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Paleolithic Diet

The traditional diet of humanity has consisted of foods of primarily vegetable quality rather than meat and other animal food as popularly believed. In addition to wild grains and vegetables, people in ancient times ate seeds, nuts, berries, tubers, roots, and honey. See Peace.


• Human Forebears Largely Herbivores

“Recent investigations into the dietary habits of prehistoric peoples and their primate predecessors suggest that heavy meat-eating by modern affluent societies may be exceeding the biological capacities evolution built into the human body,” reported health researcher Jane E. Brody. “The result may be a host of diet-related health problems, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and some cancers. The studies challenge the notion that human beings evolved as aggressive hunting animals who depended primarily upon meat for survival.

     “The new view—coming from findings in such fields as archaeology, anthropology, primatology, and comparative anatomy—instead portrays early humans and their forebears more as herbivores than carnivores. According to these studies, the prehistoric table for at least the last million and a half years was probably set with three times more plant than animal foods, the reverse of what the average American currently eats.”

Source: Jane E. Brody, “Research Yields Surprises About Early Human Diets,” New York Times, May 15, 1979.


• Modern Meat Contains Up to 10 Times More Fat Than Wild Game

Anthropologists reported that the traditional diet of paleolithic times, including wild grains, roots, beans, nuts, tubers, and fruits, as well as wild game, appeared to be protective against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. “Differences between the dietary patterns of our remote ancestors and the patterns now prevalent in industrialized countries appear to have important implications for health, and the specific pattern of nutritional disease is a function of the stage of civilization.”   

     Although some ancient societies ate more animal food than today, the amount and type of fat consumed was very different. Modern domesticated animals contain about eight to ten times more fat than their wild counterparts, and wild game contains over five times more polyunsaturated fat per gram than is found in domestic livestock which is highly saturated in quality. “The diet of our remote ancestors may be a reference standard for modern human nutrition and a model for defense against certain ‘diseases of civilization,’” the researchers concluded.

     In a follow up to their original studies, the researchers reported that on average “hunter-gatherers utilize many species of fruits and vegetables, often over 100 in each locality, to provide their yearly subsistence.” Despite high cholesterol intakes, foragers studied in this century have low blood cholesterol levels, averaging about 125 mg/dL. Contemporary foragers also have healthier ratios of omega 3/6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

     Overall, the Paleolithic diet consisted of two-thirds plant quality and one-third animal quality food. Compared to modern diets containing large amounts of “empty” calories, including sugar, highly refined flour, and nonessential fat, “it is actually diets of this sort which are novel, in evolutionary and comparative zoological terms.”

     While protein intake averaged 30 percent of total calories and fiber approached 100 grams daily, compared to modern recommended intakes of less than half this amount, the researchers speculated that ancestral humans were able to process these nutrients efficiently without harmful side effects. “When the individuals involved are lean, normotensive, and non-diabetic, abundant dietary protein may be beneficial. Similarly, an extremely high fiber intake may offset potentially adverse consequences of elevated dietary micronutrient levels, for example, zinc and iron.”

Source: S. B. Eaton and M. Konner, “Paleolithic Nutrition,” New England Journal of Medicine 313:283-89, 1985; S. B. Eaton et al., “Paleolithic Nutrition Revisited: A 12-Year Retrospective on Its Nature and Implications,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 51(4):207-16, 1997.


• Stone Age Humans and Neanderthals Ate Low-Fat Diet

Pleistocene hominids ate a predominantly low-fat diet, as did the Neanderthals. Scientists at the University of Michigan reported that fat intake of more than 20 grams a day, representing 11 percent of total caloric intake, developed only after the domestication of mammals and then only by the selective breeding of fatter animals in suitably temperate climates. In contrast, the modern diet contains 40 percent fat, an amount first reached in the 1940s.

Source: S. M. Garn, “From the Miocene to Olestra: A Historical Perspective on Fat Consumption,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 97(7 Suppl):S54-7, 1997.


• Hunter-Gatherers Eat Primarily Plant-Quality Food

The few Stone Age cultures remaining in the world today consume primarily vegetable-quality food. Scientists who studied 58t contemporary hunter-gatherer societies found that their diets contained from 50 to 70 percent complex carbohydrates from plant sources. Animal food comprised 25 to 30 percent of the total volume, and none of the tribes consumed milk, sugar, alcohol, or salt added at the meal.

Source: H. C. Trowell and D. P. Burkitt, Western Diseases: Their Emergence and Prevention (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 15.


• Paleolithic Nutrition

“Regarding susceptibility to chronic degenerative diseases, our current gene pool is hardly changed from that of Stone Age humans,” researchers at Emery University and Colorado State University report. While no studies of phytochemical intake have been made of early hominid diets, “fruits and vegetables contributed a higher proportion of total energy for Stone Agers, typically about two-thirds of their intake as compared with roughly one-fifth to our-fourth for Europeans and Americans.” The modern diet, moreover, is high in saturated fat, refined flours and sweeteners, salt, prepared and processed foods, and alcohol which contribute to chronic disease. They particularly cited dairy food as an unhealthy factor. Calling for a return to paleonutrition, the scientists conclude by quoting pioneer nutritionist Denis P. Burkitt, “Modern Western man has, in a very short period of time by evolutionary standards, deviated greatly from the biological environment to which his body has been adapted. This is the best explanation for . . . the high frequency of Western diseases within the communities that have deviated most from the lifestyle of their ancestors.”

Source: S. B. Eaton and L. Cordain, “Evolutionary Aspects of Diet: Old Genes, New Fuels,” World Reviews of Nutrition and Diet 81:26-37, 1997.


Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed usually in later stages, has a poor prognosis (about 10 percent survival after 1 year), and does not lend itself to standard medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. It is associated with a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, including meat, alcohol, coffee, and cigarettes. See Eggs, Macrobiotics.


• Sugar and Sweet Foods Associated with Pancreatic Cancer

The high consumption of sweetened food and beverages increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to researchers at the Karolinska Institutet. In a study of almost 80,000 healthy women and men from 1997 to 2005, those who drank two or more fizzy or syrup based (squash) drinks daily ran a 90 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those who never drank them. Those who added sugar to food or drinks (such as coffee) at least five times a day had a 70 percent higher risk those who did not. Those who consumed creamed fruit once a day had a 50 percent higher risk.

Source: Susanna C. Larsson et al., “Consumption of Sugar and Sugar-Sweetened Foods and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in a Prospective Study,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov. 2006.


• Fruits and Vegetables Help Prevent Pancreatic Cancer

In a study of 585 pancreatic cancer patient and 4779 people without the disease, Canadian researchers found that those who consumed the most fruits and vegetables had about half as much risk of developing this disorder as men who consumed the least amount of these foods.

Source: A. Nikondjock et al., “Dietary Patterns and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer,” Inter J Cander 114:817-23, 2005.


• Japanese Foods Protect Against Pancreatic Cancer

In a study of diet related to increased rates of pancreatic cancer in Japan, researchers found that intake of meats and animal viscera increased the risk of this disease, while vegetables and traditional foods, including tofu, deep-fried tofu, tempura, and raw fish, reduced the risk. "The traditional Japanese foods, which include many plant foods, are preventive against the occurrence of pancreas cancer," the scientists concluded.

Source: S. Ohba et al., "Eating Habits and Pancreas Cancer," International Journal of Pancreatology 20(1):37-42, 1996.


• Meat, Alcohol, and Cigarettes Raise Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

In a study of risk factors for pancreatic cancer, researchers found that mortality from this disease was associated with increased consumption of meat, the smoking of cigarettes, and alcohol intake.

Source: W. Zheng et al., “A Cohort Study of Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Dietary Factors for Pancreatic Cancer,” Cancer Causes and Control 4:477-82, 1993.


• Pancreatic Cancer Patients Live Longer on a Macrobiotic Diet

In the first major scientific study of the macrobiotic approach to cancer, researchers at Tulane University reported that the 1-year survival rate among patients with pancreatic cancer was significantly higher among those who modified their diet than among those who did not (17 months versus 6 months). The one-year survival rate was 54.2 percent in the macrobiotic patients versus 10.0 percent in the controls. All comparisons were statistically significant.

     For patients with metastatic prostate cancer, a case control study demonstrated that those who ate macrobiotically lived longer (177 months compared to 91 months) and enjoyed an improved quality of life. The researchers concluded that the macrobiotic approach may be an effective adjunctive treatment to conventional treatment or in primary management of cancers with a nutritional association. “This exploratory analysis suggests that a strict macrobiotic diet is more likely to be effective in the long-term management of cancer than are diets that provide a variety of other foods,” the study concluded.

Source: James P. Carter et al., “Hypothesis: Dietary Management May Improve Survival from Nutritionally Linked Cancers Based on Analysis of Representative Cases,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 12:209-226, 1993.


• Dietary Factors Associated with Pancreatic Cancer

In a case-control study in Quebec, researchers found an increased risk of pancreatic cancer associated with high consumption of salt, smoked meat, dehydrated food, fried food, and refined sugar. Conversely, food with no preservatives or additives, raw food, and pressure-cooked food reduced the risk.

Source: P. Ghadirian et al., “Food Habits and Pancreatic Cancer,” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prev 4(8):895-99, 1995.


Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative nervous condition, has been associated with diets high in fat and simple sugar and low in foods high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and niacin.


• Dairy Raises Risk of Parkinson's

Researchers from the Honolulu Heart Program report that adult milk intake doubles the risk for Parkinson’s disease. In a study of 7500 men over 30 years, those who drank more than 16 ounces of milk each day suffered twice the incidence of this disorder compared to those who did not drink milk.

Source: M. Park et al., “Consumption of Milk and Calcium in Midlife and the Future Risk of Parkinson’s Disease,” Neurology 64:1047-51, 2005.


• Iron-Rich Diet Raises Risk of Parkinson’s

Eating high levels of iron and manganese double the risk of Parkinson’s Disease, according to researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle. In a study of 638 people with the disorder, the researchers found that those with the highest levels of dietary iron were 1.7 times more likely to develop the disease than those who consumed the least amount. In some cases, the iron levels were high because people were taking more than one multivitamin or a multivitamin and an iron supplement.

Source: Neurology 60:1761-66, 2003.


• Low-Protein Diet Benefits PD

A low-protein diet may help persons with Parkinson’s disease. Experimental stu-dies of 11 patients who had Parkinson’s disease for six to 20 years and who were put on a low protein diet resulted in reduced movement fluctuations and the less need for drugs. Foods high in protein that were avoided included all meats, egg white, gelatin, dairy food, beans and nuts, and chocolate and pastries.

     Recommended foods included cereals, toast, all green and yellow vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, sherbet, condiments, and fluids. Researchers at Yale University reported that all adjutant therapy could be discontinued as the subjects experienced improvement. “On this diet, patients can predictably expect daytime mobility, thus permitting near-normal function and independence at home or on the job.”

Source: J. H. Pincus and K. Barry, “Influence of Dietary Protein on Motor Flucuations in Parkinson’s Disease,” Archives of Neurology 44:270-72, 1987.



Parsley’s bright green color, soft texture, and mildly sharp taste make it a popular side dish or addition to grain and vegetable dishes, as well as a popular garnish and flavoring. Loaded with calcium and iron, parsley has one of the highest concentrations of vitamin A of any food. It is also high in fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C.


• Chinese Parsley Detoxifies the Body

Antibiotics are often ineffective in the presence of localized deposits of abnormal levels of mercury, lead, and other heavy metals in the body. These deposits often are found in conjunction with herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus, chlamydia trachomatis, and other potentially harmful microorganisms. In a study of the effect of Chinese parsley (also called cilantro), researchers at the Heart Disease R-search Foundation in New York reported that the vegetable was successful in eliminating mercury deposits, as well as lead and aluminum, from the body through the urine.

Source: Y. Omura and S. L. Beckman, “Role of Mercury in Resistant Infections and Effective Treatment of Chlamydia Trachomatis and Herpes Family Viral Infections (and Potential Treatment for Cancer) by Removing Localized Hg Deposits with Chinese Parsley and Delivering Effective Antibiotics Using Various Drug Uptake Enhancement Methods,” Acupuncture and Electrotherapy Research 20(3-4):195-229, 1995.



In the Far East, the word for peace, wa, is made up of two ideograms representing “grain” and “mouth.” People intuitively knew that eating a diet centered on whole cereal grains contributed to a peaceful mind and sound body. The question of whether human beings are innately peaceful or aggressive is hotly debated. Increasingly archaeological, anthropological, and other scientific evidence is emerging that diet governs individual or social behavior, including relative degree of calm and patience or conflict and aggression. See Violence, War.


• No War in Megalithic Society

A study of megalithic culture, including cave drawings and stone tools, shows no evidence of weapons of war or organized social aggression by one group against another. War also seems to be unknown in the earliest civilization. “[I]t would seem that peaceful behavior is really typical of mankind when living simple lives such as those of the food-gatherers. If that be accepted, it follows that man must somehow or other have become warlike as human culture developed. . . Not only does the Old Stone Age fail to reveal any definite signs of weapons, but the earliest of the predynastic Egyptians also evidently were peaceful. They made maces, which may or may not have been weapons, but very few of them have been found in their graves. Similarly, the first settlements at Susa and Anau have yielded evidence that the people were peaceful.”

Source: W. J. Perry, The Growth of Civilization, pp. 194-96.


• No Violent Deaths in Ancient Southeast Asian Culture

In northeastern Thailand, archaeologists have recently found evidence of a bronze-age culture much older than that of the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in ancient Mesopotamia, which has been believed until recently to be the cradle of civilization.

     By 3600 B.C., the Ban Chiang people, as they are known, lived in permanent villages, grew rice, wove silk for clothing, and wore bronze jewelry. According to scientists, they must have learned bronze-making much earlier because the ratio of copper to tin in their work is in the exact proportion of maximum durability that took metalworkers three thousand years to perfect in the Middle East.

     Unlike later civilizations in Mesopotamia, they appear to have been entirely peaceful and did not use their advanced technology for destructive purposes. Analysis of more than one hundred skeletons unearthed found no deaths by violence, and no weapons of war have been discovered.

Source: Ronald Schiller, “Where Was the ‘Cradle of Civilization?’” Reader’s Digest, August 1980, pp. 67-71.


• Peaceful Native American Society

In the American Midwest, recent excavations at Koster, seventy miles north of St. Louis, have revealed the outlines of a prehistoric Native American culture that occupied the site peacefully for 9,500 years. The inhabitants of Koster lived on wild cereal-like seeds, water lotus, hickory nuts, deer, fish, and other wild plants and animals. They had tools for grain and vegetable processing, as well as baskets and leatherwork. By 5000 B.C., they were living in permanent wooden houses and establishing long-term villages. Until about A.D. 800, when they came into contact with highly complex Mississippian cultures and were overrun, they is no sign of invasion or violent death.

Source:  Stuart Struever and Felicia Holton, Koster (New York: Anchor, 1979).


• Warfare Unknown in Many Primitive Societies

According to anthropologists, warfare was unknown among many primitive societies including the Andaman Islanders, the Arunta, the Eskimos, the Mission Indians, the Semang, the Todas, the Western Shoshoni, the Yahgan, and the Australian Aborigines.

Source: Alexander Lesser, “War and the State,” in Morton Fried, Marvin Harris, and Robert Murphy, editors, War: The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression (Garden City: American Museum of Natural History, 1968), pp. 213-36.


• Wise Bread Unifies Christians and Muslims in Beirut 

In 1975 Susana Sarué left the Sorbonne in Paris where she was completing her doctorate in nutrition to travel to the Middle East to care for Rema Cheblis, a young Lebanese girl with a fatal brain tumor.  The girl’s condition improved on a macrobiotic diet, but one day she glimpsed herself in a mirror and saw for the first time that she had no hair and that one eye socket was empty where the tumor pressed against it. She lost the will to live, stopped eating, and passed away peacefully.

     Rema’s parents asked Susana to stay and help restore peace between waring Christians and Moslems in Beirut, as well as Palestinian refugees caught in the fighting, and Israeli soldiers and officials. Susana investigated and found that there used to be a whole grain bread in Lebanon called Wise Bread because it gave wisdom, or nourishment, but for many years the bread had been made entirely with white flour.

     This flat bread composed about two-thirds of the daily diet. With donations, they opened a small bakery and brought the bread to the homes of families who had a lot of children and who didn’t have any work. Gradually people learned how to make the bread themselves. Later, a natural foods cooperative was set up and made grains, beans, miso,  soy sauce, and other healthy foods available.

     Stephen Malkonian, an agronomist who worked with a pesticide company, became involved after relieving migraine headaches he had suffered from for years in only ten days. He set up an organic agricultural project on 25 hectares of land near the Syrian border and planted grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

     In Beirut, some Catholic priests who heard about the distribution of bread set up a macrobiotic center called Our Home. In East Beirut,  Mary Naccour, a prominent  journalist  who had a two-hour radio program broadcast throughout the Arab world, began to work in the villages and eventually became the leading macrobiotic teacher after Susana returned home. “Other countries—America, France—send us donations: canned food, sugar, white flour, margarine,” Naccour observed. “And they send us free medication. It’s a vicious circle—the food is eaten, the people get sick, they go to hospitals, they take the medications. The food is eaten, the people become more aggressive, angry, and warlike. And the people who send this junk food and medication, the synthetic clothing, also send the bombs. It is also they who say they want to make peace. But the war itself wants to fight because there is war in our hearts and minds.”

Source: Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, One Peaceful World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), pp. 249-55.


• Soy Foods Unify Latin American Sugar Plantation Workers

In Virareka, a small village in Colombia, a sugarcane plantation had displaced local farms and fields. Over the years, large amounts of chemicals were applied to the cane, which came to displace all other crops. Deserts replaced green fields of grains and vegetables. Almost all the food eaten locally was brought in and consisted mainly of white flour, sugar, dairy food, meat, and other highly processed foods.

     Nutritionist Susana Sarué, a native of Latin America, returned to Colombia to do field work in the 1970s and investigated malnutrition in Virareka. Observing the local chickens which were the most healthy and energetic inhabitants of the village, she noticed they were eating soy grits and sorghum. This insight led her to devise a whole range of foods made from natural ingredients but which looked and tasted like the prestige foods the upper classes ate.

     She introduced a variety of cutlets, burgers, and other “meats” with a soya base, offered the people soy milk instead of dairy, and made an ice cream from sorghum and soya. The children’s condition began to improve quickly. They became more alert and intelligent in school and less famished. They no longer had large stomachs. They also became more active. A health food bar was opened and managed by the local people. One day, the men of the village went on strike, and the bosses at the sugar plantation refused their demands, reasoning that they would starve after the third day and return to work. But the strikers, subsisting on local grains and beans and soy products, continued for two weeks, and the company was forced to give in and raise their wages. 

Source:  Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, One Peaceful World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), pp. 255-57.



Pesticide, herbicides, and other chemical sprays are designed to control insects, weeds, and microorganisms that interfere with crops. However, these additives have had a devastating impact on human health, plant and animal vitality, and the natural environment.

     Marking the 30th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a Greenpeace report found that pesticide use is more serious today than in 1962. In the last generation, global sales of pesticides have increased 31 times. Two-thirds of the dangerous chemicals highlighted in Silent Spring are still manufactured and used around the world. Meanwhile, more than 650 weeds and insects have become resistant to chemical sprays. See Chemicals, Infertility, Infectious Disease.


• Animal Food Elevates Pesticide Exposure

In a study of organochlorine pesticides, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN evaluated levels of OCPs in the blood of healthy women in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study and examined their dietary and lifestyle habits. Of the 20 food groups evaluated, higher intake of eggs and animal fat significantly raised OCPs, while leafy vegetable and fresh bean consumption were associated with lower pesticide levels.

Source: S. A. Lee et al., “Association of Serum Concentration of Organochlorine Pesticides with Dietary Intake and Other Lifestyle Factors Among Urban Chinese Women,” Environ Int October 17, 2006.


• Pesticides May Lower Sperm Counts

Men in rural Missouri have poorer semen than men living in urban areas,  according to a University of Missouri study. Researchers studied 512 couples receiving prenatal care at clinics in Columbia and three major metropolitan areas around the country and found a mean sperm count of 59 million per milliliter in central Missouri compared to 99 million in Minneapolis, 81 million in Los Angeles, and 103 million in New York. The scientists noted that farms make up more than half of the region from where the men in Missouri lived and most used chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.

Source: Cheryl Wittenauer, “Sperm Quality Low in Farming Region,” Associated Press, November 11, 2002.


• Organic Foods Have Less Pesticide Residue

Organic foods are purer than conventional crops, according to a study conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In a study of 170 samples of produce, 55 from organically certified farms, 49 from pending certified farms, and 66 from conventional farms, seven detected levels of pesticides. Six were from the conventional farms, and drift was suspected as the cause of the one from the organic farm. "The amount and concentration of pesticides detected in organic produce is significantly lower than for conventional produce."

Source: B. Baker & P. McGee, "CDFA Pestidice residue Analysis of Organics. A Special Ccof Report," California Certified Organic Farmers State Newsletter 8(4): Fall 1991.


• Herbicide-Treated Yards Increase Risk of Cancer

Children who live in families whose yards are treated with herbicides and insecticides are four times more likely to get cancer than others, according to researchers.

Source: "Study: Pesticides Raise Cancer Risk," Associated Press, February 27, 1995.


• EPA Supports Organic Food

For the first time, the U.S. Government distributed a brochure in supermarkets encouraging consumers concerned about pesticides to eat organically grown food. In the brochure, "Pesticides on Food," the Environmental Protection Agency said that pesticide residue in foods could be reduced by washing, peeling, trimming, and cooking but that if consumers were still concerned they should "consider buying food that says 'certified organic'—food certified by a public or private certification agency to have been grown in an area where fewer or no man-made chemical pesticides were used."

Source: Marian Burros, "Government Weighs in with Advice on Pesticides," New York Times, February 4, 1998.


• Toxic Products Widespread in Household and Environment

In a comprehensive review of toxins in the environment, two environmental researchers include a chapter on pesticides with a list of common pesticides used in products for home or garden that can cause acute irritation, allergic reactions, sensitization, or are carcinogenic and recommendations for nontoxic alternatives such as perma proof diatomaceous earth, safer garden fungicide, and diphenamid.

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


• Overdose of Pesticides in Drinking Water

In some parts of the U.S., children by age six will have consumed 130 percent of the lifetime recommended safe limit of herbicides in their drinking water.

Source: J. Fagan, Genetic Engineering (Fairfield, Iowa: MIU Press, 1995), pp. 103-104.


Pet Care

Pets not only tend to resemble their owners, but they often have the same health problems. The low quality of modern animal food, supplemented with scraps from the dinner table, has resulted in an epidemic of parvo, feline leukemia, and other acute and chronic conditions.


• Holistic Approach

An authority on holistic pet care, Norman Ralston, D.V.M., a veterinarian in Dallas, has treated dogs and cats, horses and cows, and other animals with natural methods for 25 years. As former president of the Holistic Veterinarians Association, he uses macrobiotics, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, and other holistic methods. In his book, he introduces basic diet and natural care for dogs and cats as well as tells his story of growing up in Texas during the Depression, going to veterinary school, and using macrobiotics to heal himself of a tumor.

Source: Dr. Normal Ralston with Gale Jack, Raising Healthy Pets,  (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1996).


Physicians for Responsible Medicine

In 1991, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine proposed four new food groups: whole grains; legumes (including beans and soy products such as tofu); vegetables; and fruits. This would replace the Four Basic Food Groups that have been the cornerstone of the modern way of eating: meat, fish and poultry; grains; dairy products; and fruits and vegetables. Meat, dairy, and other animal food would be minor options under the new proposed guidelines. “The typical Western diet, high in animal fat and protein and lacking in fiber, is associated with increased risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis,” a report issued by the 3,000-member doctors’ group stated.

Source:  “The New Four Food Groups,” Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, D.C., April, 1991.



Phytochemicals (from the Greek root “plant”) are among thousands of active substances found in plants that promote health and protect against disease. Beginning in the mid-1980s and continuing through the 1990s, researchers began studying and classifying these substances. Phytochemicals are divided into several major groups such as phytoestrogens. From 50 to 200 phytochemicals have been identified so far in a typical plant.

     Phytochemicals serve as an important part of the immune function, protecting against infection and adverse bacterial and viral effects. They protect against DNA damage and the formation of free radicals. Many phytochemicals have antitumor effects, especially against hormone-related cancers. They may also thin the blood, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and thereby protect against heart disease and stroke.

     See Carotenoids, Flavonoids, Free Radicals, Indoles, Isoflavones, Isothiocyantes, Lignans, Phenols, Phytoestrogens.



Phytoestrogens ("plant estrogens”) are groups of hormone-like compounds that produce beneficial metabolic effects and biological activity in human cells, especially protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and other hormone-related disorders. Principal types include isoflavonoids and lignans, found in soybean products, whole grains, seeds, and berries.

     In the small intestine, phytoestrogens are converted to hormone-like compounds that influence sex-hor-mone production, intracellular enzymes, protein synthesis, growth factor action, and inhibition of malignant cell proliferation, differentiation, cell adhesion, and angiogenesis. See Genistein, Isoflavones, Menopause, Miso, Natto, Prostate Cancer, Rye, Soy Foods, Tempeh, Tofu.


• Metabolic Effects

In a review of dietary phytoestrogens, researchers at the University of Minnesota concluded that they “play an important role in prevention of menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease.” Proposed mechanisms included estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects, regulation of cancer cell differentiation, inhibition of tyrosine kinase and DNA topoisomerase activities, suppression of angiogenesis, and antioxidant effects.”

Source: M. S. Kurzer and X. Xu, “Dietary Phytoestrogens,” Annual Review of Nutrition 17:353-81, 1997.


• Phytoestrogens Protect Against Cancer

In a review of semivegetarian diets in Asia compared to the modern way of eating, researchers in Finland concluded that the phytoestrogens in soybean products, whole grains, seeds, and berries may prevent the development of cancer as well as atherosclerosis. The scientists concluded that the isoflavonoids and lignans play a strong inhibitory role in cancer development, particularly in the promotional phase of the disease, but recent evidence suggests that it also plays a role in the initiation stage of carcinogensis.

Source: H. Adlercreutz and W. Mazur, “Phyto-oestrogens and Western Diseases,” Annals of Medicine 29(2):95-120, 1997.


• Whole Grain Products Reduce Testosterone

In a study of 246 postmenopausal women not taking hormone replacements, researchers at the University of Wisconsin reported that the consumption of whole grain products high in phytoestrogens reduced testosterone levels.

Source: S. M. Shoff et al., “Usual Consumption of Plant Foods Containing Phytoestrogens and Sex Hormone Levels in Postmenopausal Women in Wisconsin,” Nutrition and Cancer 39(3):207-12, 1998.


• Dynamic Effects of Phytoestrogens

In a study measuring the phytoestrogen content of foods, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley reported that tofu, tempeh, miso, and other soy foods contained the most significant sources of isoflavones and coumarins. The scientists concluded that the isoflavones have dynamic effects depending on the endogenous estrogen levels in the body. In premenopausal women, foods high in these substances serve to mildly offset excessive estrogen intake, while in postmenopausal women they serve to enhance estrogenic activity, thereby serving to protect and promote health in both cases.

Source: K. Reinli and G. Block, “Phytoestrogen Content of Foods,” Nutrition and Cancer 26(2):123-48, 1996.



Polyps are benign growths in the large intestine. While not malignant, they commonly lead to colon cancer and are regarded as a major risk factor. They are associated with a diet low in fiber and high in fats. See Colon Cancer, Vegetables, Whole Grains.


• Plant Foods Prevent Benign Growths

In a study of diet related to polyps, benign growths in the colon associated with higher cancer risk, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland analyzed the nutritional data of 488 matched pairs of Southern Californians, 50-74 years old who had had a recent sigmoidoscopy. Researchers found that frequent consumption of grains, vegetables, fruit, and soy foods was associated with decreased polyp prevalence, especially carotenoid vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, tofu, garlic, and fruits high in vitamin C.

Source: J. S. Witte, "Relation of Vegetable, Fruit, and Grain Consumption to Colorectal Adenomatous Polyps," American Journal of Epidemiology 144(11):1015-25, 1996.



Potatoes, native to South America, are grown and eaten around the world. However, because of their potentially toxic effects (they are a nightshade vegetable), they were traditionally regarded as a survival food in their native Peru and eaten when the grain harvest failed. Excessive consumption of potatoes is linked to rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. See Arthritis, Diabetes, Nightshades.


• Inoculation by French Fries

A genetically engineered potato that carries a vaccine against cholera has been developed, creating the possibility people could be inoculated by eating french fries. "We anticipate that this system will be very useful in economically developing areas where cholera is endemic," researcher William Langridge of Loma Linda University in California explained. He said that eating just one or two of the potatoes a week might protect against cholera, which kills 200,000 people a year. According to some health educators, cholera and other epidemics are caused by eating too many acid-producing foods such as potatoes.

Source: “Loma Linda University Researchers Grow Cholera Vaccine in Potatoes,” Loma Linda University News, March 12, 1998.



About 50 percent of women in modern society experience nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy. Concern about the potentially harmful effects of drugs for both mother and developing baby limit the use of pharmaceuticals for this condition.


• High Fiber Foods Protect Against Preeclampsia

In a case-control study of preeclampsia risk and maternal intake of dietary fiber and other nutrients, scientists at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle reported that total fiber intake lowered risk by nearly 50 percent. Intake of fruits, vegetables, total cereal and dark bread, and low-fat dairy products were also associated with a reduced risk of this pregnancy disorder. The researchers concluded that diets high in fiber and potassium may reduce the risk of preeclampsia and hypertension.

Source: I. O. Frederick et al., “Dietary Fiber, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium in Relation to the Risk of Preeclampsia,” J Reprod Med 50(5):332-44, 2005.


• Acupressure and Ginger Beneficial for Nausea and Vomiting

In a study of alternative treatments, researchers at the department of obstetrics and gynecology and the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research in Women’s Health at Columbia University reported that acupressure massage afforded relief to many women, while ginger and vitamin B-6 may also be beneficial. The principal acupoint, known as pericardium 6 (P6) or the Neiguan point, is located on the inside surface of the forearm, approximately three finger-breadths above the wrist. Up to 87 percent of patients experienced improvement when this point was stimulated compared to controls given sham acupressure (applied on another, random point). Meanwhile, in a double-blind study of 27 women, those given a small amount of ginger four times a day experienced a significant reduction in both the degree of nausea and the number of vomiting attacks compared to those given the placebo.

Source: P. A. Murphy, “Alternative Therapies for Nausea and Vomitimg of Pregnancy,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 91(1):149-55, 1998.


Premenstrual Syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), characterized by a variety of physical and psychological symptoms occurring before the start of a menstrual period, affects millions of woman, yet was not recognized as a physiological condition until recently. Symptoms typically include irritability, emotional upset, depression, headaches, anxiety, tenderness in the breast, and tissue swelling, especially one to two weeks before the period begins. See Sugar.


• Diet and PMS

A Canadian medical doctor asserts that PMS is largely dietary related and can be prevented or relieved with a macrobiotic diet centered on grains and vegetables.

Source: Helen Farrell, M.D., “PMS Is Not PMS,”  in Gale Jack and Wendy Esko, editor, Women’s Health Guide, (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1997).


• Dietary Approach to PMS

MIT researchers reported that women consuming a diet high in complex carbohydrates and low in protein showed “improved depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness, and calmness” before the onset of menstruation in comparison to women with severe PMS eating the usual diet high in refined carbohydrates and fat. Besides sweets, the women suffering from PMS consumed more calories and more snack foods. Evidence was found that they intuitively tried to generate positive moods by ingesting more carbohydrates such as bread, rolls, and pasta and avoiding foods rich in protein.

Source: Judith J. Wurtman et al., “Effect of Nutrient Intake on Premenstrual Depression,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 161:1228-34, 1989.


• High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Prevents PMS

A medical textbook on reproductive health and disorders recommends a high-fiber, low-fat diet to help prevent or reduce PMS. “Diet throughout the month, and especially during the premenstrual interval, should be high in complex carbohydrates and moderate in protein (emphasizing alternatives to red meat), but low in refined sugar and salt (sodium), with regular, small meals throughout the day.” The authors further recommended that “women should reduce or eliminate their consumption of tea, coffee, caffeine-containing beverages, chocolate, and alcohol, and stop smoking.”

Source: Robert A. Hatcher et al., “Menstrual Problems,” Contraceptive Technology 1990-1992  (New York: Irvington, 1990).


• High-Protein, High-Sugar Diet Associated with Impaired Performance

In a study of 26 healthy menstruating women, researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center reported that higher carbohydrate intake, especially simple sugars, was associated with negative feelings and impaired performance or decreased activity, while lower intake of protein was associated with higher ratings of well being. Other studies have show that individuals with depressive symptoms for PMS show a preference for sweet simple sugars.

Source: W. G. Johnson et al., “Macronutrient Intake, Eating Habits, and Exercise as Moderators of Menstrual Distress in Healthy Women,” Psychosomatic Medicine 57(4):324-30, 1995.


Prenatal Nutrition

What an expectant mother eats during pregnancy can influence her child's health through life. Intrauterine factors have been associated with increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian and testicular cancer, and other hormone-related malignancies.


• Mercury-Laden Fish Linked to Premature Birth

In a study of 1024 pregnant women, levels of mercury in maternal hair rose when fish consumption was increased, and women who gave birth to premature babies (before 35 weeks) were likely to be at or above the 90th percentile for mercury contamination compared to those who delivered at term (at or after 37 weeks).

Source: F. Xue et al., “Maternal Fish Consumption, Mercury Levels, and Risk of Preterm Delivery,” Environmen Health Perspect, Sept. 25, 2006.


• Meat-Based Diet in Pregnancy Can Lead to Adult Hypertension

Pregnant women who consume a high-meat diet with few carbohydrates increase the risk that their children will have high blood pressure as adults. Researchers at the University of Southampton evaluated 626 men and women, aged 27 to 30, whose mothers ate one pound of red meat daily during their pregnancy and avoided carbohydrate-rich foods in an earlier medical study. Women who consumed more beef and fish during the second half of their pregnancy produced kids with higher systolic blood pressure as adults.

Source: A. W. Shiell et al., “High-Meat, Low-Carbohydrate Diet in Pregnancy: Relation to Adult Blood Pressure in the Offspring,” Hypertension 38:1282-8, 2001.


• Prenatal Factors Associated with Breast Cancer

A study of nurses’ health by Harvard University researchers found that women who were heavy at birth had higher rates of breast cancer later in life. Dr. David Barker, who directs the Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit in Southampton, England, and is author of Mothers, Babies, and Disease in Later Life, reported that he and his colleagues found a possible link between ovarian cancer and embryological development. In a study of 5585 British women, the researchers found that the women who died from ovarian cancer had higher rates of weight gain in infancy, weighing nearly a pound more on average at their first birthday, than cancer-free women. Prenatal nutrition was cited as the probable reason for the weight gain, as well as hormonal factors that continued for the rest of their life.      

Source: Jane E. Brody, "Life in Womb May Affect Adult Heart Disease Risk," New York Times, October 1, 1996.


• Maternal Diet and Lifestyle, including EMFs, Linked to Childhood Cancers

In a study of childhood cancer, researchers in Israel reported that children of low socioeconomic groups with nutritional deficiencies are more exposed to viral infections at an early age and have a greater chance of developing Burkitt lymphoma or mixed cellularity Hodgkin disease. Maternal diet during pregnancy, especially low consumption of foods high in folic acid, was identified as a probably cause. “The hazards of exposure to electric and magnetic fields from high-voltage transmission lines, home electric appliances, video display terminals, or residence near nuclear plants, although very doubtful, are included in the list of cancer promoters in children.” In vitro fertilization also may have carcinogenic potential, the researchers concluded.

Source: A. Toren et al., “Pediatric Cancer: Environmental and Genetic Aspects,” Peditaric Hemotology and Oncology 12(4):319-31, 1996.


Price, Weston

For many years dental surgeon Weston Price performed fieldwork among the Indians of North America, the Inuit, the Polynesians, and the Australian Aborigines and reported no trace of cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative illnesses among those cultures and communities following traditional ways of eating. He noted that the diseases of modern civilization appeared only following the introduction of white flour, white rice, sugar, canned food, and other articles of modern diet.

Source: Weston Price, D.D.S., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (Santa Monica: Price-Pottenger Nutritional Foundation, 1945).


Prostate Cancer

Prostate disease affects many men in modern society. It is commonly preceded by benign prostate enlargement, which has been associated with decreased intake of whole grains and vegetables and increased consumption of high fat foods, especially meat. See Miso, Rye, Selenium.


• Milk Linked to Prostate Cancer

In an analysis of eleven case-control studies in eight countries published between 1984 and 2003, researchers in Japan reported a positive association between milk intake and prostate cancer.  The finding paralleled the conclusion of a previous study that found a strong correlation between milk consumption and the disease in 42 countries.

Source: L. Q. Qin et al., “Milk Consumption Is a Risk Factor for Prostate Cancer: Meta-Analysis of Case Control Studies,” Nutrition and Cancer 481:22-7, 2004.


• Foods Associated with Prostate Cancer Risk

In a large-scale dietary study of nearly 8000 men in Hawaii of Japanese ancestry, researchers reported that increased consumption of rice and tofu reduced the risk of prostate cancer, while egg, ham, bacon, sausage, and other animal products, including ice cream, butter, margarine, and cheese, increased the risk.

     Those who ate bread two to five times or more per week had a two to three time higher risk of contracting prostate cancer. Meanwhile, consumption of nori and other sea vegetables more than once a week also elevated risk.

     Upon learning of this study, macrobiotic educator Michio Kushi recommended that sea vegetables be minimized for men suffering from this disease. "Prostate cancer is classified as very yang," he explained. "Sea vegetables too, because of their high mineral content, are also yangizing and tend to gather lower in the body, including the reproductive area. For this form of cancer, sea vegetables may need to be reduced or avoided, while they can help prevent the spread of breast cancer and other more yin tumors characterized by expansive, rising, upward energy."

Sources: R. K. Severson, "Prospective Study of Demographics, Diet, and Prostate Cancer among Men or Japanese Ancestry in Hawaii," Cancer Research 49:1857-60, 1989. Michio Kushi, Macrobiotic Teachers Seminar, Kushi Institute, Becket, Mass., August 1990. 


• Soy Protects Against Prostate Cancer

Epidemiological evidence indicates that prostate disease is less prevalent in the Far East where consumption of soy foods is very high compared to the United States. In a study of the effects of genistein, a major component of soy, on benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and prostate cancer, cancer researchers in San Diego reported that genistein decreased the growth of BPH tissue and prostate cancer tissue. "The data suggest that genistein has potential as a therapeutic agent for BPH and prostate cancer," the study concluded.

Source: J. Geller et al., "Genistein Inhibits the Growth of Human-Patient BPH and Prostate Cancer in Histoculture," Prostate 34(2):75-79, 1998.


• Tomato Reduces Risk for Prostate Cancer

Men who eat at least ten servings of tomato-based foods weekly are less likely to develop prostate cancer, Harvard researchers reported. A nine-year study of 47,000 men's eating habits found that those who ate spaghetti sauce and other tomato-rich foods had substantially lower risk of prostate cancer.

Source: E. Giovannucci et al., “Intake of Carotenoids and Retinol in Relation to Risk of Prostate Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 87(23):1767-76, 1995.



Protein ("primary” food), a nutrient found in both vegetable- and animal-quality foods, occurs in all living matter and is essential for the growth and repair of cells and tissues. The basic structure of protein is amino acids. Americans eat nearly twice as much protein as the Recommended Daily Allowances of 44 to 63 grams a day, depending on age and sex. About two-thirds of the protein comes from meat and dairy, which is also high in saturated fat. High protein consumption is associated with acidic blood, calcium deficiency, and increased risk for kidney stones, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Medical studies have found that low-protein diets result in fewer free radicals, byproducts of metabolism linked with cellular aging and cancer risk. See Cancer, Heart Disease, Kidney Stones, Longevity, Osteoporosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Premenstrual Syndrome.


• High-Protein Diet Imperils Athletes

High protein diets can lead to dehydration in endurance runners, according to a researcher at the University of Connecticut. Too much protein leads to the accumulation of nitrogen in the blood, straining the kidneys. Since the athletes did not experience increased thirst, they were unaware of becoming dehydrated.

Source: W. F. Martin, Presentation at the Experimental Biology 2002 Conference, April 22, 2002.


• Value of Low-Protein Diet and Plant Compared to Animal Protein

In laboratory studies T. Colin Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University reported that rats on low-protein diets, less than 10 percent of calories, appeared to be protected from liver tumors caused by aflatoxin, a known carcinogen, while animals eating more than 10 percent protein developed tumors.

     Plant-quality protein is more beneficial than animal-quality protein, Dr. Campbell further asserted. Animals fed plant protein had less tumors than those fed with animal protein. "Whoever decided animal protein was 'high quality' because it was more efficiently used by humans was wrong," he concluded.

Source: Madeline Drexler, "How Much Protein?" Mind and Body, n.d.


• Low Protein Diet Reduces Cancer Risk

A low-protein diet can reduce the risk of cancer, according to researchers at Cornell University. In laboratory tests, rats on a low-protein diet had less tumors than rats on a moderate and a high-protein diet, their immune function improved, and they lived longer. In another study at Washington State University, the life span of mice injected in cancer cells was doubled by limiting their intake of phenylalanine and tyrosine, two amino acids that are important constituents of protein.

Source: Dr. Dean Edell, "More Protein Might Raise Cancer Risk," San Francisco Chronicle, n.d.


• Myth of Missing Protein

Until recently, modern nutrition has taught that only animal-quality protein is complete and that vegetarians are at risk for protein deficiency and must carefully combine foods at every meal (e.g., grains and beans together). Tracing the origin of this theory, nutritional researcher Paul Pitchford reports that in experiments conducted early in the 20th century, it was found that rats flourished on protein with amino acid sequences similar to eggs, cheese, and other animal products. “It was assumed then that those same patterns would be required for humans, and therefore a standard amino-acid profile was developed (for people) based on an ideal for rats. This profile has been the basis for judging the quality of all vegetable protein for many years.”

     He goes on to state that the concept of missing amino acids is misleading. “One often reads that an essential amino acid is missing or low in a given food. Virtually every unrefined food from the vegetable or animal kingdom has not only all eight essential amino acids, but all 20 commonly recognized amino acids; therefore saying that are ‘missing’ is inaccurate. ‘Low’ levels of amino acids nearly always means low compared to a standard of ‘complete’ protein based on animal products as the ideal for rats.” For example, the amino acid methionine-cystine, which is often said to be low in plant diets, is used primarily to sustain full-body hair growth in rats. “Most people’s protein requirements are satisfied by a simple vegetarian diet based on whole grains,” Pitchford concludes. “This mega-protein mania symbolizes the consciousness of a society based on continuous growth, as protein is the body’s builder.”

Source: Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition (Berkeley, CA: North Atlatntic Books, 1993), pp. 90-91.


• Modern Nutritional Standards

Based on German Soldiers In a study of the rise of modern nutrition, Alex Jack describes how Justus von Liebig, the 19th century German chemist, was the first to classify nourishment into protein, carbohydrate, and fat. In Animal Chemistry (1846), he extolled meat as the perfect food, contrasting “savage” and “civilized” cultures and showing that “the unprofitable exertion and power, the waste of force in agriculture, in other branches of industry, in science, or in social economy, is characteristic of the savage state.” Animal protein, Liebig contended, was the “commencement and starting-point” because it served as the chief constituent of the blood and the caseine of milk. From protein developed the vital force, and its very name, proteine, derived from the Greek “I take the first rank.” Jack shows that Liebig based his standards for food consumption on experiments he conducted measuring the average daily intake of nutrients ingested and excreted from Hessian soldiers. “100 parts fresh faeces consequently contain 11.31 per cent. of carbon, very nearly the same proportion as in fresh meat!” Liebig exclaimed.

     Liebig laid down principles of nutrition that “became scientific orthodoxy until well into the 20th century,” anthropologist Nick Fiddes, asserts in Meat, a social and cultural study of animal food consumption. “Liebig’s theories were accepted almost uncritically partly because of his established reputation but also because middle-class Victorian biologists were themselves great meat-eaters by choice and, like the public, were pleased to learn that a high-protein diet was scientifically approved.”

     While recommended levels of protein have substantially lowered in recent years, modern nutrition is still highly influenced by Liebig’s faulty model, Fiddes concluded.

Source: Alex Jack, Profiles in Oriental Diagnosis III: Evolution at the Dinner Table (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1999); Nick Fiddes, Meat: A Natural Symbol (London and New York: Routledge, 1991).

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