Is the Macrobiotic Diet for You?

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When Christine Pirello was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia, her physician gravely told her she had three to six months left to live. She was only 26. A friend introduced her to Robert Pirello, who claimed he had a diet that could cure cancer. Highly suspicious, but with nothing to lose, she gave it a try. After 13 months of adhering to a macrobiotic diet, there was no evidence of cancer in her body. Now, more than 25 years later, Pirello (who married Robert) remains cancer free. She's a health educator and author of several books on cooking with whole foods.

So what is a macrobiotic diet and can it really cure cancer?

Macrobiotic diets are one of the most popular forms of complementary and alternative lifestyle approaches to cancer. Although it's primarily a way of eating, it encompasses a philosophical and cultural approach to life. People who follow a macrobiotic lifestyle also exercise regularly, minimize their exposure to pesticides, chemicals, and electromagnet radiation, and effectively manage stress.

The macrobiotic diet is a high complex carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Although the diet should be customized based on your age, gender, activity level, personal needs, and environmental factors, the core of the diet is the same:

  • 40 to 60 percent whole cereal grains
  • 20 to 30 percent vegetables, including a small amount of raw and pickled food (which aids digestion)
  • 5 to 10 percent beans
  • Sea vegetables
  • Small quantities of fruit, white fish, seeds, and nuts

A macrobiotic diet excludes meat, poultry, dairy, animal fats, sugar, chemical additives, and genetically modified or processed foods, and encourages organic whenever possible. As with any primarily vegetarian diet, a macrobiotic diet can put you at risk for vitamin B and D deficiencies, so you must be conscientious about consuming adequate quantities of these critical nutrients.

The theory behind the macrobiotic diet is that the nutritional restrictions slow the progress of cancer by starving rapidly reproducing cells.

There are virtually no clinical studies providing scientific evidence that a macrobiotic diet can cure or prevent cancer. However, there are plenty of anecdotal reports from individuals like Pirello; people who purged their bodies of cancer or other serious diseases after following a macrobiotic diet.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and other health organizations report that increasing daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains significantly reduces the risk of developing cancer, so there's solid precedence for the protective value of a wholesome diet.

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Pirello, Christine. "Cooking the Whole Foods Way." Berkley Publishing Group. 1997.

Fouladbakhsh, Judith M. and Stommel, Manfred. "Gender, Symptom Experience, and Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practices among Cancer Survivors in the U.S. Cancer Population." Oncology Nursing Forum 37(1) (2010): E7-E15. Medscape Medical News. Web. 07 August 2010.

Macrobiotics Cooking. Web.

Horowitz, Joellyn MD, and Tomita, Mitsuo MD. "The Macrobiotic Diet as Treatment for Cancer: Review of the Evidence." Complementary and Alternative Medicine 6(4) (2002). Web.