(Investigator 178, 2018 January)


The principles of the macrobiotic diet date back centuries to Far Eastern philosophy. It is a combination of nutrition and lifestyle. Food is not only believed to provide nourishment for the body but also engenders health and happiness.

Modern exponents such as Japanese physicians Sagen Ishizuka and George Ohsawa (1893-1966) taught the theory of nutrition and formed a macrobiotic association.

In 1959, Ohsawa came to the United States from Japan, and in 1960 established the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation in Oroville, California.

Currently, prominent names in the field of macrobiotics are Michio and Aveline Kushi, founders of the Kushi Institute of the Berkshires in Becket, MA, now located in
Brookline. MA., and the International Macrobiotic Shiatsu Society in Eureka, California.

There are six affiliated institutes in Europe, and instruction courses costing up to $8,250 are promoted.


Part philosophical, part dietary regime. Proponents recommend low-fat, low-protein, high-complex carbohydrate, and high-fibre diets.

Grains feature prominently, as do vegetables and fish. Only "natural" foods are recommended, and only those locally and organically grown and in season.


The preparation and eating of specific types of food and diets appealing to the psychology of asceticism in which abstinence equates with "spiritual growth".


The word macrobiotics comes from the Greek words macro meaning "long, large or great" and bios meaning "life". However, the originator of the Macrobiotic Diet,
George Oshawa, died in his early sixties — hardly a testimonial to success.

Macrobiotics is a quasi-religious movement and health centred life-style and has become big business, not only selling the philosophy but cookbooks, audio/video tapes, kitchenware and macrobiotic meals.

The original Zen macrobiotic diet involved ten levels ranging from the "minus-3 diet" with the greatest variety to the Plus-7 diet consisting of 100% brown rice and
virtually no fluids.

Many deaths from starvation have been reported trying to adhere to the more austere diets, together with the occurrence of rickets and scurvy. The claim that
macrobiotic diets are a cure for cancer is totally unfounded and in fact dieting is just the opposite of what cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy need. Other dangers associated with macrobiotic diets include, iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, rickets, retarded growth and below normal stature among children.

In 1966, the Passaic (New Jersey) Grand Jury reviewed three cases of death and two cases of near-death from malnutrition among Zen macrobiotic adherents and concluded that the diet "constitutes a public health hazard".

Currently, macrobiotic diets are more loosely defined.Some versions are suitable in certain circumstances, others are deficient.

Although a correctly balanced intake of nutrients is essential for good health, it is not the sole criterion for longevity. Hereditary and environment also play a part.


American Cancer Society. 1984. Unproven Methods of Cancer Management, "Macrobiotic Diets," Ca-Cancer J  Clinic, 34:60-63.

Kushi, Michio. (No date) Macrobiotics: Standard Dietary and Way of Life Suggestions, Beckett, Massachusetts.

_______________ 1982. The Macrobiotic Approach to Cancer: Towards Preventing and Controlling Cancer with Diet and Lifestyle. Avery Publishing Group Inc., New Jersey.

New Jersey State Health Dept. 1966. Zen Macrobiotic Diet hazardous: presentment of Passaic County Grand Jury. Public Health News, June, pp.132-5.

Ohsawa, George. (No date) Essential Macrobiotics, George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, Oroville, California.

From:  Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc