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Mental Illness

Mental illness, including bipolar disease, depression, schizophrenia, paranoia, and other disorders, affects about 10 percent of people living in modern society. Until recently, mental disturbances were treated primarily with drugs, surgery (e.g., lobotomy), and confinement in mental institutions. Dietary factors and nutritional and biochemical imbalances are now being investigated for their role in the development and possible treatment of mental disease. See Complex Carbohydrates, Fish, Geriatrics, Hypoglycemia, Sugar.


• Recovering from Mental Illness on a Macrobiotic Diet

With the help of his mother, Charlotte Mahoney-Briscoe, David Briscoe healed himself of schizophrenia by adhering to a balanced macrobiotic diet. David, diagnosed with mental and emotional illness in the 1960s, unsuccessfully tried many hospitals, medications, and confinement before changing his diet. “

     He might as well be dead,” his mother said looking back. David developed an exaggerated appetite for sugar: candy, cookies, and ice cream, as well as steak, very salty foods like crackers and potato chips, and diet soda. In high school, he become physically ill, with acute kidney problems, frequent sore throats, digestive problems, fevers, and a duodenal ulcer.

     For his depression, he went to psychiatrists for six years and became addicted to Thorazine. After changing his way of eating to brown rice, soy sauce, and other foods, he made a complete recovery. David is currently married, the father of four children, and director of the Vega Study Center in Oroville, Calif.

Source: David Briscoe and Charlotte Mahoney-Briscoe: A Personal Peace: Macrobiotic Reflections on Mental and Emotional Recovery (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1989).


• Antioxidant Foods May Protect Against Schizophrenia

In a study of the role that nutrition plays in the development of schizophrenia, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic reported that free radicals are involved in membrane pathology associated with the development of this disorder.

    Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals generated in the body that in excess can damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. Foods high in antioxidants (such as whole grains and vegetables containing vitamins A, C, and E) help control the formation of free radicals. “Further elucidation of the role of free radicals and antioxidants in schizophrenia and its treatment will require systematic investigation,” the study concluded.

Source: R. D. Reddy and J. K. Yao, “Free Radical Pathology in Schizophrenia: A Review,” Prostaglandins Leukot Essential Fatty Acids 55(1-2):33-43, 1996.


• Fatty Acid Imbalances Linked to Violent and Suicidal Behavior

In a review of studies linking diet with abnormal social behavior, researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that imbalances in fatty acids in the blood appear to be linked to psychiatric disorders.

     Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids protect against depression and hostility, and surveys indicate that countries with higher intakes of fish (high in this nutrient) have lower rates of depression. Boys aged six to ten with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have lower concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than controls. Low levels of cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (CSF 5-HIAA), a metabolite of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that elevates mood, are associated with an increased risk of suicide and violence. The relationship between plasma lipids (fats and oils) and CSF 5-HIAA in violent and suicidal populations should be explored, the investigators concluded.

Source: J. R. HIbbeln et al., “Do Plasma Polyunsaturates Predict Hostility and Depression?” World Reviews of Nutrition and Diet 82:175-186, 1997.


• Macrobiotic Diet Benefits Mentally Ill

Dr. Stephen Harnish, a New Hampshire psychiatrist, reported that macrobiotics had benefited many of his patients who were chronically and severely mentally ill. Citing several case histories, he described a young woman with a history of severe depression who had been in a state hospital for two years and treated with anti-depressants and antipsychotic medications. Tests by Dr. Harnish’s department found that the woman was hypoglycemic and administration of a macrobiotic diet high in complex carbohydrates and one that avoided animal food and sugar resulted in steady improvement, reduced medication, and return to normal functioning. “She now has motivation to do new things and has made plans to return to school.”

     Another patient, a middle-aged woman diagnosed with manic depressive illness and told she would be on medication the rest of her life, learned to recognize her moods swings on a macrobiotic diet, was weaned of medication, and is now functional.

     Noting that hundreds of other psychiatric patients could benefit from this approach, Dr. Harnish concluded, “One possible way to do this could be to set up and staff group homes for the mentally ill with macrobiotic staff (cooks and counselors) which are associated with psychiatric care providers who are sensitive to the patients’ dietary needs and who will document data on the condition of these patients as they change their diets and lives.”

Source: Stephen Harnish, M.D., “On My Awakening to the Macrobiotic Way,” in Edward Esko, editor, Doctors Look at Macrobiotics (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1988), pp. 151-68.


• Modernization Faulted

In an article on the relation of agriculture, diet, and mental health, researchers at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Belmont, Mass., hypothesized that “Modernization’s lure leads to importation of modern agricultural practices into a nutritionally vulnerable, malnourished, and sometimes starving developing world.” “In most of the developing world Western psychiatric interventions have failed to make inroads.” In contrast, dietary interventions, such as increasing the amount of omega-3 rich fatty acids in fish and other foods has improved mental illnesses in controlled clinical trials.

Source: D. S. London et al., “Psychiatric Agriculture: Systematic Nutritional Modification and Mental Health in the Developing World,” Medical Hypotheses 66(6):1234-9, 2006.


Microwave Cooking

Ninety percent of modern households  have microwave ovens. Microwave ovens vibrate at over 2 million cycles per second (compared to 60 cycles for electric stoves), and that intense vibration can affect the cellular integrity of the food as well as be absorbed by those who eat it. Salmonella bacteria—a main cause of food poisoning—have been found to survive in cold spots that do not fully cook. While there have been no comprehensive studies of the effects of microwave cooking on human health, it is generally avoided in the natural foods and holistic communities.


• Microwaved Foods Alters Blood Chemistry and Produce Precancerous Effects

In a study of eight people eating macrobiotically, researchers at the Swiss Institute of Technology and the University Institute for Biochemistry and the Environmental-Biological Research and Consultation reported that microwaved food produced major changes in the subjects’ blood and immune function. These included a decrease in hemoglobin (red blood cells that carry oxygen and take out carbon dioxide); an increase in hemotocrit (the percentage of red blood cells in the blood) and leukocytes (associated with fighting infection); higher cholesterol, and a decrease in lymphocytes (a type of cell made in the lymph nodes that counters disease).

     In addition to altering blood chemistry, the researchers found that microwaved food appeared to increase the activity of certain bacteria in the food, and altered cells resembled the pathogenic stages that occur in the early development of some cancers. The scientists also reported biological changes in the microwaved food itself, including increased acidity, damaged protein molecules, enlarged fat cells, and decreased folic acid, a nutrient in the vitamin B group associated with protecting against spina bifida, a birth defect.

Source: Bernard H. Blanc and Hans U. Hertel, “Influence on Man: Comparative Study About Food Prepared Conventionally and in the Microwave Oven,” Raum & Zeit, 3(2): 1992.


• Microwave Cooking Produces Immunological and Neurotoxic Effects

In studies of the effect of microwave cooking on the amino acids in milk, Austrian scientists reported that  heating milk formulae altered the chemical structure of the milk. “The conversion of trans to cis forms could be hazardous because when cis-amino acids are incorporated into peptides and proteins instead of their trans isomers this can lead to structural, functional, and immunological changes,” the researchers concluded. One compound, moreover, L-proline was converted to D-proline, which is neurotoxic.

Source: G. Lubec et al., “Aminoacid Isomerisation and Microwave Exposure,” Lancet 2(8676):1392-93, 1989.


• Microwaving Weakens Breast Milk

Collecting, freezing, and reheating breast milk is standard practice in most neonatal care units in the U.S. today. Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine reported that when reheated in a microwave oven, human breast milk loses some of its abilities to fight infection. Microwaving weakened antibodies and proteins that inhibit bacterial growth and help the infant ward off infection.

     The California scientists further found that microwaved cow’s milk grew E. coli bacteria—associated with food poisoning—18 times more than regular milk. At low temperatures, it grew the bacteria five times faster.

Source: “Microwaving Breast Milk," Microwave News, May/June 1992, p. 14.


•  Microwave Packaging Carcinogenic

The chemicals used in microwave packaging can migrate into food but the FDA has declined to regulate them. Heat susceptor packaging, as this material is known, commonly contains dimethyl terephthalate, a suspected carcinogen, and is commonly used for microwaved popcorn, pizza, french fries, fish sticks, and Belgian waffles.

Source: David Steinman and Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Safe Shopper’s Bible (New York: Macmillan, 1995).


• Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Microwaved Food

Public Health researchers in the U.K. reported a case of salmonella food poisoning in six persons following consumption of microwaved cooked food. The food consisted of a savory dish consisting of boiled rice, raw carrots, eggs, cheese, and curry powder. In a subsequent study, British researchers reported that Salmonellae survived after microwaving poached eggs if the yolk was soft.

Sources: M. R. Evans et al., “Salmonella Outbreak from Microwave Cooked Food,” Epidemiological Infect 115(2):227-20, 1995; C. J. Bates, “Survival of Salmonella Species in Eggs Poached Using a Microwave Oven,” Journal of Hospital Infections 29(2):121-27, 1995.


Middle Eastern Diet

The Qu’ran proclaims, “Let man examine his food,” and has many passages upholding the beneficial value of wheat, barley, and other whole cereal grains. Islamic medicine developed a comprehensive approach synthesizing Hippocratic teachings from Greece and traditional Arabic folk remedies.  Dietary recommendations formed the core of the medical system taught by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), a famous medieval physician, and his treatise on healing, The Canon of Medicine, served as the chief medical text in both Europe and Arabia until the beginning of modern times.  Food continues to play a central role in Islamic medicine. “Tibbi, nutrition, is based on the concept that for each food, whether it is fruit, vegetable or meat, there is an energy, essence or state of quality that can be identified and formulated,” explains Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan. “This enables the physician to express the essence of food in a holistic manner and context.”

     Moses Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish physician, upheld whole grain bread as the perfect food:  “The bread should be made of coarse flour; that is to say, the husk should not be removed and the bran should not be refined by sifting. It should be well raised and noticeably salty. It should be well worked during kneading and should be baked in the oven. This is the bread that to the physician is properly prepared; it is the best of foods.”

Sources: Muhammad Salim Khan, Islamic Medicine (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986) and Moses Maimonides, Two Treatises on the Regimen of Health (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1964).



Severe, painful, throbbing headaches, known as migraines, begin to appear in some people between ages 10 and 30. Women are more affected than men, and sometimes they decline after age 50. They are commonly treated by drugs. See Umeboshi.


• Diet and Migraine

In a study of diet and migraine, Spanish researchers reported that certain foods can spark migraine attacks in susceptible individuals, including chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits, bananas, nuts, cured meats, dairy products, hot dogs, pizza, food additives (including MSG), stimulants, soft drinks, and alcohol.

Source:, R. Leira and R. Rodriguez, “Diet and Migraine,” Revue Neurol 24(129):534-38, 1996.



Millet is traditionally eaten in China, India, Africa and other parts of the world. It has a mild sweet taste, gives balanced energy, and in traditional Far Eastern medicine is good for nourishing the pancreas, stomach, and spleen, including the lymphatic functions. Its healing properties are used in contemporary macrobiotic cooking and home remedies. See Whole Grains, Yellow Emperor’s Classic.


• Millet Improves Good Cholesterol

In a study of the dietary effects of millet protein on blood quality, Japanese scientists reported that after 21 days of feeding a millet proteikn concentrate, the HDL cholesterol levels of rats improved. The researchers concluded that millet could have a strong “protective effect against the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Source: S. Shimanuki et al., “Plasma HDL Subfraction Levels Increase in Rats Fed Proso-Millet Protein Concentrate,”Med Sci Monit 12(7):BR221-6, 2006.


• Millet Helps in Treatment of Diarrhea in African Children

In a study of the effect of an African millet drink on the course of diarrhea, a serious childhood condition, Danish scientists found that giving the fermented millet drink daily for 5 days and again 14 days after diagnosis did not immediately affect the children but after two weeks improved the well being of the intervention group. The researchers speculated that antibiotics, given to many of the children, could have interfered with the lactic acid bacteria in the millet drink. Other studies found that misola, made from millet, soy, and peanut, as part of a traditional diet could help rehabilitate malnourished children.

Source: V. Lei, “Spontaneously Fermented Millet Product as a Natural Probiotic Treatment for Diarrhoea in Young Children: An Intervention Study in Northern Ghana,” Int J Food Microbiol 110(3):246-53, 2006. J. Simpore, “Nutrition Rehabilitation of Undernourished Children Utilizing Spiruline and Misola,” Nutr J 23;5;3, 2006.


• Millet Protects Against Esophageal Cancer

An epidemiological study found that populations with a low risk of esophageal cancer in Africa and Asia consume more millet, cassava, yams, peanuts, and other foods high in fiber or starch than high-risk groups.

Source: S. J. van Rensburg, “Epidemiologic and Dietary Evidence for a Specific Nutritional Predisposition to Esophageal Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 67:243-51, 1981.


• Processed Cereals Weakened Health in Ancient China

In a study of diet and health changes in Northern China during the period from 7000 to 4000 years ago, anthropologists at the Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri, examined skeletal remains in Shaanxi province, a site of millet agriculture. All sites showed low frequencies of anemia and dental lesions. “The transition to softer, more extensively processed food during Longshan [5000 to 4000 years ago] is evident in decreased rates of occlusal wear” and other poor health.

Source: E. A. Pechenkina et al., “Diet and Health Changes at the End of the Chinese Neolithic,” Am J Phys Anthropol 117(1):15-36, 2002.



In the East, miso has been enjoyed for thousands of years. In the West, this fermented soybean paste has become a principal healing food over the last generation. Its active microorganisms and vital enzymes help to restore the flora in the intestines, benefit digestion and assimilation, and clean and rejuvenate the body as a whole. Medical studies are beginning to show its effect to protect against many types of cancer, heart disease, radiation sickness, and other disorders. See also Breast Cancer, Estrogen, Isoflavones, Menopause, Nuclear Radiation, Phytoestrogens, Soy Foods.


• Miso Inhibits Colon Tumors

In laboratory studies, researchers at Hiroshima Prefectural Women’s University reported that 180-day fermented miso significantly reduced the size and incidence of induced colon cancer in rats. Miso could “act as a chemopreventive agent for colon carcinogenesis,” the researchers concluded.

Source: Y. Ohuchi et al., “Decrease in Size of Azoxymethane Induced Colon Carcinoma in F344 Rats by 180-Day Fermented Miso,” Oncol Rep 14(6):1559-64, 2005.


• Miso Inhibits Stomach Cancer

Japanese researchers at Hiroshima University reported that longterm fermented miso added to the diet of male rates significantly reduced the size of gastric tumors compared to controls.

Source: M. Ohara et al., “Inhibition by Long-Term Fermented Msio of Induction of Gastric Tumors by N-Methyl-N-Nitro-N-Nitrosoguanidine in CD (SD) Rats,” Oncol Rep 9(3):613-6, 2002.


• Miso Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

The incidence of breast cancer in first-generation Japanese migrants to Hawaii is about 60 percent of the rate in subsequent generations of Japanese born in Hawaii. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, theorized that miso, natto, soy sauce, and other traditionally fermented soybean foods may contribute to lowered disease. The consumption of these foods in Japan is about five times or more what it is among Japanese migrants to Hawaii.

     In laboratory studies, the miso- and salt-supplemented diet treatment group showed a trend toward a lower number of breast cancers per animal, a higher number of benign tumors per animal, and a lower growth rate of cancers compared with controls.

     “This data suggest that miso consumption may be a factor producing a lower breast cancer incidence in Japanese women,” the researchers concluded. “Organic compounds found in fermented soybean-based foods may exert a chemoprotective effect.”

Source: J. E. Baggott et al., “Effect of Miso (Japanese Soybean Paste) and NaCl on DMBA-Induced Rat Mammary Tumors,” Nutrition and Cancer 14:103-09, 1990.


• Miso Decreases Tumors by Two-Thirds in Animal Experiments

Medical researchers in Hiroshima reported that miso helped decrease the progression of induced breast cancer in laboratory experiments. Eighty percent of rats on the control diet developed malignancies, while only 32 percent on the miso-supplemented diet got tumors. “The present results indicate that soybeans, miso, and biochanin A [a phytoestrogen in soy] are useful for the prevention of mammary cancer, “ the Japanese scientists concluded.

Source: T. Gotoh et al., “Chemoprevention of N-nitroso-N-methylurea-induced Rat Mammary Carcinogenesis by Soy Foods or Biochanin A,” Japanese Journal of Cancer Research 89(2):137-42, 1998.


• Miso Removes Radioactive Elements from the Body

A team studying atomic bomb radioactivity has found miso is effective in helping to remove radioactive elements from the body and controlling inflammation of organs caused by radioactivity.

     In experiments conducted on male and female rats four weeks after birth, radioisotopes of iodine-131 and cesium-134 were injected into the animals’ stomachs. Both isotopes are secondary elements produced in nuclear reactor accidents. The iodine-131 isotope is absorbed in the thyroid gland, while the cesium-134 accumulates in muscles and in the intestines.

     Researchers at Hiroshima University Medical Center found that there was only half the amount of iodine-131 in the blood of the group fed with miso in contrast to the control group three and six hours after the injections. Lower amounts of radioactive particles were also measured in the kidneys, liver, and spleen.

     In other tests of exposure to a half lethal dose of radiation to test the effect of miso on victims of a nuclear explosion, more than 80 percent of the rats from each group died within one week. However, the inflammation of organs commonly seen after exposure to radiation was less for the rats eating miso.

Source: “Miso Show Promise as Treatment for Radiation,” Japan Times, Sept,  27, 1988.


• Miso Protects Against Stomach Cancer and Heart Disease

Japan’s National Cancer Center reported that people who eat miso soup daily are 33 percent less likely to contract stomach cancer and 19 percent less likely to contract cancer at other sites than those who never eat miso soup. The 13-year study, involving about 265,000 men and women over forty, also found that those who never ate miso soup had a 43 percent higher death rate from coronary heart disease than those who consumed miso soup daily. Those who abstained from miso also had 29 percent more fatal strokes, three and a half times more deaths resulting from high blood pressure, and higher mortality from all other causes.

Source: T. Hirayama, “Relationship of Soybean Paste Soup Intake to Gastric Cancer Risk,” Nutrition and Cancer 3:223-33, 1981.


• Miso’s Antitumor Effect on Brain, Breast, and Prostate Cancer

A diet rich in soy foods, especially miso soup, produces genistein, a natural substance that blocked the growth of new blood vessels that feed a tumor, scientists reported. Researchers from Children’s University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, reported that genistein also deterred cancer cells from multiplying and could have significant implications for the prevention and treatment of solid malignancies, including those of the brain, breast, and prostate.

Source: “Chemists Learn Why Vegetables Are Good for You,” New York Times, April 13, 1993.


• Miso Promotes Longevity

For a study of the history of miso and its effects, William Shurtleff and his wife spent several years in Japan visiting traditional miso-makers. “When we visited a ‘long-life’ village located deep in the mountains west of Tokyo, we asked a number of very elderly and hearty people what they felt were the secrets of health and long life. The most frequent responses were: Work hard in the fields; get plenty of clean, cold mountain air; eat mostly grains and vegetables and not much animal food; drink plenty of miso soup.”

Source: William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, The Book of Miso (New York: Ballantine, 1989).


Mizuno, Namboku

Namboku Mizuno, an 18th century Japanese physiognomist, challenged the way that visual diagnosis and fortune-telling had been practiced in the Far East for many centuries. He taught that fortune, health, and wealth are not fixed by heaven but are governed by diet, lifestyle, and environment. No matter how star-crossed one’s face or palm, he held that a person could control his or her destiny by observing a natural way of living, especially by limiting the intake of food.

     During his lifetime, he gave advice to thousands of parents and children, merchants and priests, geisha and samurai, intellectuals and sumo wrestlers, criminals and the mentally ill who were seeking advice on their worldly and spiritual fate. In his book on diet, health, and life-extension, he observed, “One who understands heaven and earth’s grace will not waste anything and knows his action brings in happiness and longevity according to the order of heaven. Therefore, he even enjoys more being humble and frugal, and then his mind will become peaceful, and automatically the ki of his personality will be nourished. He will naturally create great ki energy. But someone who loves sake, meat, and rich food will spoil his mind and body, and automatically he will destroy such great ki energy, and his life will be short.” He recommended a simple grain-and-vegetable diet for usual good health and soft rice for sickness.

Source: Michio and Aveline Kushi with Alex Jack, translators, Food Governs Your Destiny: The Teachings of Namboku Mizuno (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1991).



Mochi—pounded sweet rice—is a traditional food in the Far East and now available ready-made in natural foods stores. It may also be made at home. It is delicious pan-fried and eaten with either a sweet topping or shoyu, as a snack, or cooked in casseroles as a “cheese melt” topping. Traditionally, it has been used to give strength to expectant or nursing mothers, the elderly, and anyone else needed strong, balanced energy.



Moxibustion (or moxa) is a traditional Far Eastern healing method using burning herbs to stimulate acupressure points. In a randomized case-control study, scientists in China reported that applying moxa on the bladder meridian of the fifth toe of pregnant women helped to correct breech positions about 50 percent more than using conventional methods.

Source: “F. Cardini and H. Weixin, “Moxibustion for Correction of Breech Presentation,” Journal of the American Medical Association 280:1580-84, 1998.



The proliferation of MRI machines, CAT scanners, and X-ray and radiation therapy devices has exposed millions of patients to increased doses of artificial electromagnetic radiation. An estimated 25 percent of all patients now undergo nuclear medical procedures during diagnosis or treatment.


• Harmful Effects of MRIs

MRIs subject the body to a field 20,000 times stronger than the earth’s natural background radiation. Reviewing the dangers of electromagnetic fields, a health researcher cites evidence that 20 percent of MRI patients experience severe panic, some even losing temporary consciousness. Short-term memory loss, tissue heating, nausea, abnor-mal heart rates and blood pressure, and other symptoms have also been commonly reported. Studies on animals subjected to MRIs found immune function changes, including an increase in natural “killer-cell” toxicity, reduced calcium absorption in the brain, and changes in pineal-gland activity and melatonin production.

Source: E. Blake Levitt, Electromagnetic Fields (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995).



Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer used in many Oriental restaurants that has been associated with headaches, tingling sensations, and difficulties in breathing.


• Test Confirms MSG Syndrome

In a study of the effects of MSG, researchers in Canada reported that total and average severity of symptoms, including headache, muscle tightness, numbness/tingling, general weakness, and flushing, occurred more frequently after subjects consumed MSG than a placebo in a double-blind test.

Source: W. H. Yang, “The Monosodium Glutamate Symptom Complex,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 99(6Pt 10:757-62, 1997.


Multiple Sclerosis

MS, a progressive neuromuscular disorder, may have a dietary foundation. In a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of MS patients used alternative medical therapies to help control their disease, including dietary modification. See Fish.


• MS Higher in Meat Eaters

In a study of risk factors for MS, researchers at the Russian State Medical University in Moscow reported that MS patients ate a predominantly meat diet instead of a vegetable diet during childhood, had more tonsillitis, experienced allergic reactions before age 15, and suffered head trauma before age 16.

Source: E. Gusev, “Environmental Risk Factors in MS: A Case Control Study in Moscow,” Acta Neurol Scand 94 (6):386-94, 1996.


• Treating MS with a Low-Fat Diet 

Roy L. Swank, M.D., of the Division of Neurology, University of Oregon Medical School, has treated MS patients with diet for more than 20 years. He reported that in 146 patients monitored, there was a 70 percent decrease in the relapse rate of MS the first year and a subsequent additional decrease of 25 percent in the succeeding five years. The death rate from MS on the usual high-fat diet was three to four times higher than in patients in this study. The therapeutic diet consisted of 25 to 29 percent fats and oils and calories averaged 1788 for women and 2164 for men—both well below the national average. Fish was recommended instead of meat, and most patients increased their intake of vegetables, fruits, and other plant-quality foods.

     “The course of disease in these patients was less rapidly progressive than in untreated cases available in the literature for comparison,” Dr. Swank concluded. “There was a significant reduction in the death rate, in the frequency and severity of exacerbations, and in the rate at which patients became unable to walk and work. If treated early in the disease, before significant disability had developed, a high percentage of cases remained unchanged for up to 20 years. When treated later in disease, the disease usually continued to be slowly progressive. Patients who consumed the least amount of fat and the largest amounts of fluid oils deteriorated less than those who consumed more fat and less oil.”

Source: R. L. Swank, “Multiple Sclerosis: Twenty Years on Low Fat Diet,” Archives of Neurology 23:460-74, 1970.


• Animal Food Linked with MS

In a review of diet and multiple sclerosis, a German medical doctor summarized studies linking MS with increased consumption of meat, eggs, butter, sugar, and milk. He concluded that both on a global scale and within a number of smaller geographic units, the MS rate was repeatedly correlated with high intakes of animal fat, animal protein, and meat and with low intakes of vegetable and plants foods and with fish. “From a therapeutic, and perhaps preventive, perspective, epidemiologic, experimental, and clinical data justify the present dietary recommendation to patients to reduce animal fat intake and to increase intake of both vegetable fat and seafood,” the researcher concluded.

Source: K. Laurer, “Diet and Multiple Sclerosis,” Neurology 49(2 Suppl 2):S55-61, 1997.


• MS and Vitamin D from Sunlight

Multiple sclerosis may be associated with vitamin D3 deficiency, an immune system regulator catalyzed by exposure to the sun. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin said this theory, supported by laboratory experiments, explains why MS is nearly zero in equatorial regions with abundant sunlight and increases dramatically with latitude in both hemispheres. It is also higher in low altitudes compared to high ones where sunlight is more prevalent. MS is also more frequent inland than in coastal regions, the scientists explained, probably because of higher consumption of fish which is naturally high in vitamin D3.

Source: C. E. Hayes et al., “Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis,” Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biological Medicine 216(1):21-7, 1997.


• Two-Thirds of MS Patients Use Alternative Medicine

In a study of 129 multiple sclerosis patients, German scientists reported that 64 percent had been using alternative therapies, including diet, homeopathy, yoga, and herbs. “The most important motivation to look for alternative medicine was the aim to participate actively in the healing process. Most patients thought that there was some positive effect from the alternative treatment but did not inform their general practitioner or neurologist about it,” the report concluded. “The experiences of these treatments forms part of the patient’s coping with the disease.”

Source: M. Winterholler et al., “The Use of Alternative Medicine by Multiple Sclerosis Patents,” Fortschrifte der Neurologic-Psychiatric  65(12):555-61, 1997.


Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a group of  diseases that is characterized by muscle weakness of varying strength. Duchenne’s MD occurs most commonly in young boys and involves progressive weakening of the pelvis, shoulders, heart, and spine. By puberty, most boys are confined to a wheelchair and few live to age 20. In Far Eastern medicine, MD is associated with consuming too much chicken, eggs, and other contractive foods.


• Wheat Strengths Muscles

Testing an animal model of muscular dystrophy, German researchers reported that adding wheat kernels to the diet of mice helped prevent the progression of muscle weakness and weight loss.

Source: C. Hubner, “Wheat Kernel Ingestion Protects from Progression of Muscle Weakness in MDX Mice, an Animal Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” Pediatric Research 40(3):444-49, 1996.



Mushrooms, one of humanity’s oldest edible plants, have many medicinal qualities, particularly maitaki mushrooms and shiitake which are traditionally eaten in the Far East and now available in natural foods stores. Generally the dried mushrooms have stronger effects than the fresh ones. See Shiitake.


• Medicinal Properties of Mushrooms

A researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York estimated that approximately 50 percent of cultivated edible mushrooms contain medicinal properties, especially shiitake, oyster, mu-er, enokitake, yin-er, and maitake. These mushrooms have “various degrees of immunomodulatory, lipid-lowering, antitumor, and other beneficial or therapeutic health effects without any significant toxicity.” The scientist concluded that mushrooms are potentially useful in preventing or treating cancer, AIDS, high cholesterol, and other serious health conditions.

Source: R. Chang, “Functional Properties of Edible Mushrooms,” Nutritional Review 54(11 Pt.2):S91-93, 1996.



Myopia, or nearsightedness, is characterized by the inability to focus on distant objects. In Far Eastern medicine, myopia is associated with consuming too much sugar, sweets, and other expansive foods.


• Myopia and Diet

In a review of the effects of diet and environment on myopia, an Argentinean researcher reports that modern Innuit (Eskimo) have the highest incidence of myopia. The disorder was unknown before sugar, chocolate, and coffee were introduced. Today, 50 percent of Innuit have mild myopia. Low intakes of calcium may be associated with myopia, according to animal studies.

Source: Rafael Iribarren, “Myopia Prevention,” personal communication, June 25, 1998.

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