The earliest recorded usage of the term "macrobiotics" is found in the writings of Hippocrates. Translated literally, macro is the Greek word for "great" and bios is the word for "life." The term "macrobiotics" refers to a philosophy of working with the natural order of life. Philosophers and physicians from many parts of the world have used this term to signify living in harmony with nature and eating a simple, balanced diet to live to an active old age.
The modern practice of macrobiotics was started in the 1920s by a Japanese educator named George Ohsawa, said to have cured himself of a serious illness by changing to a simple diet of brown rice, miso soup, and sea vegetables.
Macrobiotics is a predominantly vegetarian, whole-foods diet that emphasizes whole grains (especially brown rice), vegetables, fruits, legumes and seaweeds. Some proponents eat white meat or fish once or twice a week, while others eat no animal products whatsoever -- an approach referred to as "vegan". Macrobiotic diets may be individualized based on factors such as climate, season, age, gender, activity, and health needs.
Studies have shown increased risk for various nutrient deficiencies. However, proponents argue that with judicious menu planning, most vegetarian diets can supply excellent nutrition. The most common supplementation is with dairy products.
The macrobiotic diet is low in saturated fat and high in phytoestrogens, which may help balance a woman's hormones during menopause, reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and prevent breast cancer and endometriosis.
Both plant-only and plant-based eating patterns have health benefits, most notably in reducing the risk of chronic, degenerative diseases.
Macrobiotics is one of the most popular lifestyle approaches to cancer. However, the evidence as to whether or not a macrobiotic diet can help in cancer is mixed and inconclusive. Overall, there has been little evidence of the effectiveness of a macrobiotic diet aside from case reports.
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