Oats, hailing from Northern Europe, especially Scotland and Ireland, are now grown around the world and enjoyed as a popular morning porridge. Containing more fat than other whole grains, oats give a warm energy and provide stamina and endurance. They are particularly strengthening for the liver and gallbladder. See Ulcer, Whole Grains.
• Oat Bran Reduces Cholesterol - In a study of the cholesterol-lowering effects of whole grain products, researchers at David Medical Center and Sutter Heart Institute in Sacramento, Calif., reported that oat bran added to the low-fat, high-fiber diet of adults with elevated lipid levels reduced cholesterol and improved fat metabolism in 78 percent of subjects.
Source: A. L. Gerhardt and N. B. Ballo, “Full-Fat Rice Bran and Oat Bran Similarly Reduce Hypercholesterolemia in Humans,” Journal of Nutrition 128(5):865-69, 1998.
Obesity, defined as being more than 20 percent heavier than the average for one’s height/weight group, affects 31 percent of men and 35 percent of women in the United States. It is associated with overeating, high-caloric intake, and higher consumption of sugar, fatty foods, and liquid, as well as a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity is a major risk factor in diabetes, heart disease, and other serious disorders. See Tarahumara Diet, Weight Problems.
• Obesity and Diabetes Linked to Low-Fiber Diet - “Obesity and diabetes mellitus... usually emerge together about the same time in any community that is becoming affluent, wherein the wealthy are able to consume more fat, oil, sugar, meat, wine and beer, also refined cereals, such as white bread and white rice,” report British medical researchers. Little is known concerning the ancient date when, in India and China, rice began to be [processed] to produce low fiber white rice. . . . Perhaps this explains why diabetes mellitus emerges as a common disease at an early date in India and China.”
Source: H. Trowell and D. Burkitt, editors, Western Diseases: Their Emergence and Prevention, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 24.
• Sailors Lose Weight on a High-Fiber Diet - The crew of a U.S. Navy ship ate a special cancer-prevention diet high in fiber and low in fat for 6 months as part of an American Cancer Society experiment. Sailors on the USS Scott, stationed in the Mediterranean, lost an average 12 pounds during the trial, mean waist size decreased by 2 inches, and 44 percent said they would continue the new way of eating. In contrast, the crew of a sister ship put on an average of 7 pounds and waist size increased 1.5 inches.
Source: “Cancer-Prevention Diet Wins Praise on Navy Destroyer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 84:297–98, 1992.
• Diet Relieves Gross Obesity in Hawaii - Hawaiians, who have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, are relieving this condition by returning to their native diet. Dr. Terry Shintani, a macrobiotic physician, established the Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center which offers participants a diet based on taro, seaweed, sweet potatoes, greens, fruit, and small amounts of fish. “Hawaiians were never fat, apart from the royalty,” Dr. Shintani explains. “I have 300-pound patients by the dozen, I have patients in the 500-pound range.”
Source: “Do Our Genes Determine Which Foods We Should Eat?” Newsweek, August 9, 1993.
• Obesity a World Issue - With the spread of the modern high-fat diet and lifestyle, obesity has become a global problem. Dr. Philip James, head of a task force for the International Association for the Study of Obesity, stated that obesity is “one of the top five public health problems in the world.” Unless eating behavior in children and adults is modified, he declared, “in 10 to 20 years “it really looks like we are going to have a catastrophe on our hands.”
Source: “Obesity Found to Become a Developing World Issue,” Boston Globe, September 1, 1998.
In 1913, Yukikazu Sakurazawa, later known as George Ohsawa, healed himself of terminal pulmonary tuberculosis after reading a book on health and diet by Sagen Ishizuka. Over the next fifty years, Ohsawa devoted his life to spreading macrobiotics and guiding thousands of people to health and happiness.
Among the many medical and scientific experiments he conducted, in 1941 he oversaw the treatment of 23 sick and wounded soldiers at a military recuperation center in Tokyo. All medications were stopped, and the soldiers were fed brown rice and vegetables. Wounds and infections were treated with salt water only. After one month, all the men had made progress physically and their morale was higher.
In another experiment, while visiting Dr. Schweitzer in Africa, George Ohsawa deliberately contracted tropical ulcers—an invariably fatal disease —in order to show that it could be reversed by dietary methods. Taking plenty of salt and umeboshi (salted plums), he completely recovered from this affliction which he said was spreading among the African people who were eating sugar, refined foods, and excessive fruits and fungi.
In The Book of Judgment, Ohsawa observed: “To eat is to live. To live is to give, as shown in our logarithmic spiral. All beings live to give their products and the whole of their life, to become a bit higher being. Many men do not know that vivere parvo [voluntary poverty] is the only way to enter into the country of eternal happiness.” Among the case histories he presented are men and women who used a balanced diet to overcome polio, asthma, leprosy, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. In a typical case (classified as “Foolhardiness”), he noted: “Mr. X, a clerk in a big industrial company in Calcutta, had lost his job because he became insane. His oldest brother had brought him to me from afar, hoping that my dietetic method would cure him.
“The patient did not speak. He sat night and day in a corner of his brother’s house. He would neither eat nor drink. But occasionally he would run away and he would then wander through the big strange city for days. His brother always had great difficulty in finding him.
“‘This is an intoxication, probably from white sugar,’ I said. Indeed, he was the supervisor in a great sugar warehouse. All his colleagues were stealing and selling sugar, but being more honest, he was satisfied with taking only as much sugar as he could eat.
“Once the ultimate cause was known, healing was easy. He was cured in five weeks. Had he had the usual psychiatric treatment, he would very likely have been confined in a hospital, perhaps for the remainder of his life.” See Macrobiotics.
Sources: George Ohsawa, Hitotsu no Hokuku: Aru Byoin ni okeru Jikken no Kokoku (A Report of a Hospital Experiment) 1941 (Tokyo: Nippon C.I., 1976); The Book of Judgment (Oroville, Ca.: George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1966); Macrobiotics—The Way of Healing (Ovoville, CA: G.O.M.F., 1985).
Olestra, an artificial fat substitute introduced in 1998 in potato chips, might cause thousands of new cases of cancer and heart disease, and products made with olestra should carry a warning, according to Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Willett said the FDA approval of olestra was compelling people to "participate in a massive and uncontrolled experiment without their informed consent." He said that studies showed olestra interfered with the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins and carotenoids. Olestra, manufactured by Procter & Gamble, is marketed to reduce caloric and fat intake. On the basis of the company's projected sales, Dr. Willett and colleagues at Harvard estimated that carotenoid levels in the population would fall by 10 percent and result in up to 9800 additional cases of prostate cancer, 32,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 7400 cases of lung cancer and 390 cases of macular degeneration.
Source: Marian Burros, "Fat Substitute May Cause Disease, a Top Researcher Says," New York Times, June 11, 1998.
Onions have a mild, sweet taste that combine well with many other foods and dishes. They give a calm, peaceful energy and are especially soothing for nervous conditions, muscle aches and pains, and providing a sweet taste for diabetic or hypoglycemic conditions. Externally, onion is used in Far Eastern medicine to neutralize insect bites and other skin conditions. Modern medicine is now investigating the vegetable’s antidiabetic, antibiotic, fiber protecting, and cholesterol lowing effects.
• Onions Protect Against Stomach Cancer - In a cohort study on diet and cancer involving 120,000 men and women, researchers in the Netherlands reported that people with the highest onion consumption, averaging one half onion per day, had half as much stomach cancer as those who didn’t eat onions.
Source: E. Dorant, “Consumption of Onions and a Reduced Risk of Stomach Carcinoma,” Gastroenterology 110(1):12-20, 1996.
• Antibacterial Effects of Onion - In a study in Egypt, researchers reported that onion contained oils that inhibited several potential disease-causing bacteria, nine species of fungi associated with skin disease, and four toxic species of fungi.
Source: A. N. Zohri et al., “Antibacterial, Antidermatophytic, and Antitoxigenic Activities of Onion,” Microbiology Research 150(2):167-72, 1995.
Throughout history, human beings have practiced primarily organic farming. With the rise of modern nutrition in the 19th century, nitrogen, phosphate, and other chemicals were added to enrich soils and produce greater yields. In the 20th century, a wide variety of pesticides and herbicides were developed, along with fertilizers. Their effects on human health and the the environment have been the subject of intensive research. See Chemicals, Environment, Infertility, Pesticides.
• Organic Farming Saves Energy Compared with Chemical Farming - In the early 1980s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that organic farming can result in substantial energy savings over chemical farming. In a productivity study of organic and inorganic wheat growers in New York and Pennsylvania, the organic farmers used about 30 percent less energy per acre than conventional farmers. However, their yield was 22 percent less, so that the net energy consumption per bushel of organic wheat was about 15 percent less than the wheat grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1980).
• USDA Study on How a Healthy Diet Would Impact Agriculture - In a study of how a healthier diet would impact American agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report detailing the large-scale changes that would take place to conform to the Food Guide Pyramid and traditional guidelines such as the Mediterranean Diet. These include:
• Doubling the production of vegetables and fruits, a change that could “entail a troubling increase in use of agrochemicals that could increase concerns about food safety” and raise questions about competition for water in areas with limited supplies and concerns about water quality
• Reducing the need for feedstuffs by one third or more, as agriculture shifted from red-meat production to poultry and fish
• Large-scale restructuring of the livestock-feed complex would further be necessary as society shifted from saturated to unsaturated fats and cooking oils, necessitating the reduction or discontinuance of many livestock by-products
• Converting sugar cane acreage to fruit and vegetable production
“A move toward healthier diets would involve balancing nutrition and health gains against potentially higher food prices, increasing pressures on the natural resource base, increasing concerns about food quality and safety, and perhaps, creating large-scale dislocations in the agricultural sector, particularly in the feed-livestock complex,” the report concluded.
The study warned about the potential for food industry advertising, currently amounting to $36 billion annually, to exceed federal efforts to dis-seminate nutrition information.
In respect to increased pesticide and other chemical use, the report noted that organic produce may become more popular and result in state and federal efforts to regulate chemical use and generate interest among farmers in developing alternative production methods.
Source: Patrick O’Brien, “Dietary Shifts and Implications for U.S. Agriculture,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61(suppl):1390S-96S, 1995.
• Organic Produce Higher in Mineral Content - Researchers at Rutgers University reported that non-organic produce had as little as 25 percent as much mineral content as organic produce. The scientists compared beans, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach purchased at a supermarket and an organic natural foods store and found substantially higher levels of phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, boron, manganese, iron, copper, and cobalt and other minerals and trace elements in the organically grown vegetables.
Source: Firman E. Baer Report (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1984).
• Organic Farming Preserves Topsoil - Comparing two neighboring farms in the Palouse region of Washington state, researchers found that the organic farm’s topsoil was six inches thicker than the farm using chemical methods. The organic soil also had a softer crust and held more moisture. The scientists concluded that intensive tillage practices associated with continuous monoculture or short rotations of crops may make soils more susceptible to erosion. “This study indicates that, in the long term, the organic farming system was more effective than the conventional farming system in reducing soil erosion and, therefore, in maintaining soil productivity,” the investigators concluded.
Source: J. P. Reganold, L. F. Elliott, and Y. L. Unger, “Long-Term Effects of Organic and Conventional Farming on Soil Erosion,” Nature 330:370-72, 1987.
• Pesticide Use Could Be Reduced 90% - David Pimentel, an entomologist and ecologist at the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, and colleagues analyzed 300 scientific studies and reported that pesticides could be reduced by up to 90 percent without affecting crop yields or the costs of foods. Since the 1940s, pesticide use has multiplied thirty-three times and potency has increased ten times, yet more crops are lost to insects today than fifty years ago. For example, 3.5 percent of the national corn crop was lost to pests then. Today despite a thousand-fold increase in insecticide use, losses have increased to 12 percent. The report also cited other drawbacks to chemicals including the poisoning of 45,000 farm workers and an estimated 6,000 cases of pesticide-induced cancers each year.
Source: David Pimental, Handbook of Pest Management in Agriculture (Boca Raton, Fl.: CRC Press, 1991) and Jane Brody, “Using Fewer Pesticides Is Seen as Beneficial,” New York Times, April 2, 1991.
• National Report “Alternative Agriculture” Supports Sustainable Farming - In a landmark report Alternative Agriculture, the National Academy of Sciences found that “alternative farming methods are practical and economical ways to maintain yields, conserve soil, maintain water quality, and lower operating costs through improved farm management and reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides.”
In the 1989 report, the 17-member expert panel found that adoption of organic, renewable, sustainable, low-input, and other alternative practices including rotations with legumes and nonleguminous crops, the continued use of improved cultivars, integrated pest management and biological pest control, reduced use of antibiotics in livestock, and lower-cost management strategies that use fewer synthetic chemicals could have substantial “economic benefits to farmers and environmental gains for the nation.”
The adverse effects of conventional farming cited include:
• Environmental and occupational health problems resulting from extensive use of synthetic chemical fertilizer and pesticides; agricultural chemicals have been associated with causing cancer, behavioral effects, altered immune system function, and allergic reactions.
• Insecticides accounting for 30 percent, herbicides accounting for 50 percent, and fungicides accounting for 90 percent of all agricultural use have been found to cause tumors in laboratory animals.
• Insects, weeds, and pathogens continue to develop resistance to some commonly used insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
• Insects and pathogens also continue to overcome inbred genetic resistance of plants; in 1986 more than 440 insect and mite species and more than 70 fungus species were resistant to some pesticides.
• Widespread pesticide use has severely stressed fish, fowl, domestic animals, and wildlife including honeybee and wild bee populations that are vital to the production of vegetables and other crops.
• Chemical agriculture is the leading cause of pollution in surface water and ground water in many states, affecting an estimated 46 percent of all counties in the U.S.
• The decreasing genetic diversity of many major U.S. crops and livestock species increases potential for sudden widespread losses from disease.
The report was particularly critical of federal grading standards which “discourage alternative pest control practices for fruits and vegetables by imposing cosmetic and insect-part criteria that have little if any relation to nutritional quality. Meat and dairy grading standards continue to provide economic incentives for high-fat content, even though considerable evidence supports the relationship between high consumption of fats and chronic diseases, particularly heart disease.”
The report cited the benefits of alternative farming including:
• Increased “environmental and health effects without necessarily decreasing—and in some cases increasing—per acre crop yields.”
• Rotating crops often results in yields 10 to 20 percent greater than growing just a single crop regardless of the amount of fertilizer used.
• Organic methods hold water better, improve soil tilth, have a high exchange capacity for binding and releasing some mineral nutrients; serve as a food source for soil microbes that recycle soil nutrients, and contribute to remineralization.
Among the case histories presented in the report are the Lundberg Brothers farm in Richvale, California, which grows organic brown rice; the Spray Brothers Farm near Mount Vernon, Ohio, whose crops include organic soybeans and azuki beans; and the Ferrari Farm near Linden, California, which grows organic vegetables, nuts, and fruits using a natural insect control method based on the sea vegetable kelp.
Source: National Academy of Sciences, Alternative Agriculture (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989).
• Denmark May Go Organic - Members of parliament in Denmark have recommended that the country be made totally organic by 2010. In response, the Danish government is evaluating the impact of a total pesticide ban. In 1996, pesticide sales fell by 32 percent.
Sources: Pesticide Action Network North America, November 4, 1997.
Organic refers to foods that are processed, packaged, transported, and stored to retain maximum nutritional value and energy, without the use of artificial preservatives, coloring, or other additives; irradiation; genetic engineering; or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and which are grown in accordance with ecological farm management practice, relying on building soil humus through crop rotations, recycling organic wastes, and applying balanced mineral amendments and, as necessary, mechanical, botanical, and/or biological controls with minimal impact on health or the environment.
According to organic industry surveys, nearly two-thirds of all Americans have tried organic produce and 30 percent do so regularly. Large food companies are moving into the organic field.
There are also national and international organizations of growers, distributors, and sellers that certify organic food. In 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture established the National Organic Program (NOP) to regulate the production, manufacturing, and handling of organic agriculture in the U.S. National standards are expected in 1999. See Infertility, Organic Agriculture, Pesticides.
• Superiority of Organic Over Conventional Crops - In a review of 86 scientific studies over the last 50 years comparing the nutritional quality of organic with conventional crops, a clinical nutritionist in Washington, D.C. found a clear trend indicating higher nutrient content in organically grown crops.
“For individual nutrients, existing studies show that organic fertilization practices produce crops with higher levels of ascorbic acid, lower levels of nitrate, and improved protein quality compared with conventionally grown crops,” Virginia Worthington, ScD., concluded.
She theorized this may be partially due to a higher water content in convention crops which causes nutrient dilation. The role of herbicides on nutrient content could also be a factor, though there are few studies in this field. Finally, evidence from farm animals and controlled animal studies “strongly suggests that organically grown crops are superior to conventionally grown crops for promoting health.”
Source: Virginia Worthington, “Effect of Agricultural Methods on Nutritional Quality: A Comparison of Organic with Conventional Crops,” Alternative Therapies 4(1):58-69, 1998.
• Organic Foods Higher in Nutrients - Organic foods contain about twice as much trace elements than foods grown with pesticides. The organic food tested had nearly two to four times more boron, calcium, chromium, copper, iodine, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, selenium, silicon, strontium, and zinc than conventional foods. Organic food also had lesser amounts of aluminum, lead, mercury, and other toxic trace elements. Specific findings included:
• Organic wheat had twice the calcium, four times the magnesium, five times the manganese, and 13 times the selenium.
• Organic pears had two to three times more chromium, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and zinc.
• Organic corn had almost 20 times more calcium and manganese, and two to five times more copper, magnesium, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.
• Organic foods had significantly more beneficial trace elements in 20 of 22 elements measured in the study.
Source: B. Smith, “Organic Foods vs. Supermarket Foods: Element Levels,” Journal of Applied Nutrition 45:35-39, 1993.
Osteoporosis, the thinning of the bones and susceptibility to fracture, commonly occurs in middle aged and elderly people as a result of eating too much meat, dairy food, and other animal protein that leech calcium and other minerals from the bones, as well as excessive salt, caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. See Calcium, Dental Problems, Kale, Menopause, Natto, Vegetables, Vegetarians, Women’s Health.
• Excess Protein Causes Calcium and Bone Loss - Excess protein from the standard American diet can adversely affect the bones. In a study of protein metabolism, researchers at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., reported that a meat- and dairy-centered diet generates a large amount of acid, mainly as sulfates and phosphates, which are offset by buffer reactions involving resorption of calcium from the bones. Alkali buffers, in the form of dietary vegetables and fruits, can help reduce acidity and the burden on the kidneys, resulting in less calcium and bone loss.
Source: U. S. Barzel and L. K. Massey, “Excess Dietary Protein Can Adversely Affect Bone,” Journal of Nutrition 128(6):1051-53, 1998.
• High Meat Diet Causes Osteoporosis - The Inuit (Eskimo) have the highest osteoporosis rates in the world. In a study of 217 children, 89 adults, and 107 elderly Inuit in Alaska, researchers found that they had lower bone mineral content, onset of bone loss at an earlier age, and development of bone thinning with a greater intensity than white Americans. The scientists attributed the greater degeneration to the acidic effects of the Inuits’ high meat diet.
Sources: R. Mazess and W. Mather, “Bone Mineral Content of North Alaskan Eskimos,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 27:916-25, 1974.
• Healthy Teeth and Bones - Macrobiotic cooking teacher Gale Jack describes how she used to diet to control teeth decay and osteoporosis.
Source: Gale Jack, “Healthy Teeth and Bones,” in Gale Jack and Wendy Esko, editors, The Women’s Health Guide, One Peaceful World Press, 1997.
• Dairy Products Fail to Protect Against Bone Fracture - In a review of many case-control and prospective studies on the effects of plant foods and dairy products, University of Minnesota researchers concluded that epidemiologic studies have not provided evidence that high dairy product consumption by adults prevents fractures and, in fact, some studies suggest dairy increases susceptibility to osteoporosis. In contrast, a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, and fruit is likely to prevent degenerative bone disease, as well as coronary heart disease, several cancers, neural tube defects, and cataracts.
Source: L. H. Kushi et al., “Health Implications of Mediterranean Diets in Light of Contemporary Knowledge: Plant Foods and Dairy Products,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 6(6 Suppl): 1407S-1415S, 1995.