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Eating Disorders

Bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and other eating disorders are considered medically untreatable, but may lend themselves to dietary therapy.


• Watching TV Contributes to Eating Disorders

In a study of the impact of television on bulimia, anorexia nervousa, and other eating disorders, Italian researchers reported that 24 adolescent girls with eating disorders showed a psychological dependence on TV which influenced their food buying attitudes, preferred body image (thin and tall), and perception of the opposite sex. “To prevent the observed increase in prevalence and incidence of eating disorders among adolescents,” the study concluded, “it is appropriate to control the messages, myths and falsehood propagated by media, TV in particular.”

Source: A. P. Verri, “Television and Eating Disorders. Study of Adolescent Eating Behavior,” Minerva Pediatr 49(6):235-43, 1997.


Eating Habits


•Animal food Consumption Falls

In a three-decade survey of American eating habits, researchers reported that between 1965 and 1989-90, whole milk consumption fell from 66 to 99 percent among different racial and economic groups surveyed. Egg items declined 24 to 52 percent and red meat fell sharply 71 to 89 percent. However, cheese intake increased 72 to 271 percent, low-fat milk rose 92 to 607 percent, and poultry declined in some cases but more than doubled in others. Intake of dark green or orange vegetables rose 3 to 44 percent, and soy products rose 156 percent in wealthier respondents but declined or showed no change in poorer ones.

Source: Jane E. Brody, “Study Finds a Three-Decade Gain in American Eating Habits, but a Long Way to Go,” New York Times, September 5, 1996.


• Lunch Hour Declines

In a survey of the vanishing lunch hour, the National Restaurant Association found that nearly 40 percent of workers did not take a real lunch break. Forty-five percent took less time for lunch than before and on average spent 29 minutes on lunch. The average American also skipped lunch altogether 57 times a year, ate lunch in restaurants 48 times a year, bought lunch 26 times in cafeterias, and ate once from a vending machine. Meanwhile, more people are bringing their lunch from home. Some 43 percent of men and 34 percent of women brought food from home at least once every two weeks in 1996, an increase of one third since 1987.  

Source: Donna St. George, "The Incredible Shrinking Meal," New York Times, April 16, 1997.


• Eating Out Increases

The number of Americans who eat out has increased 33 percent in the last 20 years. A recent USDA survey found that in 1994-95, 57 percent of the population consumed meals and snacks away from home on any given day, accounting for about half of their daily calorie and fat intake on average. The most popular foods eaten away from home were beverages, including sodas, coffee, and milk, as well as lettuce salads, burgers with or without cheese, and french fries. U.S. Department of Labor statistics, meanwhile, show that American households spend nearly 40 percent of their food dollar on food away from home compared with 20 percent in the early 1970s. About one third of those who eat out do so in fast food establishments (32 percent), followed by sit-down restaurants (27 percent) and grocery or convenience stores (24 percent).

Source: USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Nov. 20, 1996.



Echinacea is a purple flower whose leaves and roots have traditionally been used by native peoples in North America to treat infections, colds, inflammation, sore throats, aches and pains, wounds, and snakebites. Today, echinacea is one of the principal natural herbal remedies, and medical studies have confirmed that it has strong antiinflammatory and antibiotic properties.




• Breast-Feeding Protects Against Infantile Eczema

In a study of infantile eczema, a risk for future asthma, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta reviewed a cohort of 1990 children from maternity hospitals of the Slovak Republic and evaluated their environmental and dietary histories. Infantile eczema was associated with consumption of infant formula, eggs, and fish, while breastfeeding for more than 4 months reduced the risk.

Source: A. L. Dunlop et al., “Environmental and Dietary Risk Factors for Infantile Atopic Eczema among a Slovak Birth Cohort,” Pediatr Allergy Immunol 27(2):103-11, 2006.



High in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, eggs are associated with increased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and other degenerative conditions. See Animal Wastes, Environment, World Hunger.


• Eggs and Colon Cancer

In a population study based on data from 34 countries, researchers at the Hipple Cancer Research Center in Dayton, Ohio, reported that egg consumption was correlated with death from colon and rectal cancers in both sexes in time periods dating from 1964 to 1994. The correlations were slightly stronger for colon cancer than for rectal cancer.

Source: J. Zhang et al., “Egg Consumption and Mortality from Colon and Rectal Cancers: An Ecological Study,” Nutri Cancer 46(2):158-65, 2003.


• Eggs Linked to Lung Cancer

In studies of men employed by the Western Electric Company in Chicago, researchers reported that men who ingested 500 milligrams or more of dietary cholesterol a day faced almost twice the risk of lung cancer as those who ate less than that amount. Eggs were cited as the chief cause.

Source: R. B. Shekelle et al., “Dietary Cholesterol and Incidence of Lung Cancer,” American Journal of Epidemiology 134:480–84, 1992.


• Eggs Associated with Pancreatic Cancer

In a case-control study carried out in Australia, researchers found that pancreatic patients ate more boiled eggs and omelets as well as other sweet and fatty foods than controls. “This study contributes further support to the emerging view that fruit and vegetables have an important role to play in the minimization of the risk of cancer of the pancreas,” the report concluded.

Source: P. Baghurt et al., “A Case Control Study of Diet and Cancer of the Pancreas,” American Journal of Epidemiology 134:167–79, 1991.


Electromagnetic Radiation

Artificial electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are a hallmark of modern life. Homes, offices, schools, workplaces, and the environment as a whole are exposed to various waves and vibrations from modern technology that have an impact on our health. See Microwave, Nuclear Radiation.


• Electromagnetic Fields Double Leukemia Risks

One in 200 British children are exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation in the home, doubling their risk of leukemia, according to the National Radiological Protection Board.

Source: Rob Edwards and Duncan Graham-Rowe, “Electrical Connection,” New Scientist, March 6, 2002.


• Cell Phones Linked to Cancer

In a review of mobile phones and cancer, the Institute of Science in Society reviewed medical studies in Italy showing that after 48 hours of exposure, radio waves from cell phones caused leukemia cells to multiply more rapidly. At the University of Florence another team of researchers found that normal human skin fibroblasts, placed over an active cell phone for an hour, shriveled up and genes associated with stress became activated. A Finnish scientist theorized that such changes could destroy the blood-brain barrier that usually protects harmful substances in the blood from entering the brain. Radiation from the cell phones also appears to interfere with normal cell death after cellular damage, leading to the formation of tumors. The radiation can indirectly damage DNA by affecting cellular repair system without heating.

     In light of these and similar studies, the National Radiological Protection Board reported that children exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation in the home could double their risk of leukemia.

     A Japanese researcher further found that passengers in a typical Japanese railway car were exposed to an EMF from mobile phone users in the carriage that exceed the levels recommended by the International Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation, even when the train was not crowded.

Source: Mae-Wan Ho, “Mobile Phones & Cancer,” Institute for Science in Society, 2002.


•  Environmental and Health Effects of EMFs

In a comprehensive study on the health effects of EMFs, a medical writer evaluated everything from cellular phones and hair dryers to computers and high-power lines. E. Blake Levitt correlated EMFs with changing climate and weather cycles as well as daily ki energy flow, and summarized scores of medical studies on the debilitating effects of modern technology on agriculture and the environment.

     “The higher frequencies used for radio, TV, radar, and cellular-phone transmission are of special concern. The transmission intensities are sometimes on the order of a billion times more powerful than what exists in nature; the frequencies transmitted are extremely specific; the waves are polarized; and the signals can be digitally and analogously modulated.” She cited evidence that technologies such as these may also be a major unrecognized cause of tree and crop damage, deforestation, abnormal weather patterns, and other environmental changes.

     In addition to various cancers, Levitt cited medical evidence that EMFs may be associated with the sharp rise in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, learning disabilities, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). “The global population, human, animal, and vegetation alike, is an unwitting test subject as many of these EMF technologies continue to proliferate . . .” she concluded. “A whole new EMF era is dawning with virtually no safeguards in place and with all these myriad questions unanswered. ‘Wireless’ America is looming on the horizon. It will alter our ecosystem in a way never experienced before. The stakes may be higher than we know.”

Source: B. Blake Levitt, Electromagnetic Radiation (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995).


•  EMFs and Cancer

In The Cancer Prevention Diet Michio Kushi presents a chapter on radiation and environmentally-related diseases with a summary of current research on how artificial electromagnetic fields affect human health (including a chart of the different types of radiation and the diseases they have been linked with causing); dietary recommendations; way of life recommendations; and case histories from Japan and Russia detailing how macrobiotic foods have helped to neutralize the effects of nuclear radiation.

Source: Michio Kushi with Alex Jack, The Cancer Prevention Diet (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993).



Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that affects 2 million Americans and results in 17,000 deaths each year. Longtime smoking, toxic pollution, and other factors are associated with its spread.


• Diet and Emphysema

A diet high in foods that contain vitamin C may help protect against emphysema and chronic bronchitis, according to the American Lung Association. In a study of 2633 British adults, researchers found that foods naturally high in this nutrient had improved lung function.

Source: "Vitamins C and E Touted in Studies, Boston Globe, May 12, 1995.


• Alveoli Regenerated in Animals

Using a nutritional component, researchers have been able to reverse emphysema and regenerate alveoli, the small air sacs that are damaged by this degenerative lung disease. The dietary ingredient, retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A (found in many common vegetables and fruits), caused adult rats with emphysema-like conditions to repair damaged air sacs and return to normal. "For the first time, we have been able to induce the formation of alveoli," Dr. Donald Massaro, one of the scientists at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, reported.     

Source: Warren E. Leary, "Animal Studies Show How Vitamin Treatment May Reverse the Effects of Emphysema," New York Times, May 28, 1998.



Endometriosis is a uterine disorder associated with chronic pain and infertility. It may be present in 6 million women in America and is often a precancerous condition. It is linked to improper diet and exposure to toxins such as dioxins.


•  Soy Protects Against Endometrial Cancer

In a study comparing the soy intake of 832 women with endometrial cancer to that of 846 controls, scientists at Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Cancer Institute found that those who consumed more than 16 grams of soy daily had a reduced risk for the disease of 33 percent. Isoflavones are high in soy products and their anti-estrogen effects may be the protective factor.

Source: W. H. Xu et al., “Soya Food Intake and Risk of Endometrial Cancer Among Chinese Women in Shanghai,” BMJ 328(7451):1285, 2004.


• Diet Benefits Endometriosis

In a study assessing the effects of diet on endometriosis, researchers at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas in Houston reported that women who reduced consumption of simple sugars, eliminated caffeine, and increased fish oil experienced decreased symptoms such as chronic abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating and distension, and altered bowel habits.

Source: J. R. Mathias et al., “Relation of Endometriosis and Neuromuscular Disease of the Gastrointestinal Tract: New Insights,” Fertility and Sterility 70(1):81-88, 1998.


• Case History

Dawn Gilmour overcame years of sickness and disease, including endometriosis, with a macrobiotic diet. Originally from Scotland, Dawn attended the Kushi Institute, became a macrobiotic cook and teacher, and now lives in North Carolina.

Source: Gale Jack and Wendy Esko, editors, Women’s Health Guide (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1997).



Personal and planetary health are inseparable. When we eat well, the planet benefits. When we eat poorly, the earth suffers. The natural foods and organic farming communities have been in the forefront of the environmental movement, demonstrating the connection between diet and ecology and the role the modern food and agriculture system, especially chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and other additives, plays in environmental destruction. See Animal Wastes, Chemicals, Cropland Loss, Electromagnetic Fields, Genetically Engineered Foods, Global Warming, Infectious Diseases, Infertility, Nuclear Radiation, Pesticides, Sewage Sludge, Soil Depletion, Water.


• Oil and Obesity

Overweight and obesity have added nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline into noncommercial transportation on the nation’s highways. Today’s population requires substantially more energy to transport fat-laden bodies than in the 1960s. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American male in 1960 weighed 66 pounds and the average female 140. By 2002 those averages have soared to 191 and 164 pounds respectively, requiring 938 million more gallons of gasoline.

Source: D. Colker, “Our Appetite for Food Boosts Consumption—of Gasoline,” Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2006.


• Environmental Effects of Dietary Goals

A panel of the American Association for the Advancement of Science met to evaluate the impact of implementing Dietary Goals for the United States. Beyond an improvement in public health, the symposium found that dietary changes would have far-reaching social and economic benefits. The scientists concluded that adoption of a diet centered on whole cereal grains rather than meat, poultry, and other animal foods would have significant effects on everything from land, water, fuel, and mineral use to the cost of living, employment rates, and the balance of international trade. Based on government and industry figures, the panel summarized its findings as follows:

     Land: production of animal foods uses 85 percent (340/400 million acres) of all cropland, and 95 percent (1,230/1,300 million acres) of all agricultural land in the United States, and it is largely responsible for the extensive abuse of rangeland and forestland and for the loss of soil productivity through erosion and mineral depletion.

     Water: production of animal foods uses nearly 80 percent of all piped water in the United States, and it is chiefly responsible for pollution of two-thirds of U.S. basins and for generating over half of the pollution burden entering the nation’s lakes and streams.

     Wildlife: production of animal foods is responsible for extensive destruction of wildlife through conversion and preemption of forest and rangeland habitats and through massive poisoning and trapping of “predators.”

     Energy: production, processing, and preparation of animal foods consumes approximately 14 percent of the national energy budget, which is roughly equivalent to the fuel needed to power all our automobiles, only a little less than our total oil imports, and more than twice the energy supplied by all our nuclear power plants.

     Materials: processing and packaging of animal foods uses large amounts of strategically important and critically scarce raw materials including aluminum, copper, iron and steel, tin, zinc, potassium, rubber, wood, and petroleum products.

     Food resources: 90 percent of our grains and legumes and approximately one half of the fish catch is fed to livestock, while 800 million people are going hungry.

     Cost of living: meats generally cost five to six times as much as foods containing an equivalent amount of vegetable protein, and consumption of animal foods adds approximately $4,000 to an average household’s annual budget, including the cost of increased medical care.

     Employment: production and processing of animal food has led to the centralization and automation of this industry, idling thousands of farm and food workers and small farmers.

     International trade: the value of imports of meat and other animal foods, farm machinery fertilizers, and petroleum for production of animal foods is approximately equivalent to our national trade deficit of $40 billion.

Source: Alex Hershaft, Ph.D., “Introductory Statement,” A Symposium on the National Impacts of Recommended Dietary Changes (Toronto: American Association for the Advancement of Science, January 4, 1981).


• 1 in 8 Plants Imperiled

One of every eight plant species in the world is threatened with extinction, according to a comprehensive assessment by botanists and conservationists. The survey, which took 20 years to compile, added nearly 34,000 species to the World Conservation Union’s Red List of threatened life forms.

     The scientists cited modern agriculture, which destroys large swaths of wild lands; logging; and the influx of species from one region to another where they grow out of control and overpower native plants as the principal causes for the decline.

     Earlier, the conservation group had placed nearly one fourth of known mammal and bird species on the endangered list.

     The U.S., with one in every three species threatened, led the nations in the number of plants facing extinction, followed by Australia, South Africa, Turkey, and Mexico.

     Participants in the study included the Nature Conservancy, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Source: William K. Stevens, “One in Every 8 Plant Species Is Imperiled, a Survey Finds,” New York Times, April 9, 1998.


• Plant vs. Animal-Quality Food

A researcher reported that the modern food and agriculture system uses vast amounts of oil and other fossil fuels. This includes the energy used in the manufacture of heavy farm equipment, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and in processing and refining. The two major users of energy are the meat and meat products industry and the sugar industry followed by the beverage and soft drink industry. Altogether, per capita use of energy for modern food production and processing comes to the equivalent of 375.4 gallons of oil per year, or about 1 gallon of gasoline a day.  Source: Maurice Green, Eating Oil: Energy Use in Food Production (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1978).


• Barbecued Beef Main Cause of  L.A. Smog

Hamburger and other barbecued meat may be the leading cause of urban air pollution, according to scientists at California Institute of Technology. Cooking beef in the backyard grill produces dozens of compounds including hydrocarbons, furans, steroids, and pesticide residues. The smoke from meat may be “the dominant source” of the fine organic particles that pollute city air. The particulates’ small size—2 microns or less—causes them to be more easily inhaled than other aerosols.

Source: Environmental Science & Technology, June 1991; “Cholesterol: Up in Smoke: Cooking Meat Dirties the Air More Than Most People Realize,” Science News, July 27, 1991.


• Rain Forest Destruction

The modern meat-based diet has contributed to environmental destruction. In a survey of leading organizations and individuals in the fields of nutrition and ecology including Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet; John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America; David Pimentel of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture; and Robin Hur, an Oregon-based researcher, Vegetarian Times summarized findings showing that a whole foods diet could contribute to a healthier planet:

     • More than 50 percent of tropical rain forest deforestation (216,000 acres total per day) is linked with livestock production.

     • An average of 55 square feet (a small kitchen) of forest is lost for every hamburger produced from cattle raised in former Central American rain forests.

     • The current rate of species’ extinction from loss of tropical rain forests and related habitats is 1,000 per year.

     • One acre of trees is saved each year by each person who switches to a vegan diet.

     • The average amount of water required daily for a vegetarian who eats dairy food and eggs is about 1,200 gallons, about 25 percent the amount for someone eating the standard American diet. The amount of water required for a person on a dairy-free vegetarian diet is 300 gallons.

     • About 85 percent of the topsoil loss in the U.S. is directly connected with livestock production.

     • A reduction in meat consumption by only 10 percent would free enough grain in the U.S. to feed an estimated 60 million people worldwide.

     • More than 50 percent of the water pollution in the U.S. is associated with animal food production and chemical farming.

     • Imported oil could be cut by 60 percent if the nation switched to a vegetarian diet.

Source: “Is a Burger Worth It?,” Vegetarian Times, April, 1990, pp. 20-21


• Soil Depletion Rising Precipitously

Failing soil is increasing at an alarming rate and may imperil the world’s food supply early in the 21st century. Every year for the next 20 years, an area the size of Alaska may lose its fertility and use, a new study sponsored by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization warned. Figures compiled by the International Soil Reference and Information Center reported that an area nearly the size of Western Europe has already lost its usefulness from overgrazing of cattle and other livestock, deforestation, and other human abuse. Another 2.25 billion acres—the size of Australia—has declined and needs restoration. Soil degradation annually claims 17.5 million acres, the size of Ireland. In Africa and Asia, 4 percent of land has lost its farm value; in Europe 2.3 percent; in South America 1.4 percent; and in North America, 1.3 percent.

Source: “Failing Soil Threatens Food Supply, UN Warns,” Boston Globe, February 14, 1993.


•  Global Warming and Diet

A play about an advertising executive who is teleported into a globally warmed world in the early 21st century and arrested for eating a hamburger explores the effects of the modern diet on global warming and the true health care, social, and environmental costs of the modern way of eating. The book summarizes the results of scores of environmental studies in the dialogue and calculates the true cost of a hamburger at $15,000.

Source: Alex Jack, Out of Thin Air: A Satire on Owls & Ozone, Beef & Biodiversity, Grains & Global Warming (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1993).


Environmental Illness

People with E.I. are extremely sensitive to toxins, dust, chemicals, and other factors in their immediate environment. Improper diet is an underlying cause in some cases and a solution in others.


• Case History

In 1974 Sherry A. Rogers, M.D., then a 31-year-old physician, suffered from Environmental Illness. She had ugly red eczema over the lower half of her face, periodic asthma, recurrent sinus problems, wicked migraines, chronic back pain from an old riding injury, and unwarranted exhaustion and depression.

     By the early 1980s she was having strong adverse reactions to chemicals such as workmen glueing down a new Formica countertop. She had treated her sensitivities with injections, multiple vitamins and ionizers, cotton blankets and pillows, bottled water, oxygen tanks, aluminum foil.

     In 1987, after following a macrobiotic diet for six  months, she experienced major improvement. The excruciating shoulder pain disappeared, and over the next few months every chronic symptom that she ever had vanished. During the next few years, she gave up her allergy injections and could remain up to 14 hours a day in a toxic, smoke-filled environment.

     “In three years she’ll be 50, yet she’s stronger and healthier now than she has ever been in her life,” concluded a profile in The Human Ecologist. “She takes no medications, no supplements, no injections, and for the first time in her life, has no symptoms.”

Source: Sherry A. Rogers, M.D., “From HEAL’s Advisory Board: The Cure Is in the Kitchen—One Case History,” The Human Ecologist, Fall  1990, pp. 19-21.


• Macrobiotic Diet Reduces Chemical Sensitivity

In a study of 160 patients suffering from chemical sensitivity, those who followed a macrobiotic diet, high in whole grains, vegetables, beans, and seaweeds, for at least one year reported an average decrease in chemical sensitivity of 76 percent.   "Before the diet, many of these people felt they had done as much as they could in other ways to reduce their xenobiotic exposures and resulting symptoms," researcher Sherry Rogers, M.D., concluded. "Therefore, it appeared to these patients that the macrobiotic diet provided the additional unanticipated relief that they experi-enced, and should be considered for those with persistent symptoms triggered by chemical exposure.

     "All things considered, it has clearly been a life-saver for many. And the beauty of it is that it is the least expensive of all therapies."

Source: Sherry A. Rogers, M.D., "Improvement in Chemical Sensitivity with the Macrobiotic Diet," Journal of Applied Nutrition 48: 85-92, 1996.



Diet may be beneficial for a variety of fits, seizures, and epileptic reactions.


Esophageal Cancer

• Dietary Risks of Esophaegeal Cancer

In a study of esophageal squamous cell cancer risk in a high incidence region of rural China, researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai reported that the disease was associated with pork braised in brown sauce in both men and women and with diets high in salt and chili, tobacco smocking, and alcohol in men.

Source: J. M. Wang et al., “Diet Habits, Alcohol Drinking, Tobacco Smoking, Green Tea Drinking, and the Risk of Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the Chinese Population,” Europe J Gastroenterol Hepatol 19(2):171-6, 2007.



Estrogen, a major hormone produced in the ovaries, controls the development of female sex characteristics and plays an important role in reproductive health. Excess estrogen from eating dairy foods, taking birth control pills, or other dietary or chemical exposure is associated with higher risk for breast cancer, osteoporosis, and other diseases. See Breast Cancer, Chemicals, Infertility, Isoflavones, Menopause, Osteoporosis, Phytoestrogen.


• Plant Estrogen Superior to Animal Estrogen for Osteoporosis

Plant-based estrogen prevents osteoporosis better than estrogen from animal sources, according to a University of California study. Researchers reported that the plant hormone, known as esterified estrogen, given at half the dose of animal-based estrogen (from Premarin, derived from the urine of pregnant horses) was as effective in preventing bone loss and resulted in fewer side effects and was safer. The plant hormone did not thicken the lining of the uterine that precedes endometrial cancer, reduced blood levels of "bad" cholesterol and raised levels of "good" cholesterol, and increased bone density at several different sites, including the lower spine. The plant-based estrogen has not yet been approved by the FDA but is under review.

Source: Harry X. Genant, “Low-Dose Esterified Estrogen Therapy,” Archives of Internal Medicine 157(22):2609-15, 1997.


• High-Fiber Diet Lowers Breast Cancer Risk in African-American Women

Caucasian women in the U.S. have higher survival rates for breast cancer than African-American women (84% compared to 69%). In a study to determine the effect of a low-fat diet and high-fiber diet on hormone levels in African-American women, researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston reported that a change in diet resulted in a significant lowering of serum estrogens associated with higher risk of breast cancer.

Source: M. N. Woods, “Hormone Levels During Dietary Changes in Premenopausal African-American Women,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 88(9):1369-74, 1996.


• Miso and Tofu Reduce Estrogen and Risk of Breast Cancer

In a study of 50 healthy premenopausal women in Japan, researchers reported that consumption of miso, tofu, and other soy foods regulated estradiol and other hormone factors associated with elevated risk of breast cancer. “Our results suggest that the consumption of soy products lowers the risk of developing breast cancer risk modifying estrogen metabolism,” the scientists concluded.

Source: C. Nagata, “Decreased Serum Estradiol Concentration Associated with High Dietary Intake of Soy Products in Premenopausal Japanese Women,” Nutrition and Cancer 29(3):228-33, 1997.



In The Book of Macrobiotics, educator Michio Kushi explains that from an evolutionary perspective whole grains are humanity’s principal food and contributed to our species’ unique intellectual and cultural development, including upright posture.

     “Nature is continually transforming one species into another. A great food chain extends from bacteria and enzymes to sea invertebrates and vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and human beings. Complementary to this line of animal evolution is a line of plant development ranging from bacteria and enzymes to sea moss and sea vegetables, primitive land vegetables, ancient vegetables, modern vegetables, fruits and nuts, and whole cereal grains.

     “Whole grains evolved parallel with human beings and therefore should form the major portion of our diet, just as nuts and fruits developed with chimpanzees and apes and formed the staple of their diet and as giant ferns and other primitive plant life evolved in an earlier epoch in conjunction with the dinosaurs. The remainder of our food as human beings may be selected from earlier evolutionary varieties of plants and animals, including land and sea vegetables, fresh fruit, seeds and nuts, fish and seafood, and soup containing fermented enzymes and bacteria represented the most primordial form of life in the ancient sea.”

     In selecting supplemental food of animal quality, species that are more primordial are preferable to those that are more recent, Kushi asserts. Thus fish and seafood are preferable to chicken or turkey, and chicken and turkey are preferable to beef and pork. If animal food is eaten regularly, water animals are preferable to land animals, especially mammals, because they are the most further away from us in evolutionary development.

     “In the course of evolution, the period of water life, approximately 2.8 billion years compared with the period of land life, approximately 0.4 billion years, produces a spirallic ratio of 7:1. Since human beings are the most recent species to develop upon the land, the composition of our food should be reversed—generally seven parts land quality and one part water quality. If we eat animal food, preferably fish and seafood, this suggests that the ratio of vegetable food to animal food also be in a ratio of 7:1.”

     In support of this theory, Kushi points to the structure of the human teeth. The 32 teeth include 20 molars and premolars for grinding grains, legumes, and seeds; 8 incisors for cutting vegetables, and 4 canines for tearing animal and seafood. Expressed as a ratio of teeth designed for grain use, vegetable use, and animal use, the proportion comes to 5:2:1; and of all vegetable quality to animal quality, 7:1.

     Similarly, Kushi contends, we consume nutrients on average in a 7:1 ratio in temperate regions (5:1 in colder, northern latitudes and 10:1 in the tropics). Thus, we take in approximately seven times more protein than minerals, seven times more carbohydrate than protein, seven times more water and other liquid than carbohydrate, and seven times for oxygen and air than liquid.

     The traditional way of eating, centered on grains and vegetables, represents a harmonious balance of these nutrients. For example, 100 grams of brown rice, millet, and other whole grains contain on average 1-2 grams of minerals, 7-10 grams of protein, and 60-75 grams of carbohydrates. In contrast, hamburger and beef contains less than 1 gram of minerals, 17 grams of protein, and 0 grams of carbohydrate, while sugar (with which they are customarily balanced in the modern diet) contain a trace of minerals, 0 protein, and 99.5 percent carbohydrate.

     The standard macrobiotic diet—including 50-60 percent whole cereal grains, 25-30 percent vegetables, 5-10 percent beans and sea vegetables, 5 percent soup (especially enzyme-rich) miso soup, and small, occasional consumption of fish and seafood, fruit, seeds and nuts—contains a harmonious balance of nutrients and recapitulates the whole course of biological evolution on the planet.

Source: Michio Kushi with Alex Jack, The Book of Macrobiotics (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1987).


Exercise and Fitness

An active life, including physical exercise, promotes health and well-being. Proper exercise allows the body to utilize nutrients and food energy more efficiently. The synergistic effects of diet and exercise, as well as other lifestyle factors, are contributing to a better understanding of human physiology and development. See Vegetarians.


• Fresh Foods Promote Exercise

In a study of adolescent behavior, British researchers reported that smoking among high school students was associated with lower levels of exercise, consumption of less fresh vegetables and fruits, and greater consumption of fatty foods. In addition, consumption of fresh foods was found to be positively correlated with exercise.

Source: N. S. Coulson, “Diet, Smoking, and Exercise,” Child Care and Health Development 23(3):207-16, 1997.


• Diet Enhances the Benefits of Exercise and Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

In a study of the benefits of exercise compared to exercise plus diet, researchers at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas set up a randomized case control study of 32 men and women in the Air Force. Half the group received individual dietary counseling using the Food Guide Pyramid as a tool, and both groups engaged in an exercise training program. This group received an average of 23 percent of its calories from fat compared to 39 percent in the control group eating in the usual way. The low-fat group had reduction in body mass index, total cholesterol, and LDL levels, which are all associated with lower cardiovascular risk, while there was no improvement in the exercise only group. Meanwhile, the oxygen intake of the diet-and-exercise group improved to 38 percent compared to 14 percent for the control group. “Dietary modification in accordance with the Food Guide Pyramid and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines results in significant reductions in known cardiovascular risk factors and improves the response to exercise training,” the medical researchers concluded.

Source: P. J. Gambera, “Use of the Food Guide Pyramid and U.S. Dietary Guidelines to Improve Dietary Intake and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in Active-Duty Air Force Members,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95(11):1268-73, 1995.


• Diet and Baseball

In 1983, a Japanese professional baseball team climbed from last to first place by switching to a macrobiotic diet. After taking over the last place Seibu Lions in October, 1981, manager Tatsuro Hirooka initiated a dietary experiment. Restricting the players’ intake of meat, sugar, and white rice, he encouraged them to eat brown rice, tofu, vegetables, and soybean products. He told the players that animal food increases an athlete’s susceptibility to injuries. Conversely, natural foods, they were told, protect the body from sprains and dislocations and keep the mind clear and focused. During the 1982 season, the Lions were ridiculed by their archrivals, the Nippon Ham-Fighters, a team sponsored by a major meat company. However, the Lions defeated the Ham-Fighters for the Pacific League crown and continued to the Japan World Series and beat the Chunichi Dragons. The Lions won the championship again the following year as well.

Source: “The Veggie Baseball Team,” Parade Magazine, April 15, 1984.


•  High-Fat Diet Weakens Physical Endurance

“All of the great feats of physical endurance in history have been accomplished by men who from infancy consumed a diet containing very little saturated or unsaturated fat,” according to noted nutritional researcher Roy Laver Swank, M.D. In a review of dietary changes over the 20th century, Swank, a pioneer in the dietary treatment of multiple sclerosis, cited the accomplishments of the ancients who consumed primarily whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These include the building of the pyramids in Egypt and middle Africa and the building of the Great Wall of China. “No physical feats to compare with these have been accomplished by people raised on high-fat diets,” he pointed out.

     Tracing the increase in fat consumption over the last one hundred years and rise of the modern diet high in synthetic foods, Swank warns that a new wave of nutritional-deficiency diseases may emerge characterized by general weakness and fatigue, irregularities during pregnancy, neurological symptoms, an inability to reproduce, or “abnormalities that develop in offspring after many years of consumption of an incomplete dietary regime.”

Source: Roy L. Swank, M.D., “A Prospective Discussion of Past International Nutrition Catastrophes—Indications for the Future,” Nutrition 13:344-48, 1997.


• Vegetarians Stronger Than Meat Eaters

In New Haven, Connecticut, Irving Fisher devised tests to measure diet and endurance of Yale athletes eating animal food, vegetarian athletes (from the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan), and vegetarians who were sedentary. The tests included holding the arms outstretched as long as possible, deep knee bends until exhaustion, and repeated leg raises. The vegetarians excelled in all three tests, and the sedentary vegetarians generally exhibited stronger endurance than the athletic meat-eaters. “The results of the comparisons . . . would indicate that the users of [low-protein] and the non-flesh dietaries have far greater endurance than those who are accustomed to the ordinary American diet,”  Fisher concluded.

Source: Irving Fisher, “The Influence of Flesh Eating on Endurance,” Yale Medical Journal 13:205-21, 1907.


• Whole Foods Diet Leads to Greater Endurance

In tests with stationary bicycle to measure energy output, Danish researchers put nine men on a mixed meat and vegetable diet. After three days, the average time pedaled was 1 hour and 54 minutes. On a high-protein diet rich in milk, meat, and eggs, the average time pedaled after three days was 57 minutes. When put on a diet of whole grain cereals, bread, vegetables, and fruit, their mean endurance increased to 2 hours 47 minutes.

Source:  Per-Olf Astrand,  “Something Old and Something New . . . Very New,” Nutrition Today 3:(2) 9-11, 1968.

Eye Health

One of the best foods for our eyes are leafy green vegetables and carrots, known for their specific antioxidants and eye vitamins such as vitamin C, E, A and zinc along with carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients help to diminish free radical damage and fight inflammation and inflammatory substances in the eyes and simultaneously protect the eye’s cornea, lens and macula.

There are many reasons why our eyes and eyesight may become damaged as we age, including unhealthy lifestyle, exposure to toxins, overactive immune system and more.

According to the National Eye Institute, poor diet is a major risk factor for age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Anti-inflammatory foods and foods high in antioxidants such as kale, watercress, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, brussel sprouts, sea vegetables, carrots, squash, grains, beans and nuts are terrific foods for the eyes and the body as a whole.

Looking at eye disorders from the perspective of Oriental Medicine, we can glean some other insights: The right eye is traditionally seen as having a connection with the liver and the left eye with the spleen and pancreas. When a person has trouble in one eye or the other, it may be valuable to examine the condition of the liver or spleen/pancreas respectively. I have people come to me with unusual eye diseases in one eye — such as cancer and other unusual conditions. When this happens, it is very important to improve the condition of the organ(s) connected to the eye, which by extension will allow the eye to improve, as well.

Other conditions which affect both eyes equally may point to other imbalances in the body: nearsightedness indicates that the condition of the body as a whole may be too yin — in terms of foods the person may have a tendency to indulge in foods that are sweeter or fattier — like fruits, or desserts, or lots of salad dressings, or fatty yoghurt, butter, whipping cream, fruit juices, sodas, spices, etc.

Farsightedness signifies a more yang condition in the body. Foods that contribute to this condition are indicating a propensity for heavy animal food consumption like chicken, eggs, beef, pork, or hard cheese or consuming too much salt, too many baked or baked/salted foods like pretzels, chips, pizzas etc.

In cataracts a milky film is developing over the eyes that may become crystalline and may lead to blindness. Most cataracts are caused by long-term consumption of dairy products (like your milk or cream in your coffee) in conjunction with eating too much sugar and/or fruits, sweets, alcohol and drugs.

Macular degeneration which is another common eye condition affecting many millions of people in the US, is arising primarily from yin foods like excess sugar, sweets, soft dairy foods, spices, tropical vegetables and fruit, excessive oil, juice, alcohol, etc.

Top 4 eye nutrients:

1) Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein, an excellent antioxidant for the eyes, has anti-inflammatory benefits and specifically helps the macula and lens of the eye. It is found in substantial amounts in kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, watercress and dandelion greens. Harvard University has found that 6 milligrams of lutein daily can lower the risk for macular degeneration by 43%. One cup cooked of each of the vegetables mentioned above will give you double or triple the necessary quantity of lutein to prevent macular degeneration and other eye complications.

Zeaxanthin is an antioxidant that is part of the vast group of the carotenoid family. However, very few carotenoids find their way into the eyes. This particular nutrient helps protect the eye’s tissues, lens and macula by clearing vision, preventing glare, light sensitivity and cataracts. Like Lutein it is found in kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, watercress and dandelion greens.


2) Vitamin C, E, and A

Vitamin C assists in the protection of your vision by fighting free radicals as well as assisting with the absorption of more trace minerals and other nutrients. Vitamin C is found in large doses in dark leafy greens, such as collards and kale — in fact, 1 cup of kale contains more vitamin C than one orange.

Vitamin E works in conjunction with vitamin A and C to protect the body and eyes from inflammation and age related macular degeneration and speeding up healing of the eyes from laser surgery. Vitamin E is found in plentiful amounts in seeds, nuts, grains and beans.

Vitamin A is well known for its ability to prevent night blindness. It is also an important nutrient to prevent such conditions as cataracts and macular degeneration. Carrots, squash, rutabaga and other orange colored foods, as well as dark leafy greens are great sources for vitamin A. This vitamin is oil soluble, which means it is best to add a little oil to the dish you are cooking or to sautee your vegetables in — for example preparing a dish of sautéed carrots or squash.

3) Zinc: In combination with other vitamins, zinc is an important trace mineral to help protect the retina and lower risk for macular degeneration. Zinc is essential for nutrient absorption (not only in the eyes, but nutrient absorption in the whole body) as well as allowing proper waste elimination, which helps to reduce inflammation and cellular damage. In terms of the eyes, zinc is beneficial because it maintains healthy circulation, it evens out hormonal function to prevent autoimmune responses from occurring and more. Best food sources for zinc are grains, beans, seeds, nuts and seafood.

4) Omega-3- Fatty Acids have many different health benefits for the nervous/brain function, anti-inflammatory properties, slowing the effects of aging, arthritis, heart disease, stabilizing blood sugar levels and much more. However, it is always best to substitute other fats/oils with omega-3s instead of adding omega-3s to an already overly fatty diet. For the eyes these fatty acids promote good circulation and lowering inflammation, in particular helping with diabetes induced eye problems.

Great sources for omega-3-fatty-acids are sea vegetables, fish and flaxseeds.

Around the world eyes are considered to be a window to your soul. When our eyes are clear and bright they will shine with the beauty that is within us.

Bettina Zumdick is a macrobiotic teacher, counselor, and co-director of the Macrobiotic Summer Conference. She is also the author of Authentic Foods and 10 Delicious Desserts. For more information, please visit her website:

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