developed, particularly in China, associated with the I Ching and the Yellow Emperor's Classic, the principal authority on healing.
Early in the 20th century, a naturalistic philosophy was reintroduced under this name by George Ohsawa, a Japanese teacher who had healed himself of tuberculosis using a dietary method.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the leader of the international macrobiotic community has been educator Michio Kushi, who defines macrobiotics as “the way of health, happiness, and peace through biological and spiritual evolution and the universal means to practice and harmonize with the Order of the Universe in daily life, including the selection, preparation, and manner of cooking and eating, as well as the orientation of consciousness toward infinite spiritual realization.”
From his home in Boston and the Kushi Institute, Michio Kushi has guided thousands of individuals and families to better health, inspired medical and scientific research, spearheaded the modern organic foods movement, and generally guided society to greater health and freedom.
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• Standard Macrobiotic Dietary Guidelines - In a temperate region, the following standard average recommendations are offered for people in usual good health. Each person’s actual dietary practice may vary according to their condition, needs, age, sex, activity level, and other considerations.
1. Whole cereal grains. From 50 to 60 percent of daily food intake should include cooked whole cereal grains prepared in a variety of ways. Whole cereal grains include brown rice, barley, millet, oats, corn, rye, wheat, and buckwheat. A small portion of this amount may consist of noodles or pasta, unyeasted whole grain breads, and other partially processed whole cereal grains or grain products.
2. Soups. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of daily food intake (1 to 2 servings) may include soup made with vegetables, sea vegetables (wakame or kombu), grains or beans. Seasonings are usually miso (fermented soybean paste) or shoyu (soy sauce). The flavor should not be too salty or too bland.
3. Vegetables. About 25 to 30 percent of daily intake may include local and organically grown vegetables. Preferably, the majority are cooked in various styles (e.g., sautéed with a small amount of sesame or corn oil, steamed, boiled and sometimes prepared using shoyu or light sea salt as a seasoning). A small portion may be eaten as raw salad. Pickled vegetables without spice may also be used daily in small volume.
Vegetables for daily use include green cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, pumpkin, watercress, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, dandelion, mustard greens, daikon greens, scallion, onions, daikon, turnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, burdock, carrots, and other seasonally grown varieties.
4. Beans and Sea Vegetables. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of daily diet includes cooked beans and sea vegetables. The most suitable beans for regular use are azuki beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Other beans may be used on occasion. Bean products such as tofu, tempeh, and natto can also be used frequently. Sea vegetables such as nori, wakame, kombu, hiziki, and arame may be prepared in small volume in a variety of ways. They can be cooked with beans or vegetables, used in soups, or served separately as side dishes, flavored with a moderate amount of shoyu, sea salt, brown rice vinegar, umeboshi plum, and others.
5. Seasonings. Salt should be naturally processed sea salt. Traditional, non-chemicalized shoyu and miso may also be used as seasonings. Cooking oil should be unrefined vegetable quality only. To improve health, it is preferable to use primarily unrefined sesame or corn oil in moderate amounts.
6. Condiments. Condiments include: gomashio (16-18 parts roasted sesame seeds to 1 part roasted sea salt); sea-vegetable powder (kelp, kombu, wakame, and other sea vegetables); umeboshi plums; tekka
7. Pickles. A small volume of pickles (made using bran, miso, shoyu, salt) may be eaten daily, about 1 teaspoon, to help digest grains and vegetables. This includes sauerkraut.
8. Beverages. Recommended daily beverages include bancha twig tea, brown rice tea, barley tea, dandelion tea, and cereal grain coffee. Any traditional tea that does not have an aromatic fragrance or a stimulating effect can be used. Water is preferably spring or well water of good quality and is best not served iced. Filtered water may be substituted instead.
9. Supplemental Foods. If desired, one to two times per week, approximately 5 to 10 percent of that day’s consumption of food can include fish or seafood, especially fresh white-meat fish such as flounder, sole, cod, carp, halibut, or trout.
Fruit or fruit desserts, including fresh, dried, and cooked temperate-climate fruits, may be served two or three times a week. These include apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, berries, and melons. Frequent use of fruit juice is not advisable. However, occasional consumption in warmer weather may be suitable.
Lightly roasted nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans may be enjoyed as a snack.
Desserts are eaten on average two to three times a week. These may include puddings, kanten (gelatin made with agar agar), mochi, and other soft dishes, as well as cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, and other baked desserts (made without sugar, dairy, or other harmful ingredients). Naturally sweet vegetables and fruits are frequently used to supply a sweet taste, though rice syrup, barley malt, and amasake (a sweet rice beverage) may be used as a concentrated sweetener.
10. Foods to Eliminate for Better Health.
• Meat, animal fat, eggs, poultry, dairy products (including butter, yogurt, ice cream, milk, and cheese), refined sugars, chocolate, molasses, honey, other simple sugars and foods treated with them.
• Tropical or semi-tropical fruits and vegetables including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, spinach, and avocado.
• Mayonnaise and other oily, greasy, or fatty dressings.
• Soft drinks, artificial drinks and beverages, coffee, colored tea, and all aromatic, stimulating teas such as mint or peppermint tea.
• All artificially colored, preserved, sprayed or chemically treated foods, and genetically engineered foods. All refined and polished grains, flours, and their derivatives. Mass-produced industrialized food including all canned, frozen, and irradiated foods.
• Hot spices, any aromatic stimulating food, artificial vinegar, and strong alcoholic beverages.
• Chemicalized water, including water with chlorine or fluoride added.
11. Way of Eating Suggestions
• The standard for cooking is gas heat, though wood, charcoal, or other natural source of fire may also be used. Avoid electrical and microwave cooking.
• Eat regularly, 2-3 times per day, as much as desired, provided the proportion is correct and chewing is thorough. Drink when thirsty. Avoid eating for approximately 3 hours before sleeping.
• Proper cooking is very important for health. Everyone, male and female, young and old, should learn to cook either by attending classes or studying under with an experienced macrobiotic cook. The recipes included in macrobiotic cookbooks may also be used in planning meals.
• Those with a health concern may temporarily need to take a more strict, healing form of the diet. Anyone with a serious illness is encouraged to seek medical attention and consult with their physician or other health professional .
Source: Michio Kushi, Standard Macrobiotic Diet (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1996).
• Macrobiotics Benefits Advanced Cancers - In a study of patients with advanced malignancies who followed a macrobiotic way of eating, Vivien Newbold, M.D., a Philadelphia physician documented six cases of remission. The patients had pancreatic cancer with metastases to the liver; malignant melanoma; malignant astro-cytoma; endometrial stromal sarcoma; adenocarcinoma of the colon; and inoperable intra-abdominal leimyosarcoma.
Review of CT scans and other medical tests revealed no evidence of tumors after adherence to the macrobiotic diet. All of the patients (except for one whose cancer came back after she discontinued macrobiotics) were reported working full time, leading very active lives, and feeling in excellent health. The cases were all reviewed independently and the diagnoses confirmed by the pathology and radiology departments of Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pa.
In a review of her study, Congressional investigators recommended further research on the macrobiotic approach to cancer: “If cases such as Newbold’s were presented in the medical literature, it might help stimulate interest among clinical investigators in conducting controlled, prospective trials of macrobiotic regimens, which could provide valid data on effectiveness.”
Source: Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Unconventional Cancer Treatments (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990).
• American Cancer Society Notes Macrobiotics Can Prevent Certain Cancers - In a statement on alternative therapies, the American Cancer Society noted, "Today's most popular anticancer diet is probably macrobiotics." While no diet has not yet been shown to be able to reverse existing tumors, the ACS further observed: "Like other fat-reducing diets, macrobiotics may help prevent some cancers. It may reduce the risk of developing cancers that appear related to higher fat intake, such as colon cancer and possibly some breast cancers. The macrobiotic diet, like other fat-free diets, can lower blood pressure and perhaps reduce the chance of heart disease.
“Taking part in a macrobiotics program may provide some sense of balance with nature and harmony with the total universe and as such promote a sense of calmness and reduced stress. “
Source: “Complementary and Alternative Therapies, American Cancer Society Internet Site, 1997; “Alternative and Complementary Therapies,” Cancer 77(6), 1996.
• Latin Air Academy Adopts Macrobiotic Diet - The Air Force Academy in Pirasununga, Brazil, 200 kilometers from San Paulo, introduced macrobiotic food in the late 1980s. Almost 600 cadets and officers, including the Academy’s deputy commander, joined the “unknown squadron” that volunteered to be served the new food products.
Source: Return to Paradise, Winter 1988-89, p. 3.
• Macrobiotic Children Develop Normally - In a study of 119 vegetarian and macrobiotic children with a mean age of about two years, Boston nutritionists reported they were generally smaller, leaner, and lighter than nonvegetarian children. Despite varying degrees of avoidance of meat and other animal foods, consumption of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in the diets of those children age one year or older who were no longer being breastfed fell within normal levels.
Source: J. T. Dwyer et al., “Preschoolers on Alternate Life-Style Diets,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 72:264-70, 1978.
• Macrobiotic Blood Values Ideal - Dutch heart researchers reported that macrobiotic men and boys had the most ideal cholesterol and other blood values in studies of groups of nonvegetarian, semi-lactovegetarian, lactovegetarian, and macrobiotic men aged 30 to 39 years and boys aged six to 11 years old. The report was funded by the Netherlands Heart Foundation.
Source: J. T. Knuiman and C. E. West, “The Concentration of Cholesterol in Serum and in Various Serum Lipoproteins in Macrobiotic, Vegetarian, and Non-vegetarian Men and Boys,” Atherosclerosis 43:71-82, 1983.
• Macrobiotics in an Irish Hospital - Macrobiotic food has been introduced at the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Cecilia Armelin, pediatric dietitian, drew up a sample meal plan including for breakfast: whole oat porridge; for lunch: miso soup with dulse and parsley, brown rice with haricot or azuki beans, Brussels sprouts, dried apricots and raisins; and for dinner: lentil/barley soup seasoned with miso and parsley and whole grain millet with pears and chopped walnuts. She especially recommended these foods for children with multiple allergies or food intolerance.
Source: Cecilia Armelin, “Wholefood Diet,” National Children’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, 1989.
• Macrobiotic Nutrition Upheld - Researchers at the University of Rhode Island studied 76 macrobiotic people and reported they generally met currently acceptable medical and nutritional guidelines, including mean values for hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, and transferrin saturation, serum ascorbic acid, vitamin A, beta-caro-tene, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, and folate.
Source: J. G. Bergan and P. T. Brown, “Nutritional Status of ‘New’ Vegetarians,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 76:151-55, 1980.
• British Study of Macrobiotic Diet - In experiments at the University of London, some of the foods commonly consumed by people on a macrobiotic diet were analyzed and the values used to create a data base. The dietary intakes of 10 people practicing macrobiotics were assessed by means of a seven-day weighed food record. When the mean daily nutrient intakes were calculated using a computer program and compared to the United Kingdom Recommended Daily A-mounts, they were found to be adequate in all of the major nutrients. All of the other nutrients either met the RDA’s or, in the case of vitamins A and C, thiamine, calcium, and iron, “far exceeded the recommendations.”
“The macrobiotic diet as eaten by the participants of this study was found to conform with many of the recommendations put forward by recent [medical and scientific] reports on eating for health,” according to the chief researcher.
Source: Alison Hinds, BSc., “A Short Study of the Macrobiotic Diet” (London: Queen Elizabeth College, University of London, 1985).
• Scientific Conference Features Macrobiotic Banquet - A macrobiotic banquet highlighted an international scientific and nutritional conference at JFK Library in Boston.
Over 250 nutritionists, epidemiologists, and other researchers enjoyed the macrobiotic menu featured at the Second International Conference on Dietary Assessment Methods sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with the United Nations World Health Organization.
The menu, designed by Michio Kushi and prepared by local cooks for the January 23, 1995 dinner, included sushi, miso soup with land and sea vegetables, corn muffins and sourdough bread, white-meat fish served with sweet miso and ginger sauce, fried brown rice with organic vegetables and mushrooms, boiled vegetables seasoned with shoyu, baked tofu, apple and pumpkin pie, and bancha tea, cereal grain coffee, and apple juice.
"Nutritional science has changed 180 degrees," Mr. Kushi, who attended the conference as the guest of honor, reported. "We received many wonderful comments. People told me, 'You have been so patient for the last 30 years. We know now that macrobiotics is the answer for people and society. But we can't announce it yet. We need scientific proof and must proceed step by step. But evidence is growing, not only for heart disease and cancer, but for cataracts and other disorders. We are happy to have you in America. Macrobiotics is the solution. It may take five to seven more years. We should have this diet every day.’"
Source: "Dietary Revolution Spreads," One Peaceful World Journal 22:1, Spring 1995.
• Ritz-Carlton Offers Macrobiotic Dining - The Ritz-Carlton Hotels began to offer gourmet macrobiotic cuisine at its 31 hotels and resorts around the world in 1995. Developed to meet their customers' growing demand for healthy, natural food, their Macrobiotic Culinary Program offers wholesome menu items from recipes developed by the Ritz-Carlton Executive Chefs under the guidance of Kushi Institute teachers. The Ritz-Carlton recipes, from appetizers to desserts, appeared on their regular menus with the notation that they "meet the guidelines of the Kushi Institute for gourmet macrobiotic cuisine." The Ritz will also offer full wedding, party, and conference services with gourmet macrobiotic selections.
"Both road warriors and leisure travelers are always looking for ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle when away from home," said Henri Boubee, director of the food and beverage operations for the company. "While our Fitness Centers offer our guests a chance to exercise, our macrobiotic menus will encourage very healthy eating."
"When I walked in here, they told me no butter, no sugar, no cream, no eggs," Norman Love, the Corporate Pastry Chef of the hotel chain, noted. However, in the course of training, he experimented with natural sweeteners, whole grain flours, and fresh fruits and berries to make delicious pastries and desserts. "It's been a real eye-opener, a great learning experience."
Source: "Dietary Revolution Spreads," One Peaceful World Journal 22:1, Spring 1995.
• MBAs Eat Macrobiotic Food - Downsizing excess is going beyond the boardroom to the corporate dining hall, as savvy executives are "merging" with brown rice, pasta salads, and tofu-based entrées. Up to 40 percent of executives at the nation's top-rated business school, J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., select the macrobiotic entrées.
Chefs at the Kushi Institute helped Dinah Jacobs, a bank executive, yoga teacher, and wife of the school's dean, Donald Jacobs, to set up the program at the Allen Center, where top-level executives and managers are provided quality accommodations and meals while they attend business seminars. Each day the school cooks prepare 15 to 20 macrobiotic dishes, including grains, soups, beans, vegetables, sea vegetables, salads, pickles, condiments, desserts, and beverages.
Source: Jane Quincannon, "Macrobiotics Goes to Grad School," One Peaceful World Journal 23:6, Summer 1995.
Macular degeneration is a deterioration of the retina of the eye that is a main cause of blindness in older people. Rare in people under 50, nearly a quarter of people over 65 have some manifestations of this disease, characterized by blurriness, blank spots, and other visual symptoms.
• Vegetables Protect Against Macular Degeneration - Green leafy vegetables such as collards, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens may protect against macular degeneration. In a study of 356 patients with macular degeneration, the leading cause of legal blindness in the U.S., and 520 controls, researchers at Harvard Medical School reported that people who had the highest intake of carotenoids, especially from dark green leafy vegetables, had a 43 percent lower risk of developing his eye disorder. The carotenoids in these vegetables were identified as lutein (known to also decrease the risk of lung cancer) and zeaxantin.
Source: W. S. Christen, “Dietary Carotenoids, Vitamins A, C, and E, and Macular Degeneration,” Journal of the American Medical Association 273(23):1835, 1995.
MAD COW DISEASE
Scientists believe that mad cow disease broke out in British herds in 1986 as a result of feeding cattle feed containing carcasses of sheep that died of scrapie, a brain disease believed to be spread by prions, infectious proteins that are impervious to boiling, pasteurization, or radiation. By 1996, when the U.K. government admitted that infected beef could cause a lethal disease an estimated 700,000 cattle—one in every fifty in Britain—had been infected. In 1997, the European Union banned exports of British beef after it was linked to new variant CJD (Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease), the human form of mad cow disease. Small numbers of cases of MCD have also been reported in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal, France, Germany Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Oman, Falkland Islands, and Canada.
Known as rendering, the practice of feeding cows animal-quality food (including the carcasses and inedible parts of other cows, roadkill, and euthenized dogs and cats) is relatively new, growing from 1 percent to 13 percent of the total feed supply. Also for the first time, ground up cattle parts were fed to cows, a practice dubbed “industrial cannibalism.” The effects of CJD are similar to kuru, a brain-destroying disease in a primitive tribe in New Guinea that until recently practiced ritual cannibalism on deceased relatives. In the U.S., meat and bone meal from ruminants was routinely fed to cattle and dairy cows prior to 1997 (in 1989 there were 12 billion pounds of rendered products!). In October, 1997, rendering was limited by the U.S. government to cow’s blood, pigs, horses, tallow, and gelatin.
By 1999, 30 deaths from CJD had been confirmed in Britain. Meanwhile, similar diseases characterized by loss of coordination, nervous dysfunction, and spongy holes in the brain have emerged in several species of animals in the wild, including mule, deer, and elk. Whether in humans or animals, such diseases are officially referred to as TSEs or Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies.
• Scope of the Epidemic - Carleton Gajdusek, Nobel Prize winner and the world’s authority on TSEs, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases, believes that not only cattle but that nearly all the farm animals in England are also infected, but because they are killed and go to market before symptoms manifest, the disease hasn’t been detected. “Probably all the pigs in England are infected,” he says. “And that means not only pork. It means your pigskin wallet. It means catgut surgical suture, because that’s made of pig tissue. All the chickens fed on meat-and-bone meal; they’re probably infected. You put that stuff in a chicken and it goes right through. A vegetarian could get it from [the chicken or cow manure] that they put on the vegetables.”
Dr. Richard Lacey, the British physician who tried to warn the government of the cattle-human link years before it was recognized, thinks the source of the infection is still entering the human food supply. “If it seems that the incubation-period average for CJD in humans begins to be about 25 years, maybe thirty years, then the peak human epidemic will come around the year 2015.” He estimates that there could be 200,000 human deaths annually in Britain by that time.
According to U.S. health officials, BSE has not appeared in America, but TSEs have appeared in minks fed on “downer” cows—cattle which have mysteriously died and been rendered into animal feed. Richard F. Marsh, chairman of the department of animal health and biomedical science at the University of Wisconsin, disagrees with official government optimism. “There must be an unrecognized scrapie-like disease of cattle in the United States,” he asserts. “Will BSE come to America?” science writer Richard Rhodes asks in his investigative study of the epidemic. “The answer seems to be: it’s already here, in native form, a low-level infection that industrial cannibalism could amplify to epidemic scale. We still feed meat-and-bone meal to cattle. And an estimated 77 million Americans eat beef every day.” Hamburger includes cow brains.
Rhodes speculates that mad cow disease could encircle the globe in the next several years. “No population anywhere in the world that eats meat is entirely free of risk,” he concludes. Even that may not be enough. He notes that the infectious agent associated with CJD can be obtained not only from eating animal products, but also by coming into contact with bonemeal, the fertilizer made from ground up cattle which is commonly used on used on lawns and gardens as well as on organic crops. In 1997, the U.S. government banned the use of nearly all slaughtered-animal parts in American livestock feed because of the possible link to mad cow disease.
Source: Richard Rhodes, Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).
• Unrecognized Epidemic in the U.S. - In a study on mad cow disease, Virgil Hulse, M.D., a dairy scientist, cancer epidemiologist, and family physician, reported that rendering and other agricultural practices are setting the stage for a massive, BSE epidemic in the U.S. “The case of the mad cow has not been exaggerated in the press. In fact, in many cases, the situation is much worse than has been told. Cows are being fed diseased sheep, chickens, and other cows. These cows are then slaughtered, wrapped in plastic, priced, and put out in your local grocery store, posing as harmless products for human consumption,” Dr. Hulse, a former milk inspector for the State of California, explained.
“Of these cows, 80 percent have the bovine leukemia virus and 50 percent have the bovine immunodeficiency virus—the animal equivalent of AIDS. We are drinking milk and eating cheese containing lymphocytes that are loaded with the proviral DNA of these viruses. It is only common sense to recognize that when we consume a fluid that has been emitted from an animal, or the actual flesh itself, we are at risk for whatever ailed the animal. The implications of this suggestion are so enormous, that the dairy and meat industries have clung to the idea that it has not been proven that the species barrier could be crossed. As a doctor who has practiced for 30 years, this front impresses me about as much as a plastic dam sent to hold back all the fury of the ocean.”
Dr. Hulse speculates that many of the hundreds of thousands of “downer” cows that keel over dead every year in the U.S. may have a TSE. Between 1986 and 1996, the U.S. inspected only 2791 bovine brains for signs of BSE, and none proved positive. However, Dr. Hulse points out, “This population represented only a tiny fraction of the total population of 103 million cattle, so this test is totally inadequate to prove that BSE is not a threat. BSE, which has an incubation period of up to eight years, may not be detectable in American beef cattle, many of which are slaughtered between the ages of two and five.”
In a petition to the FDA on behalf of the Foundation on Economic Trends, a public interest group led by Jeremy Rifkin, Dr. Hulse proposed a permanent halt to all feeding of ruminant animal protein to ruminants, especially cows and sheep; an epidemiological investigation to determine the incidence of TSEs in cattle; a separate study to determine the incidence of TSEs in downer cattle; establishment of a bovine brain bank for the ongoing study of TSEs; an investigation of TSE incidence in the human population; and an ongoing national monitoring and registry program utilizing autopsy to determine changes in the incidence of CJD-like diseases in the U.S.
Source: Virgil Hulse, M.D., Mad Cows and Milk Gate (Phoenix, OR: Marble Mountain Publishing, 1997).
• Macrobiotic Approach - CJD appears to be caused by the heavy use of chemicalized food and meat or dairy eating, according to two macrobiotic educators. From a yin/yang view, DNA is very contracted or yang, so lack of DNA would be classified as very yin. “The mechanism behind this is very interesting. When yang takes yang, it changes into yin. Mad cow disease appeared in cattle (which as animals are yang) when farmers began to feed them ground up sheep and cattle parts (also yang). Traditionally, cattle are vegetarian, eating mainly grass. When cows are made to eat strong animal food in order to produce more milk and meat, they begin to degenerate and turn yin. Cells begin to lose their DNA—their nucleus, their center, their yang energy. Extreme yin appears in the form of prions, and yin energy rises, going first to the brain. This is very similar to the effects of strong drugs or microwave cooking.”
In traditional Oriental medicine, the brain, meanwhile, correlates with the intestines, so they would be next affected. Third, the pancreas would become weak. And then the reproductive organs would lose vitality. “This is why the modern diet is leading to infertility,” they conclude. “Chemicals, sugar, drugs, and excessive animal foods are ultimately destroying the DNA is sperm and eggs and affecting the ability to pass on life to new generations.”
Source: Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, Humanity at the Crossroads (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1997).
• Pesticides as Possible Cause of Mad Cow Disease - An alternative theory is that MCD is caused by organophosphorus pesticides which the British government required farmers to pour liberally over the backs of their cattle in a failed attempt to wipe out warble fly, a parasite affecting a tiny percentage of British cattle. Mark Purdey, an organic farmer in western England, has proposed that the BSE (Brain Spongiform Encephelophy, the official name of the disorder) epidemic in the UK is largely attributable to the phosphate poisoning suffered by unborn calves exposed at a critical stage of development. The phosphate, known as phosmet, contains phthalamide, a member of the family of chemicals that includes thalidomide, the drug that resulted in many deformed babies. Dr. Stephen Whatley, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, performed research that showed that the pesticide could affect prion proteins in humans and animals. The British Ministry of Agriculture decided to fund research into Purdy's theory after years of dismissing his views.
Source: "Ministry to Aid Research into Farmer's BSE Theory," Electronic Telegraph, April 3, 1998.
• Vegetarian Death from MCD - Among the confirmed casualties of mad cow disease have been several vegetarians. Clare Tomkins, 24, died in 1998. A strict vegetarian, Miss Tomkins had not eaten meat for 12 years. However, she did eat cheese and drink milk. She worked in the pet department of a garden center near her home in Tonbridge, Kent, and may have been exposed to recovered meat, offal, and bonemeal, commonly used in gardening. She showed first signs of abnormal behavior in 1996.
Source: "Vegetarian Woman Dies from 'Mad Cow' Disease," PA News April 22, 1998.
• Human Growth Hormone - CJV in humans is associated with human growth hormone "harvested" from the pituitary glands of human bodies after post-mortem examinations. In Britain more than 1900 patients were treated between 1959 and 1985 of which 25 developed CJD. The program stopped after several children who had received similar treatment in the U.S. died of CJD.
Source: Associated Press, May 22, 1998.
• Blood Product Contaminated - Amerscan Pulmonate II, a blood product made with plasma from a British donor who later died of CJD, was injected into 350 patients in the Netherlands. The product is injected into patients requiring a lung scan and en-ables physicians using special equipment to get an image of the lungs. Earlier, the Hong Kong government reported that more than 100 patients in the city were given Amerscan Pulmonate II that may have been contaminated with CJD.
Source: Associated Press, May 16, 1998.
• Tallow as a Risk Factor - Exposure to tallow, made from cooked animal remains including bones, hides, and muscles, may increase the risk of mad cow disease. The animal remains are cooked and the result is used in thousands of products, including foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Tallow and its derivatives are found in contact lenses, lipstick, lotion, soap, cooking oil, capsules, and tablets.
Dr. Philip Merrell of Mallinckrodt Chemical said virtually every solid drug used contains magnesium stearate, a tallow derivative.
Source: Otesa Middleton, "Tallow Tales," Dow Jones News Service, April 16, 1998.
• Squirrel Brains and TSEs - A TSE broke out in Kentucky in 1997 among people eating squirrel brains, a regional delicacy. Elk, deer, mink, rats, and other wild animals are reported to have developed strains of the disease. Of 11 people stricken, six have died.
Source: Associated Press, September 8, 1997.
• TSEs Among Deer - Deer in Colorado and Wyoming are developing chronic wasting disease (CWD) that is similar to mad cow disease. Wildlife biologist Mark Zornes reported that the disease has been found in about 6 percent of deer in northeastern Colorado and about 1 percent in Wyoming. Hunters are required to turn in the heads of deer or elk killed in the region and if the brains test positive are advised to dump the meat. Officials are seeking to determine if the disease can be transmitted to cattle.
Source: North Dakota Department of Agriculture Press Release, January 23, 1998; Casper Star Tribune and AP, February 7, 1998.
An estimated 1 to 3 million people around the world die of malaria every year, as new drug-resistant strains are appearing. The World Health Organization declared the "supermosquito" associated with malaria as "public health enemy No 1." See Infectious Disease.
• Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads - "As a single disease, malaria has a bigger impact on the world than anything you can think of," Dr. Kazem Behbehani, a WHO official in Geneva, said. The disease affects mostly children and pregnant women. In the last ten years, it has killed ten times as many children as all the wars combined in the last decade. The drug-resistant strains are particularly prevalent in Southeast Asia where chemical insecticides and sprays are widely used. Africa and Latin America have also been decimated by the disease. Scientists warn that as a result of global warming, malaria will spread to the southern United States and southern Europe and could cause up to 80 million cases in the next century.
Source: Nicholas D. Kristof, "Malaria Makes a Comback, and Is More Deadly Than Ever," New York Times, January 8, 1997.
Mammography utilizes low-level X-rays to test for cancer or other irregularities in the breast. Its use, even in the medical profession, is controversial. Regular mammograms for women under 50 have not shown any benefit in reducing mortality from the disease. Mammograms result in a high degree of “false positive” tests” and fail to diagnose about 15 percent of cases. Moreover, the effect of radiation may potentially be harmful.
• Mammograms 50% False - For 32 million American women aged 40 to 79 who take mammograms every year, 16 million false results can be expected over the course of a decade. Mammograms result in a lot of unnecessary anxiety, according to a Boston medical study. Researchers said that although mammograms save lives, a woman who receives a chest X-ray every year for a decade runs a 50 percent chance of being recalled for further tests that show she does not have breast cancer. The rate of false alarms was found to be highest among women under 50. Women over 40 have a 19 percent chance of an unnecessary biopsy.
Source: “Risk of False Alarm from Mammogram Is 50% Over Decade,” Associated Press, April 15, 1998.
High in protein, vitamin B-12, and other nutrients, meat gives strong energy, enhances the senses, and provides warmth. It has traditionally been eaten in small, condimental amounts, primarily for medicinal or ceremonial purposes. However, in cold, northern climates, desert regions, or other extreme environments it has constituted a principal part of the traditional diet.
In comparison, the quality of modern meat is very poor. It contains much more saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and is usually produced with antibiotics and growth hormones. More-
over, its effects on a largely sedentary population are largely harmful. Regular meat consumption is associated with increased urea, uric acid, and other protein wastes associated with kidney stones and disorders; excess mucus; atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease; and various cancers.
Following widespread public education concerning the risks of a high-fat diet, red meat consumption in the U.S. dropped from an average of 127 pounds per capita in 1980 to an estimated 63.3 pounds in 1997. Argentina, the world capital for steak and beef, is also eating less red meat and more pasta, salad, and vegetables. Between 1990 and 1994, beef consumption fell 12.3 percent, from 157 to 140 pounds per person.
See Antibiotics, Animal Waste, Appendicitis, Brain Tumor, British Diet, Cerebral Palsey, Cancer, Children’s Health, Coffee, Colon Cancer, Environment, Global Warming, Heart Disease, Hiatus Hernia, High Blood Pressure, Irradiation, Leukemia Lympho-ma, Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoporosis, Paleolithic Diet, Pancreatic Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Protein, Sexual Vitality, Stomach Cancer, World Hunger.
The Mediterranean diet is high in whole grains and grain products, beans, vegetables and fruits, and olive oil and other monounsaturated oils and very low in meat and dairy products. Alcohol is usually taken in moderation.
• Longevity and the Mediterranean Diet - In a study of 200 rural Greek villagers 70 or older, scientists found that those who ate the most balanced diets had only half the death rate of those with less balanced diets.
"We don't say that any food, or moderate wine consumption, or olive oil, is the magic bullet," explained Dimitrios Trichopoulos, lead researcher and professor of cancer prevention and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It's the switch of the center of gravity away from animal foods to plants."
In previous studies, olive oil has been shown to lower serum cholesterol. However, its role in longevity, Trichopoulos speculated, is to make vegetables more appetizing and tasty. Many Greeks consume a pound of vegetables a day, many sautéed in oil.
Source: Judy Foreman, "Study Suggests Mediterranean Diet May Be Key to Longevity," Boston Globe, December 1, 1995.
• Mediterranean Diet Pyramid - The Traditional Healthy Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was developed by the World Health Organization, WHO/FAO Collaborating Center in Nutritional Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, and the Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust in 1994.
Source: W. C. Willett et al., “Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: A Cultural Model for Healthy Eating,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61(6 Suppl):1402S, 1995.
• Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet - In a review of the Mediterranean diet, scientists at the University of Minnesota and Harvard University examined mechanisms that help protect against chronic disease. In contrast to a meat-centered modern diet which raises the risk of dying from coronary heart disease by up to 60 percent, the Mediterranean diet is low in meat and high in olive oil, a monunsaturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol, protective factors against heart disease. “The traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern, with infrequent intake of red meat in small portions, provides a model for the proportions red meat should assume in a healthful diet, if it is to be consumed at all,” the researchers concluded. Low in dairy products, refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, and high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, the Mediterranean diet is also protective against various cancers, stroke, obesity, cataracts, and several birth defects. Meanwhile, “epidemiologic studies have not provided evidence that high dairy product consumption by adults prevents fractures; in fact, the results of several studies suggest positive associations. Thus, the abundant fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and the low to moderate intake of dairy products in traditional Mediterranean diets are likely to have contributed to the low rates of numerous chronic diseases observed in these populations.”
Source: L. H. Kushi et al., “Health Implications of Mediterranean Diets in Light of Contemporary Knowledge,” Parts 1 and II, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61(6 Suppl):1407S-27S, 1995.
Melanoma spreads from existing moles through the lymph or blood to the lungs, brain, liver, eye, intestines, reproductive organs, or other sites. Standard medical treatment is surgery, often supplemented with chemotherapy. See Cancer Case Histories.
• Gerson Diet Benefits Melanoma Patients - In a review of the Gerson anticancer diet, researchers reported that melanoma patients who followed the lactovegetarian regimen, including hourly raw vegetable/fruit juices, had 5-year survival rates that were on average two to three times greater than normal.
Source: G. L. Hildenbrand, “Five-Year Survival Rates of Melanoma Patients Treated by Diet Therapy After the Manner of Gerson,” Alternative Therapy Health Medicine 1(4):29-37, 1995.
For many women in modern society, menopause is a time of pain, suffering, and identity crisis. To treat menopause, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is commonly recommended by physicians. Premarin, a synthetic estrogen (made from the urine of pregnant mares) is the most prescribed drug in America, but it raises the risk of breast cancer and has other side effects, so that many women are seeking safer, holistic alternatives. See Phytoestrogens, Women’s Health.
• Menopause and Diet - A macrobiotic educator analyzes the relation between diet and female hormones, reviews symptoms during menopause, and recommends a whole foods diet high in natural phystoestrogens found in such foods as tofu, miso, and other plant-quality foods. Special dishes and home remedies are also included.
Source: Edward Esko, “Menopause and Diet,” in Gale Jack and Wendy Esko, Editors, Women’s Health Guide, One Peaceful World Press, 1997.
• Phytoestrogens Reduce Menopause Symptoms - Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and other symptoms of menopause are rare in the Far East. Dietary habits in Asia may account for this dramatic low incidence. In particular, phytoestrogens from soy products, are believed to regulate hormone metabolism. Foods high in isoflavones, the type of phytoestrogen associated with normal menopause, include lentils, kidney beans, and lima beans, but they are highest in soybeans. A North Carolina study found that women beginning menopause who ate 8 ounces of a soy drink a day reduced the number and severity of night sweats and hot flushes. Source: Jane E. Brody, "Diet May Be One Reason Complains About Menopause Are Rare in Asia," New York Times, August 27, 1997.
• Risks of Hormone Replacement Treatment - Prolonged hormone treatment for menopause increases the risk of breast cancer and other diseases, according to Susan Love, M.D., a surgeon and authority on breast cancer. Taking issue with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology which recommends that every postmenopausal women take replacement hormones for the rest of her life, Love stated, "This sweeping recommendation is based on inadequate scientific evidence. Menopause is not a disease; it is a normal part of life. A woman's ovaries don't shut down at menopause. They continue to produce low levels of hormones well into a woman's 80's. Synthetic hormones don't replace something that is missing when women reach menopause. They add something that is not naturally there."
She cited evidence from the Nurse's Health Study showing that women who took hormones for at least 5 years increased their risk of getting breast cancer by 71 percent and dying of the disease by 45 percent. Synthetic hormones also increase the risk of developing blood clots, gall bladder disease, and uterine cancer. Love said that the hysteria surrounding hormone therapy for menopause and calcium supplementation for osteoporosis were being promoted by the pharmaceutical industry and had no medical foundation. Rather, she suggested, diet and lifestyle changes offered a safe, natural approach.
Source: Susan Love, "Sometimes Mother Nature Knows Best," New York Times, March 20, 1997.
• Soy Diet Reduces Hot Flashes - Soybeans consumption reduced the incidence of menopausal flashes. In an Italian study of 104 women of childbearing age, the group that took a soy-enhanced diet had 26 percent less hot flashes by the third week; 33 percent less by the fourth week; and 45 percent after 12 weeks.
Source: Paola Albertazzi et al., “The Effects of Dietary Soy Supplementation on Hot Flushes,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 91(1):6-11, 1998.
Menstrual disorders, ranging from irregular menstruation to menstrual cramps, affect millions of women in modern society. Diet appears to play a major role in regulating this cycle. See Premenstrual Syndrome, Sesame, Women’s Health.
• Irregular Menstruation and Disease - Early menses have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, as well as late menopause, childlessness, and first pregnancy at a later age. Abnormal length of the menstrual cycles also raises the risk, according to researchers in the ongoing Menstruation and Preproductive History Study (MRHS). Compared to women with menstrual cycles lasting 26 to 29 days (normal), women with shorter cycles on average are at twice the risk of breast cancer, while those with longer cycles also had nearly twice the risk.
Source: "Menstrual Cycles May Affect Cancer Risk," Science News, January 7, 1995.
• Diet Varies During Menstrual Cycle - In a study of how food selection and intake varies during the menstrual cycle, German researchers reported that during the luteal phase the intake of total energy tended to be higher in 27 healthy regularly menstruating women than during the follicular phase, Carbohydrate intake, fat intake, and total energy intake reached a minimum 2 days after ovulation. “The results suggest that food intake and selection is influenced by neurochemi-cal, hormonal, and physiological and psychological factors,” the scientists concluded.
Source: H. Danker-Hopfe et al., “Regulation of Food Intake During the Menstrual Cycle,” Anthropol Anz 53(3):231-38, 1995.
• Contaminated Fish Linked to Shorter Menstrual Cycles - Eating contaminated fish can reduce the length of menstrual cycles. Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo reported that women who consumed fish from Lake Ontario contaminated with PCBs and other toxins had shorter cycles than normal.
Source: P. Mendola et al., “Consumption of PCB-Contaminated Freshwater Fish and Shoretened Menstrual Cycle Length,” American Journal of Epidemiology 146(11):955-60, 1997.
Mental illness, including bipolar disease, depression, schizophrenia, paranoia, and other disorders, affects about 10 percent of people living in modern society. Until recently, mental disturbances were treated primarily with drugs, surgery (e.g., lobotomy), and confinement in mental institutions. Dietary factors and nutritional and biochemical imbalances are now being investigated for their role in the development and possible treatment of mental disease. See Complex Carbohydrates, Fish, Geriatrics, Hypoglycemia, Sugar.
• Recovering from Mental Illness on a Macrobiotic Diet - With the help of his mother, Charlotte Mahoney-Briscoe, David Briscoe healed himself of schizophrenia by adhering to a balanced macrobiotic diet. David, diagnosed with mental and emotional illness in the 1960s, unsuccessfully tried many hospitals, medications, and confinement before changing his diet. “
He might as well be dead,” his mother said looking back. David developed an exaggerated appetite for sugar: candy, cookies, and ice cream, as well as steak, very salty foods like crackers and potato chips, and diet soda. In high school, he become physically ill, with acute kidney problems, frequent sore throats, digestive problems, fevers, and a duodenal ulcer.
For his depression, he went to psychiatrists for six years and became addicted to Thorazine. After changing his way of eating to brown rice, soy sauce, and other foods, he made a complete recovery. David is currently married, the father of four children, and director of the Vega Study Center in Oroville, Calif.
Source: David Briscoe and Charlotte Mahoney-Briscoe: A Personal Peace: Macrobiotic Reflections on Mental and Emotional Recovery (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1989).
• Antioxidant Foods May Protect Against Schizophrenia - In a study of the role that nutrition plays in the development of schizophrenia, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic reported that free radicals are involved in membrane pathology associated with the development of this disorder.
Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals generated in the body that in excess can damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. Foods high in antioxidants (such as whole grains and vegetables containing vitamins A, C, and E) help control the formation of free radicals. “Further elucidation of the role of free radicals and antioxidants in schizophrenia and its treatment will require systematic investigation,” the study concluded.
R. D. Reddy and J. K. Yao, “Free Radical Pathology in Schizophrenia: A Review,” Prostaglandins Leukot Essential Fatty Acids 55(1-2):33-43, 1996.
• Fatty Acid Imbalances Linked to Violent and Suicidal Behavior - In a review of studies linking diet with abnormal social behavior, researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that imbalances in fatty acids in the blood appear to be linked to psychiatric disorders.
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids protect against depression and hostility, and surveys indicate that countries with higher intakes of fish (high in this nutrient) have lower rates of depression. Boys aged six to ten with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have lower concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than controls. Low levels of cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (CSF 5-HIAA), a metabolite of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that elevates mood, are associated with an increased risk of suicide and violence. The relationship between plasma lipids (fats and oils) and CSF 5-HIAA in violent and suicidal populations should be explored, the investigators concluded.
Source: J. R. HIbbeln et al., “Do Plasma Polyunsaturates Predict Hostility and Depression?” World Reviews of Nutrition and Diet 82:175-186, 1997.
• Macrobiotic Diet - Dr. Stephen Harnish, a New Hampshire psychiatrist, reported that macrobiotics had benefited many of his patients who were chronically and severely mentally ill. Citing several case histories, he described a young woman with a history of severe depression who had been in a state hospital for two years and treated with anti-depressants and antipsychotic medications. Tests by Dr. Harnish’s department found that the woman was hypoglycemic and administration of a macrobiotic diet high in complex carbohydrates and one that avoided animal food and sugar resulted in steady improvement, reduced medication, and return to normal functioning. “She now has motivation to do new things and has made plans to return to school.” Another patient, a middle-aged woman diagnosed with manic depressive illness and told she would be on medication the rest of her life, learned to recognize her moods swings on a macrobiotic diet, was weaned of medication, and is now functional. Noting that hundreds of other psychiatric patients could benefit from this approach, Dr. Harnish concluded, “One possible way to do this could be to set up and staff group homes for the mentally ill with macrobiotic staff (cooks and counselors) which are associated with psychiatric care providers who are sensitive to the patients’ dietary needs and who will document data on the condition of these patients as they change their diets and lives.”
Source: Stephen Harnish, M.D., “On My Awakening to the Macrobiotic Way,” in Edward Esko, editor, Doctors Look at Macrobiotics (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1988), pp. 151-68.
Ninety percent of modern households have microwave ovens. Microwave ovens vibrate at over 2 million cycles per second (compared to 60 cycles for electric stoves), and that intense vibration can affect the cellular integrity of the food as well as be absorbed by those who eat it. Salmonella bacteria—a main cause of food poisoning—have been found to survive in cold spots that do not fully cook.
While there have been no comprehensive studies of the effects of microwave cooking on human health, it is generally avoided in the natural foods and holistic communities.
• Microwaved Foods Alters Blood Chemistry, Decreases Nutrients, and Produces Precancerous Effects - In a study of eight people eating macrobiotically, researchers at the Swiss Institute of Technology and the University Institute for Biochemistry and the Environmental-Biological Research and Consultation reported that microwaved food produced major changes in the subjects’ blood and immune function. These included a decrease in hemoglobin (red blood cells that carry oxygen and take out carbon dioxide); an increase in hemotocrit (the percentage of red blood cells in the blood) and leukocytes (associated with fighting infection); higher cholesterol, and a decrease in lymphocytes (a type of cell made in the lymph nodes that counters disease).
In addition to altering blood chemistry, the researchers found that microwaved food appeared to increase the activity of certain bacteria in the food, and altered cells resembled the pathogenic stages that occur in the early development of some cancers. The scientists also reported biological changes in the microwaved food itself, including increased acidity, damaged protein molecules, enlarged fat cells, and decreased folic acid, a nutrient in the vitamin B group associated with protecting against spina bifida, a birth defect.
Source: Bernard H. Blanc and Hans U. Hertel, “Influence on Man: Comparative Study About Food Prepared Conventionally and in the Microwave Oven,” Raum & Zeit, 3(2): 1992.
• Microwave Cooking Produces Immunological and Neurotoxic Effects - In studies of the effect of microwave cooking on the amino acids in milk, Austrian scientists reported that heating milk formulae altered the chemical structure of the milk. “The conversion of trans to cis forms could be hazardous because when cis-amino acids are incorporated into peptides and proteins instead of their trans isomers this can lead to structural, functional, and immunological changes,” the researchers concluded. One compound, moreover, L-proline was converted to D-proline, which is neurotoxic.
Source: G. Lubec et al., “Aminoacid Isomerisation and Microwave Exposure,” Lancet 2(8676):1392-93, 1989.
• Microwaving Weakens Breast Milk - Collecting, freezing, and reheating breast milk is standard practice in most neonatal care units in the U.S. today. Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine reported that when reheated in a microwave oven, human breast milk loses some of its abilities to fight infection. Microwaving weakened antibodies and proteins that inhibit bacterial growth and help the infant ward off infection.
The California scientists further found that microwaved cow’s milk grew E. coli bacteria—associated with food poisoning—18 times more than regular milk. At low temperatures, it grew the bacteria five times faster.
Source: “Microwaving Breast Milk, Microwave News, May/June 1992, p. 14.
• Microwave Packaging Carcinogenic - The chemicals used in microwave packaging can migrate into food but the FDA has declined to regulate them. Heat susceptor packaging, as this material is known, commonly contains dimethyl terephthalate, a suspected carcinogen, and is commonly used for microwaved popcorn, pizza, french fries, fish sticks, and Belgian waffles.
Source: David Steinman and Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Safe Shopper’s Bible (New York: Macmillan, 1995).
• Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Microwaved Food - Public Health researchers in the U.K. reported a case of salmonella food poisoning in six persons following consumption of microwaved cooked food. The food consisted of a savory dish consisting of boiled rice, raw carrots, eggs, cheese, and curry powder. In a subsequent study, British researchers reported that Salmonellae survived after microwaving poached eggs if the yolk was soft.
Sources: M. R. Evans et al., “Salmonella Outbreak from Microwave Cooked Food,” Epidemiological Infect 115(2):227-20, 1995; C. J. Bates, “Survival of Salmonella Species in Eggs Poached Using a Microwave Oven,” Journal of Hospital Infections 29(2):121-27, 1995.
MIDDLE EASTERN DIET
The Qu’ran proclaims, “Let man examine his food,” and has many passages upholding the beneficial value of wheat, barley, and other whole cereal grains. Islamic medicine developed a comprehensive approach synthesizing Hippocratic teachings from Greece and traditional Arabic folk remedies. Dietary recommendations formed the core of the medical system taught by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), a famous medieval physician, and his treatise on healing, The Canon of Medicine, served as the chief medical text in both Europe and Arabia until the beginning of modern times. Food continues to play a central role in Islamic medicine. “Tibbi, nutrition, is based on the concept that for each food, whether it is fruit, vegetable or meat, there is an energy, essence or state of quality that can be identified and formulated,” explains Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan. “This enables the physician to express the essence of food in a holistic manner and context.”
Moses Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish physician, upheld whole grain bread as the perfect food: “The bread should be made of coarse flour; that is to say, the husk should not be removed and the bran should not be refined by sifting. It should be well raised and noticeably salty. It should be well worked during kneading and should be baked in the oven. This is the bread that to the physician is properly prepared; it is the best of foods.”
Sources: Muhammad Salim Khan, Islamic Medicine (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986) and Moses Maimonides, Two Treatises on the Regimen of Health (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1964).
Severe, painful, throbbing headaches, known as migraines, begin to appear in some people between ages 10 and 30. Women are more affected than men, and sometimes they decline after age 50. They are commonly treated by drugs. See Umeboshi.
• Diet and Migraine - In a study of diet and migraine, Spanish researchers reported that certain foods can spark migraine attacks in susceptible individuals, including chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits, bananas, nuts, cured meats, dairy products, hot dogs, pizza, food additives (including MSG), stimulants, soft drinks, and alcohol.
Source:, R. Leira and R. Rodriguez, “Diet and Migraine,” Revue Neurol 24(129):534-38, 1996.
Millet is traditionally eaten in China, India, Africa and other parts of the world. It has a mild sweet taste, gives balanced energy, and in traditional Far Eastern medicine is good for nourishing the pancreas, stomach, and spleen, including the lymphatic functions. Its healing properties are used in contemporary macrobiotic cooking and home remedies. See Whole Grains, Yellow Emperor’s Classic.
• Millet Protects Against Esophageal Cancer - An epidemiological study found that populations with a low risk of esophageal cancer in Africa and Asia consume more millet, cassava, yams, peanuts, and other foods high in fiber or starch than high-risk groups.
Source: S. J. van Rensburg, “Epidemiologic and Dietary Evidence for a Specific Nutritional Predisposition to Esophageal Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 67:243-51, 1981.
In the East, miso has been enjoyed for thousands of years. In the West, this fermented soybean paste has become a principal healing food over the last generation. Its active microorganisms and vital enzymes help to restore the flora in the intestines, benefit digestion and assimilation, and clean and rejuvenate the body as a whole. Medical studies are beginning to show its effect to protect against many types of cancer, heart disease, radiation sickness, and other disorders. See also Breast Cancer, Estrogen, Isoflavones, Menopause, Nuclear Radiation, Phytoestrogens, Soy Foods.
• Miso Reduces Breast Cancer Risk - The incidence of breast cancer in first-generation Japanese migrants to Hawaii is about 60 percent of the rate in subsequent generations of Japanese born in Hawaii. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, theorized that miso, natto, soy sauce, and other traditionally fermented soybean foods may contribute to lowered disease. The consumption of these foods in Japan is about five times or more what it is among Japanese migrants to Hawaii.
In laboratory studies, the miso- and salt-supplemented diet treatment group showed a trend toward a lower number of breast cancers per animal, a higher number of benign tumors per animal, and a lower growth rate of cancers compared with controls.
“This data suggest that miso consumption may be a factor producing a lower breast cancer incidence in Japanese women,” the researchers concluded. “Organic compounds found in fermented soybean-based foods may exert a chemoprotective effect.”
Source: J. E. Baggott et al., “Effect of Miso (Japanese Soybean Paste) and NaCl on DMBA-Induced Rat Mammary Tumors,” Nutrition and Cancer 14:103-09, 1990.
• Miso Decreases Tumors by Two-Thirds in Animal Experiments - Medical researchers in Hiroshima reported that miso helped decrease the progression of induced breast cancer in laboratory experiments. Eighty percent of rats on the control diet developed malignancies, while only 32 percent on the miso-supplemented diet got tumors. “The present results indicate that soybeans, miso, and biochanin A [a phytoestrogen in soy] are useful for the prevention of mammary cancer, “ the Japanese scientists concluded.
Source: T. Gotoh et al., “Chemoprevention of N-nitroso-N-methylurea-induced Rat Mammary Carcinogenesis by Soy Foods or Biochanin A,” Japanese Journal of Cancer Research 89(2):137-42, 1998.
• Miso Removes Radioactive Elements from the Body - A team studying atomic bomb radioactivity has found miso is effective in helping to remove radioactive elements from the body and controlling inflammation of organs caused by radioactivity.
In experiments conducted on male and female rats four weeks after birth, radioisotopes of iodine-131 and cesium-134 were injected into the animals’ stomachs. Both isotopes are secondary elements produced in nuclear reactor accidents. The iodine-131 isotope is absorbed in the thyroid gland, while the cesium-134 accumulates in muscles and in the intestines.
Researchers at Hiroshima University Medical Center found that there was only half the amount of iodine-131 in the blood of the group fed with miso in contrast to the control group three and six hours after the injections. Lower amounts of radioactive particles were also measured in the kidneys, liver, and spleen.
In other tests of exposure to a half lethal dose of radiation to test the effect of miso on victims of a nuclear explosion, more than 80 percent of the rats from each group died within one week. However, the inflammation of organs commonly seen after exposure to radiation was less for the rats eating miso.
Source: “Miso Show Promise as Treatment for Radiation,” Japan Times, Sept, 27, 1988.
• Miso Protects Against Stomach Cancer and Heart Disease - Japan’s National Cancer Center reported that people who eat miso soup daily are 33 percent less likely to contract stomach cancer and 19 percent less likely to contract cancer at other sites than those who never eat miso soup. The 13-year study, involving about 265,000 men and women over forty, also found that those who never ate miso soup had a 43 percent higher death rate from coronary heart disease than those who consumed miso soup daily. Those who abstained from miso also had 29 percent more fatal strokes, three and a half times more deaths resulting from high blood pressure, and higher mortality from all other causes.
Source: T. Hirayama, “Relationship of Soybean Paste Soup Intake to Gastric Cancer Risk,” Nutrition and Cancer 3:223-33, 1981.
• Miso’s Antitumor Effect on Brain, Breast, and Prostate Cancer - A diet rich in soy foods, especially miso soup, produces genistein, a natural substance that blocked the growth of new blood vessels that feed a tumor, scientists reported. Researchers from Children’s University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, reported that genistein also deterred cancer cells from multiplying and could have significant implications for the prevention and treatment of solid malignancies, including those of the brain, breast, and prostate.
Source: “Chemists Learn Why Vegetables Are Good for You,” New York Times, April 13, 1993.
• Miso Promotes Longevity - For a study of the history of miso and its effects, William Shurtleff and his wife spent several years in Japan visiting traditional miso-makers. “When we visited a ‘long-life’ village located deep in the mountains west of Tokyo, we asked a number of very elderly and hearty people what they felt were the secrets of health and long life. The most frequent responses were: Work hard in the fields; get plenty of clean, cold mountain air; eat mostly grains and vegetables and not much animal food; drink plenty of miso soup.”
Source: William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, The Book of Miso (New York: Ballantine, 1989).
Namboku Mizuno, an 18th century Japanese physiognomist, challenged the way that visual diagnosis and fortune-telling had been practiced in the Far East for many centuries. He taught that fortune, health, and wealth are not fixed by heaven but are governed by diet, lifestyle, and environment. No matter how star-crossed one’s face or palm, he held that a person could control his or her destiny by observing a natural way of living, especially by limiting the intake of food.
During his lifetime, he gave advice to thousands of parents and children, merchants and priests, geisha and samurai, intellectuals and sumo wrestlers, criminals and the mentally ill who were seeking advice on their worldly and spiritual fate. In his book on diet, health, and life-extension, he observed, “One who understands heaven and earth’s grace will not waste anything and knows his action brings in happiness and longevity according to the order of heaven. Therefore, he even enjoys more being humble and frugal, and then his mind will become peaceful, and automatically the ki of his personality will be nourished. He will naturally create great ki energy. But someone who loves sake, meat, and rich food will spoil his mind and body, and automatically he will destroy such great ki energy, and his life will be short.” He recommended a simple grain-and-vegetable diet for usual good health and soft rice for sickness.
Source: Michio and Aveline Kushi with Alex Jack, translators, Food Governs Your Destiny: The Teachings of Namboku Mizuno (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1991).
Mochi—pounded sweet rice—is a traditional food in the Far East and now available ready-made in natural foods stores. It may also be made at home. It is delicious pan-fried and eaten with either a sweet topping or shoyu, as a snack, or cooked in casseroles as a “cheese melt” topping. Traditionally, it has been used to give strength to expectant or nursing mothers, the elderly, and anyone else needed strong, balanced energy.
Moxibustion (or moxa) is a traditional Far Eastern healing method using burning herbs to stimulate acupressure points. In a randomized case-control study, scientists in China reported that applying moxa on the bladder meridian of the fifth toe of pregnant women helped to correct breech positions about 50 percent more than using conventional methods.
Source: “F. Cardini and H. Weixin, “Moxibustion for Correction of Breech Presentation,” Journal of the American Medical Association 280:1580-84, 1998.
The proliferation of MRI machines, CAT scanners, and X-ray and radiation therapy devices has exposed millions of patients to increased doses of artificial electromagnetic radiation. An estimated 25 percent of all patients now undergo nuclear medical procedures during diagnosis or treatment.
• Harmful Effects of MRIs - MRIs subject the body to a field 20,000 times stronger than the earth’s natural background radiation. Reviewing the dangers of electromagnetic fields, a health researcher cites evidence that 20 percent of MRI patients experience severe panic, some even losing temporary consciousness. Short-term memory loss, tissue heating, nausea, abnor-mal heart rates and blood pressure, and other symptoms have also been commonly reported. Studies on animals subjected to MRIs found immune function changes, including an increase in natural “killer-cell” toxicity, reduced calcium absorption in the brain, and changes in pineal-gland activity and melatonin production.
Source: E. Blake Levitt, Electromagnetic Fields (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995).
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer used in many Oriental restaurants that has been associated with headaches, tingling sensations, and difficulties in breathing.
• Test Confirms MSG Syndrome - In a study of the effects of MSG, researchers in Canada reported that total and average severity of symptoms, including headache, muscle tightness, numbness/tingling, general weakness, and flushing, occurred more frequently after subjects consumed MSG than a placebo in a double-blind test.
Source: W. H. Yang, “The Monosodium Glutamate Symptom Complex,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 99(6Pt 10:757-62, 1997.
MS, a progressive neuromuscular disorder, may have a dietary foundation. In a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of MS patients used alternative medical therapies to help control their disease, including dietary modification. See Fish.
• MS Higher in Meat Eaters - In a study of risk factors for MS, researchers at the Russian State Medical University in Moscow reported that MS patients ate a predominantly meat diet instead of a vegetable diet during childhood, had more tonsillitis, experienced allergic reactions before age 15, and suffered head trauma before age 16.
Source: E. Gusev, “Environmental Risk Factors in MS: A Case Control Study in Moscow,” Acta Neurol Scand 94 (6):386-94, 1996.
• Treating MS with a Low-Fat Diet - Roy L. Swank, M.D., of the Division of Neurology, University of Oregon Medical School, has treated MS patients with diet for more than 20 years. He reported that in 146 patients monitored, there was a 70 percent decrease in the relapse rate of MS the first year and a subsequent additional decrease of 25 percent in the succeeding five years. The death rate from MS on the usual high-fat diet was three to four times higher than in patients in this study. The therapeutic diet consisted of 25 to 29 percent fats and oils and calories averaged 1788 for women and 2164 for men—both well below the national average. Fish was recommended instead of meat, and most patients increased their intake of vegetables, fruits, and other plant-quality foods.
“The course of disease in these patients was less rapidly progressive than in untreated cases available in the literature for comparison,” Dr. Swank concluded. “There was a significant reduction in the death rate, in the frequency and severity of exacerbations, and in the rate at which patients became unable to walk and work. If treated early in the disease, before significant disability had developed, a high percentage of cases remained unchanged for up to 20 years. When treated later in disease, the disease usually continued to be slowly progressive. Patients who consumed the least amount of fat and the largest amounts of fluid oils deteriorated less than those who consumed more fat and less oil.”
Source: R. L. Swank, “Multiple Sclerosis: Twenty Years on Low Fat Diet,” Archives of Neurology 23:460-74, 1970.
• Animal Food Linked with MS - In a review of diet and multiple sclerosis, a German medical doctor summarized studies linking MS with increased consumption of meat, eggs, butter, sugar, and milk. He concluded that both on a global scale and within a number of smaller geographic units, the MS rate was repeatedly correlated with high intakes of animal fat, animal protein, and meat and with low intakes of vegetable and plants foods and with fish. “From a therapeutic, and perhaps preventive, perspective, epidemiologic, experimental, and clinical data justify the present dietary recommendation to patients to reduce animal fat intake and to increase intake of both vegetable fat and seafood,” the researcher concluded.
Source: K. Laurer, “Diet and Multiple Sclerosis,” Neurology 49(2 Suppl 2):S55-61, 1997.
• MS and Vitamin D from Sunlight - Multiple sclerosis may be associated with vitamin D3 deficiency, an immune system regulator catalyzed by exposure to the sun. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin said this theory, supported by laboratory experiments, explains why MS is nearly zero in equatorial regions with abundant sunlight and increases dramatically with latitude in both hemispheres. It is also higher in low altitudes compared to high ones where sunlight is more prevalent. MS is also more frequent inland than in coastal regions, the scientists explained, probably because of higher consumption of fish which is naturally high in vitamin D3.
Source: C. E. Hayes et al., “Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis,” Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biological Medicine 216(1):21-7, 1997.
• Two-Thirds of MS Patients Use Alternative Medicine - In a study of 129 multiple sclerosis patients, German scientists reported that 64 percent had been using alternative therapies, including diet, homeopathy, yoga, and herbs. “The most important motivation to look for alternative medicine was the aim to participate actively in the healing process. Most patients thought that there was some positive effect from the alternative treatment but did not inform their general practitioner or neurologist about it,” the report concluded. “The experiences of these treatments forms part of the patient’s coping with the disease.”
Source: M. Winterholler et al., “The Use of Alternative Medicine by Multiple Sclerosis Patents,” Fortschrifte der Neurologic-Psychiatric 65(12):555-61, 1997.
Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that is characterized by muscle weakness of varying strength. Duchenne’s MD occurs most commonly in young boys and involves progressive weakening of the pelvis, shoulders, heart, and spine. By puberty, most boys are confined to a wheelchair and few live to age 20. In Far Eastern medicine, MD is associated with consuming too much chicken, eggs, and other contractive foods.
• Wheat Strengths Muscles - Testing an animal model of muscular dystrophy, German researchers reported that adding wheat kernels to the diet of mice helped prevent the progression of muscle weakness and weight loss.
Source: C. Hubner, “Wheat Kernel Ingestion Protects from Progression of Muscle Weakness in MDX Mice, an Animal Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” Pediatric Research 40(3):444-49, 1996.
Mushrooms, one of humanity’s oldest edible plants, have many medicinal qualities, particularly maitaki mushrooms and shiitake which are traditionally eaten in the Far East and now available in natural foods stores. Generally the dried mushrooms have stronger effects than the fresh ones. See Shiitake.
• Medicinal Properties of Mushrooms - A researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York estimated that approximately 50 percent of cultivated edible mushrooms contain medicinal properties, especially shiitake, oyster, mu-er, enokitake, yin-er, and maitake. These mushrooms have “various degrees of immunomodulatory, lipid-lowering, antitumor, and other beneficial or therapeutic health effects without any significant toxicity.” The scientist concluded that mushrooms are potentially useful in preventing or treating cancer, AIDS, high cholesterol, and other serious health conditions.
Source: R. Chang, “Functional Properties of Edible Mushrooms,” Nutritional Review 54(11 Pt.2):S91-93, 1996.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is characterized by the inability to focus on distant objects. In Far Eastern medicine, myopia is associated with consuming too much sugar, sweets, and other expansive foods.
• Myopia and Diet - In a review of the effects of diet and environment on myopia, an Argentinean researcher reports that modern Innuit (Eskimo) have the highest incidence of myopia. The disorder was unknown before sugar, chocolate, and coffee were introduced. Today, 50 percent of Innuit have mild myopia. Low intakes of calcium may be associated with myopia, according to animal studies.
Source: Rafael Iribarren, “Myopia Prevention,” personal communication, June 25, 1998.