The macrobiotic diet: its benefits and limitations and how does it work?

The macrobiotic diet is a strict diet that claims to reduce toxins. It includes eating whole grains and vegetables and avoiding foods high in fat, salt, sugar, and artificial ingredients. Although this diet is promoted as a complementary treatment for some types of cancer, there is no scientific evidence to prove its anti-cancer benefits. Preliminary research suggests that it may support glycemic control in type 2 diabetes and reduce inflammation.

Although there are no proven benefits, this diet is full of foods rich in nutrients and therefore may be healthy for some people if followed properly. Like any restrictive diet, it can be difficult to follow and can lead to nutritional deficiencies or eating disorders. This article explains how this diet works, the foods it includes, its risks and benefits, and more.

What is a macrobiotic diet?

In the 1920s, the Japanese philosopher George Osawa developed the macrobiotic diet. It’s a high-fiber, complex-carbohydrate, low-fat diet that focuses on whole grains and vegetables.

This diet encourages consumption of unprocessed, organic, and locally grown foods. Consumption of fatty, processed, salty and sugary foods is discouraged.
It is part of Osawa’s macrobiotic philosophy, which includes the following elements:

Avoid consuming food additives
Avoid exposure to pesticides and electromagnetic radiation
I exercise regularly
Avoid using nutritional supplements
Prepare food using glass, wooden, enamel or steel utensils and utensils.

List of macrobiotic foods

Foods in the macrobiotic diet are:

All grains. About 50% of the diet consists of whole grains, such as:

brown rice

Vegetables and seaweed. About 25-33% of the diet is made up of vegetables, such as:

Dried vegetables. This category represents 5-10% of the diet and includes foods such as:
Adzuki pills

Diverse foods. About 5-20% of the diet may include:
white fish
miso soup

Foods to avoid when following a macrobiotic diet

This diet advises against eating processed foods and animal products. Foods to avoid include:

the meat
Dairy products
refined sugar
animal fats
Artificial sweeteners or chemical additives
genetically modified food

Benefits of a macrobiotic diet

People who follow a diet low in fat and animal products, such as a macrobiotic diet, may experience lower cholesterol levels. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems. However, people can obtain these benefits by following a nutritious and balanced diet. It is not necessary to follow highly restrictive diets, such as the macrobiotic diet, to reduce the risk of disease.

Some studies have looked at the effects of the macrobiotic diet on cancer and diabetes.


According to a 2015 study, several elements of the macrobiotic diet have been linked to reduced inflammation compared to the standard American diet. This can reduce the risk of developing cancer. However, this has not been proven. The only evidence that a macrobiotic diet may provide an effective alternative treatment for cancer comes from anecdotal reports. It should not be used as a substitute for cancer treatment. Due to the limited amount of research, no conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of the diet as a complementary therapy.

Type 2 diabetes

A 2015 study looked at research comparing the effects of different diets on people with diabetes. The results indicated that Mediterranean, plant-based, and low-calorie diets may help manage type 2 diabetes. However, short and medium-term clinical trials indicated that the macrobiotic diet produced faster glycemic control.

Benefits Included

lowering cholesterol
improve blood sugar
Increased insulin sensitivity, which helps cells absorb blood sugar
Low blood pressure
decrease in body weight

It is important to note that research has only shown these improvements in the short to medium term. Researchers do not know if this diet is effective for the long-term management of type 2 diabetes.

Dangers of a macrobiotic diet

A person who strictly follows the macrobiotic diet does not eat animal products, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. This diet may result in you not eating the following:

Vitamin D
Vitamin B12
To avoid deficiencies, people who want to follow this diet can consult a dietitian.

Also, many foods included in the diet are relatively low in calories. Over time, a person who follows this diet may lose weight, which may not align with their health goals. Diet can also be challenging and socially restrictive, so people may find it difficult to eat meals with family and friends while sticking to their eating plan.

Benefits of a macrobiotic diet

A macrobiotic diet is rich in foods rich in nutrients, such as vegetables and whole grains, which are important for health. They are also rich in natural compounds found in plant foods, called phytonutrients. They may provide a variety of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving immune function.


The macrobiotic diet focuses on foods rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables. Although anecdotal reports suggest that it may reduce the search for cancer, there is no evidence for this. Since it is a restricted diet, a macrobiotic diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. If a person wishes to follow this diet, they may benefit from consulting a registered dietitian.

Valuka, P, et al. (2015). Gut microbiota and the Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic system in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Harmon, B, et al. (2015). Nutrient composition and anti-inflammatory capacity of a described macrobiotic diet.

Horowitz, C, et al. (2002). The macrobiotic diet as a treatment for cancer: a review of the evidence.

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