“Pros and Cons of a Macrobiotic Diet” Macrobiotic diets have been described
by the American Medical Association as one of the most dangerous dietary
regimens, posing not only serious hazards to the health of the
individual, but even to life itself. After all, macrobiotic diets
are predominantly vegetarian with a great emphasis
placed on whole grains. What’s wrong with that? Well, they also used to tell people
to not drink water, which isn’t good, and to avoid fruit, so much so it’s
resulted in modern-day cases of scurvy. Now thankfully, the macrobiotic diet
has evolved over the past 30 years. This is the more contemporary version:
an emphasis on whole grains, vegetables, and beans, while minimizing
most meat, eggs, and dairy. I don’t like them restricting fruits,
don’t like all the added salt, but compared to the standard American
diet it’s got a lot of things going for it. Only a quarter of the saturated fat
intake, less than half the sugar intake. A very respectable fiber intake—two and
a half times the national average— but actually taking in more sodium. So while the macrobiotic diet
is an anti-inflammatory diet— has a negative dietary
inflammatory index score as opposed to the pro-
inflammatory American diet— some of the most anti-inflammatory
foods are herbs and spices. So instead of adding all that
sea salt and soy sauce, the macrobiotic diet could be improved
by using natural seasonings instead. OK, but has the macrobiotic
diet ever been put to the test? Yes, for diabetes. The restriction on water probably
wouldn’t help, as higher plain water consumption is associated
with lower type 2 diabetes risk, though part of that may be because
they’re drinking less soda. And fruit restriction is probably not
helpful since fruit consumption is associated with a significantly
reduced risk of type 2 diabetes as well, but same with green leafy vegetables,
which is where the macrobiotic diet can really shine: it
includes lots of greens. Look, you can do randomized,
double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover studies of kale
and show that it suppresses the after-a-meal increase
in blood sugars. Eat a meal of white rice, chicken, and
eggs and get a big spike in blood sugar, though significantly less adding just
a tablespoon of dried kale powder, as opposed to some
kind of placebo powder, though the effect is visually exaggerated
by their y-axis shenanigans. And macrobiotic diets use whole grains,
which can significantly improve insulin sensitivity compared to refined
grains, which may be due in part to all the wonderful things fiber can do
to help our good gut bacteria thrive, which could potentially lower
inflammation and decrease diabetes risk. But you don’t know
until you put it to the test. Just three weeks on a
strictly plant-based diet composed mostly of whole
grains, vegetables and beans, and they got about a
10% drop in blood pressure, a whopping 35% drop
in LDL bad cholesterol, and a 38% drop in fasting
blood sugars in just 21 days. Were these changes
statistically significant? Here’s some three-month
P values for you. Those are my kind of P values. In other words, yes, the changes were
significant in every possible way. Similarly, short-term interventional
studies on diabetics with these so-called
Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diets have been performed
across four continents. The “Ma-Pi” comes from the guy that
came up with the diet, Mario Pianesi— a strictly plant-based diet based mostly
on whole grains and vegetables, with legumes and some seeds, and decaf
green tea as the preferred beverage. Look at these extraordinary numbers:
a near 40% drop in fasting blood sugars, near 27% drop in LDL
cholesterol in 21 days. Now they did lose weight,
a few pounds a week, but those kinds of results were way more
than one would expect with weight loss. And here’s the kicker. That 40% drop in blood sugars
was after cutting their insulin in half! So those numbers greatly
underestimate the effects. Better results on fewer drugs.
That’s the power of plants. All we need now is a randomized,
controlled clinical trial to really seal the deal,
which we’ll cover next.