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Macrobiotics and Cancer and Whole Grains with High Phytonutrient Activity - Research Compilation

by Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in cancer, originally published in issue 182 - May 2011

Research Compiled by Sandra Goodman PhD

Below an email from Richard Landwirth in July 2010, reporting a number of interesting and informative research studies about macrobiotic diet and cancer, including his own experience with macrobiotics for tinnitus. Following is a compilation of research revealing details not normally well reported outside the research or the macrobiotic community.

Original Email from Richard Landwirth; His Story
I ran across a discussion concerning the deficiencies of the macrobiotic diet-I was wondering if you or any of the macrobiotic devotees you know have seen this yet? I am 67 yrs old-my wife is a physician-I learned the diet in 1980-did it strictly during the 80s-then drifted off-about 6 yrs ago I developed a devastating tinnitus-since there is no conventional treatment for it, I immediately started the Macro diet 100%-and reduced the tinnitus-95%-Now I don't even think about it and have a great sleep at night-and have had many other benefits-I do no aerobic exercise, but my heart ejection fraction went from a good 62 to a marathon runners 76...btw [by the way]-Dr Dean Ornish appropriated this diet-with no acknowledgement-and made a career for himself curing people with congestive heart failure...the only thing I do that was not recommended to me was have either sardines or pink salmon every day--because I was concerned for my vit-D-B-12-Calcium-& omega 3 requirements-i eat very little fruit--I also cannot have any of the sea vegetables-therefore no source of calcium-[and hence the daily fish]--because they contain too much salt--and too much salt is "death" for tinnitus sufferers-after 6 yrs on the diet I am able to tolerate about 400-800 milligrams of sodium daily with no ill effect...anyway-here is the research-regards, Richard Landwirth

Whole Grains, Antioxidant Activity and Phytonutrients
Research reported at the 2004 American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) International Conference on Food, Nutrition and Cancer, by Rui Hai Liu MD PhD and his colleagues at Cornell University shows that whole grains, such as corn, contain many powerful phytonutrients whose activity has gone unrecognized because research methods have overlooked them.[1]

Despite the fact that for years researchers have been measuring the antioxidant power of a wide array of phytonutrients, they have typically measured only the 'free' forms of these substances, which dissolve quickly and are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. They have not looked at the 'bound' forms, which are attached to the walls of plant cells and must be released by intestinal bacteria during digestion before they can be absorbed.

Phenolics, powerful antioxidants that work in multiple ways to prevent disease, are one major class of phytonutrients that have been widely studied. Included in this broad category are such compounds as quercetin, curcumin, ellagic acid, catechins, and many others that appear frequently in the health news.

When Dr Liu and his colleagues measured the relative amounts of phenolics, and whether they were present in bound or free form, in common fruits and vegetables like apples, red grapes, broccoli and spinach, they found that phenolics in the 'free' form averaged 76% of the total number of phenolics in these foods. In whole grains, however, 'free' phenolics accounted for less than 1% of the total, while the remaining 99% were in 'bound' form.

In his presentation, Dr Liu explained that because researchers have examined whole grains with the same process used to measure antioxidants in vegetables and fruits - looking for their content of 'free phenolics - the amount and activity of antioxidants in whole grains has been vastly underestimated.

Despite the differences in fruits', vegetables' and whole grains' content of "free" and "bound" phenolics, the total antioxidant activity in all three types of whole foods is similar, according to Dr Liu's research. His team measured the antioxidant activity of various foods, assigning each a rating based on a formula (micromoles of vitamin C equivalent per gram). Broccoli and spinach measured 80 and 81, respectively; apple and banana measured 98 and 65; and of the whole grains tested, corn measured 181, whole wheat 77, oats 75, and brown rice 56.

Dr Liu's findings may help explain why studies have shown that populations eating diets high in fibre-rich whole grains consistently have lower risk for colon cancer, yet short-term clinical trials that have focused on fibre alone in lowering colon cancer risk, often to the point of giving subjects isolated fibre supplements, yield inconsistent results. The explanation is most likely that these studies have not taken into account the interactive effects of all the nutrients in whole grains-not just their fibre, but also their many phytonutrients. As far as whole grains are concerned, Dr Liu believes that the key to their powerful cancer-fighting potential is precisely their wholeness. A grain of whole wheat consists of three parts-its endosperm (starch), bran and germ. When wheat-or any whole grain-is refined, its bran and germ are removed. Although these two parts make up only 15-17% of the grain's weight, they contain 83% of its phenolics. Dr Liu says his recent findings on the antioxidant content of whole grains reinforce the message that a variety of foods should be eaten good health. "Different plant foods have different phytochemicals," he said. "These substances go to different organs, tissues and cells, where they perform different functions. What your body needs to ward off disease is this synergistic effect - this teamwork - that is produced by eating a wide variety of plant foods, including whole grains."[1]

Macrobiotics and Cancer
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.[2]

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. [2]

Macrobiotics: Clinical Case Studies Cancer Remission
In a study of patients with advanced malignancies who followed a macrobiotic way of eating, Vivien Newbold MD, a Philadelphia physician documented six cases of remission.[3] The patients had pancreatic cancer with metastases to the liver; malignant melanoma; malignant astrocytoma; endometrial stromal sarcoma; adenocarcinoma of the colon; and inoperable intra-abdominal leimyosarcoma. Review of CT scans and other medical tests revealed no evidence of tumours after adherence to the macrobiotic diet. All of the patients (except for one whose cancer came back after she discontinued macrobiotics) were reported working full time, leading very active lives, and feeling in excellent health. The cases were all reviewed independently and the diagnoses confirmed by the pathology and radiology departments of Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania. In a review of her study, Congressional investigators recommended further research on the macrobiotic approach to cancer: "If cases such as Newbold's were presented in the medical literature, it might help stimulate interest among clinical investigators in conducting controlled, prospective trials of macrobiotic regimens, which could provide valid data on effectiveness."

Soy Sauce and Cancer
The high rate of stomach cancer in Japan caused some Japanese scientists to speculate that a diet high in soy sauce might be a factor. However, researchers at the University of Wisconsin observed just the opposite. In laboratory tests, mice given fermented soy sauce experienced 26 percent less cancer than mice on the regular diet. Also soy-supplemented mice averaged about one-quarter the number of tumours per mouse as the control group. Soy sauce "exhibited a pronounced anticarcinogenic effect," the researchers concluded.[4]

Soy Foods and Cancer
At a workshop sponsored by the National Cancer Institute on the role of soy products in cancer prevention, medical researchers presented evidence that soybeans and soy products such as tofu, miso, and tempeh can help prevent the onset of induced cancer in laboratory animals. "The consensus of the meeting was that there are sufficient data to justify studying the impact of soybean intake on cancer risk in humans," the researchers reported.[5]

Miso Soup and Cancer
A diet rich in soy foods, especially miso soup, produces genistein, a natural substance that blocked the growth of new blood vessels that feed a tumour, scientists reported. Researchers from Children's University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, reported that genistein also deterred cancer cells from multiplying and could have significant implications for the prevention and treatment of solid malignancies, including those of the brain, breast, and prostate.[6]

Cancer and Longevity in Japan
Epidemiologists reported that cancer of the lung, breast, and colon increased two to three times among Japanese women between 1950 and 1975. During that period, milk consumption increased fifteen times; meat, eggs, and poultry climbed seven and a half times; and rice consumption dropped 70 percent. In Okinawa, with the highest proportion of centenarians, longevity was associated with lowered sugar and salt intake and higher intake of protein and green and yellow vegetables.[7]

Diet vs. Conventional Treatment
In 1985 the National Cancer Institute reported that radiation therapy and chemotherapy were ineffective and in some cases produced toxic side-effects as follow-ups to surgery in the treatment of cancer. "Except possibly in selected patients with cancer of the stomach, there has been no demonstrated improvement in the survival of patients with the ten most common cancers when radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both have been added to surgical resection." The ten most common cancers include lung, colorectum, breast, prostate, uterus, bladder, pancreas, stomach, skin, and kidney. Shortly after the report was published, the author, Dr Steven A. Rosenberg, the NCI's chief of surgery, operated on President Ronald Reagan's colon cancer and instead of chemotherapy or radiation treatment put him on a modified whole grain diet.[8]

Japanese Migrants
In 1968 an epidemiological study indicated that dietary habits and environmental influences are the chief determinants of the world's varying cancer rates and not genetic factors. Data showed that in the course of three generations, Japanese migrants in the United States contracted colon cancer at the same rates as the general American population. In contrast, the regular colon cancer rate in Japan remained about one-fourth the American incidence.[9]

Diet and Colon Cancer
Men in Finland consume a lot of fat and have the highest heart disease rate in the industrialized world. Yet they have one of the lowest colon cancer rates (one-third that of the U.S.). Researchers around the world have found that whole cereal grains protect against colon cancer by reducing bile acid concentrates in the large intestine and giving bulk to the faeces. Investigators found that Finnish men consume high amounts of whole rye bread and had bowel movements three times bulkier than men in other Western countries as well as reduced amounts of bile acid build-up.[10]

Eating more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit may lower a person's risk for colorectal cancer by up to 40 percent. Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia looked at thirty-seven studies involving 10,000 people in fifteen countries and reported that those who ate a diet high in whole grains and other plant-quality foods had about 40 percent less risk of this disease.[11]

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health reported that men with the lowest fat intake, averaging 24 percent of calories, had only half the rate of colon polyps, a common precursor of colon cancer, as men eating the usual amount of fat. "A modest reduction [of fat such as proposed by current medical guidelines] will not appreciably reduce the risk," said Dr Tim Byers of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. He described an effective cancer-prevention diet as one that included six servings a day of whole grains and legumes and five or six servings of vegetables and fruits.[12]

Cruciferous Vegetables and Colon Cancer
In Norway, researchers examined the colons of 155 people in their fifties who had no signs of colon cancer. Half had polyps growing in the colon; the half with no polyps ate more cruciferous vegetables. The less cruciferous vegetables consumed, the greater the risk for polyps and the larger and more abnormal the polyps.[13]

Beans and Bile Acids
Beans lowered bile acid production by 30 percent in men with a tendency toward elevated bile acid. Bile acids are necessary for proper fat digestion but in excess have been associated with causing cancer, especially in the large intestine. Case-control studies showed that pinto and navy beans were effective in lowering bile acid production in men at high risk for this condition.[14]

Lentils and Oesophageal Tumours
A study in the Caspian littoral of Iran, an area of high oesophageal cancer, associated this disease with lower intake of lentils and other pulses, cooked green vegetables, and other whole foods.[15]

Fibre and Oesophageal Cancer
An epidemiological study found that populations with a low risk of oesophageal cancer in Africa and Asia consume more millet, cassava, yams, peanuts, and other foods high in fibre or starch than high-risk groups.[16]

Diet and Leukaemia in chickens
In 1972 a Japanese scientist reported that leukaemia in chickens could be reversed by feeding them a mixture of whole grains and salt. The experiment was conducted by Keiichi Morishita MD, technical chief for the Tokyo Red Cross Blood Center and vice president of the New Blood Association.[17]

Vegetables and Lung Cancer
A Chicago study found that regular consumption of foods containing beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, protected against lung cancer. Over a period of nineteen years, a group of 1,954 men at a Western Electric plant were monitored, and those who regularly consumed carrots, dark green lettuce, spinach, broccoli, kale, Chinese cabbage, peaches, apricots, and other carotene-rich foods had significantly lower lung cancer rates than controls.[18]

Fat and Lung Cancer
In a review of the relation of diet, lifestyle, and lung cancer, researchers found that calories from dietary fat were highly significantly associated with lung cancer mortality. For example, male lung cancer deaths are highest in West European countries where a high-fat diet is consumed, and lowest in Thailand, Philippines, Honduras, Guatemala, and Japan where a low-fat diet is eaten.

While noting that smoking is still the major causative factor of lung cancer, the scientists theorized that a high-fat diet might also trigger the process by which cigarette smoke is harmful to the lungs. It is conceivable that "tobacco smoke is readily oxidized to the ultimate carcinogen as a consequence of a high-fat diet."[19]

Lymphoma and Diet
Persons who regularly eat cereal grains, pulses, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are less likely to get lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease than persons who do not usually eat these foods, according to a 1976 survey based on World Health Organization data.[20]

Shiitake and Sarcomas
Japanese scientists at the National Cancer Center Research Institute reported that shiitake mushrooms had a strong anti-tumour effect. In experiments with mice, polysaccharide preparations from various natural sources, including the shiitake mushroom commonly available in Tokyo markets, markedly inhibited the growth of induced sarcomas resulting in "almost complete regression of tumors . . . with no sign of toxicity."[21]

Sea Vegetables and Sarcomas
Japanese scientists reported that several varieties of kombu and mojaban, common sea vegetables eaten in Asia and traditionally used as a decoction for cancer in Chinese herbal medicine, were effective in the treatment of tumours in laboratory experiments. In three of four samples tested, inhibition rates in mice with implanted sarcomas ranged from 89 to 95 percent. The researchers reported that "the tumor underwent complete regression in more than half of the mice of each treated group. " Similar experiments on mice with leukemia showed promising results.[22]

Miso Soup and Stomach Cancer
Japan's National Cancer Center reported that people who eat miso soup daily are 33 percent less likely to contract stomach cancer and 19 percent less likely to contract cancer at other sites than those who never eat miso soup. The thirteen-year study, involving about 265,000 men and women over forty, also found that those who never ate miso soup had a 43 percent higher death rate from coronary heart disease than those who consumed miso soup daily. Those who abstained from miso also had 29 percent more fatal strokes, three and a half times more deaths resulting from high blood pressure, and higher mortality from all other causes.[23]

Tofu and Stomach Cancer
Japanese cancer researchers found that people who regularly ate tofu were at less risk for stomach cancer than those who did not.[24]

Chewing and Cancer
An Indian cancer researcher concluded that thorough chewing lowered the risk of cancer. "The proper chewing of meals ensuring that mucous-rich saliva mixed with the food seemed to be protective factors." Cancer also appeared to be more prevalent in South India where white rice and considerably more fat, oil, and spices are used in cooking than in Northern India where whole-grain chapatis and thick dal made with lentils are the staple.[25]

Cholesterol and 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.[26]

Broccoli and Cancer
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported that they had identified the ingredient in broccoli that worked as a powerful anticancer compound in laboratory experiments. The chemical, sulforaphane, boosts the production of an important enzyme known to neutralize carcinogens before they trigger tumour growth. In addition to broccoli, sulforaphane is found in bok choy, ginger, scallions, and other vegetables.[27]

Vegetables and Bladder Cancer
In a case-control study in Hawaii, researchers reported a decreased risk for bladder cancer among women who consumed vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C, such as broccoli, cabbage, and oranges, and among men who consumed dark green vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, and spinach.[28]

Fruits and Vegetables and Cancer
In a review of 200 studies that examined the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and cancer at selected sites, researchers found that consumption of these foods offered a significantly protective effect in 128 of 156 dietary studies in which results were expressed in terms of relative risk. For lung cancer, these foods were protective in 24 of 25 studies after control for smoking in most instances. Fruit was protective for tumours of the oesophagus, oral cavity, and larynx in 28 of 29 studies. Vegetables and fruit were protective in 26 of 30 studies for the pancreas and stomach, as well as in colorectal and bladder cancers (23 of 38 studies). For malignancies of the cervix, ovary, and endometrium, a significant protective effect was shown in 11 of 13 studies. In breast cancer, a protective effect was found to be strong and consistent in meta-analysis. Overall, the relative risk of cancer was about twice as high for those eating few fruits and vegetables compared to those who ate plenty of these foods.[29]

"In 1854, John Snow stopped a cholera epidemic simply by taking the handle off the pump. The research presented above suggests that consumption of fruits and vegetables may be a handle that, if manipulated by public policy, clinical advice, and public education, could have a substantial impact on a wide range of cancers," the researchers concluded.

Diet and Leukaemia
In one of the first studies of the relationship between diet and leukaemia, researchers found a strong correlation between total caloric intake and both lymphoid and total leukaemia incidence, especially among males. "The findings from this rigorous analysis of international data strengthen and expand the hypothesis based on previous simple correlation analyses and animal experiments that an underlying biological relationship exists between diet, particularly energy intake, and international variations in the incidence of certain types of human leukemia."[30]

Diet and 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.[31]

1. Liu RH. New finding may be key to ending confusion over link between fiber, colon cancer. American Institute for Cancer Research Press Release, November 3, 2004.
2. 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.
3. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Unconventional Cancer Treatments (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990).
4. J. Raloff, "A Soy Sauce Surprise," Science News, 139:357, 1991.
5. Mark Messina and Stephen Barnes, "The Role of Soy Products in Reducing Risk of Cancer," Journal of the National Cancer Institute 83:54146, 1991.
6. Chemists Learn Why Vegetables Are Good for You. New York Times, April 13, 1993.
7. Y. Kagawa, "Impact of Westernization on the Nutrition of Japan," Preventive Medicine 7:205-17, 1978.
8. Steven A. Rosenberg. Combined-Modality Therapy of Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 312:1512-14 and Alex Jack, personal communication with the White House, July, 1985.
9. W. Haenszel and M. Kurihara, Studies of Japanese Migrants. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 40:43-68. 1968.
10. H. N. Englyst et al. Nonstarch Polysaccharide Concentrations in Four Scandinavian Populations. Nutrition & Cancer 4:50-60. 1982.
11. Bruce Tock, Elaine Lanza, and Peter Greenwald, Dietary Fiber, Vegetables, and Colon Cancer: Critical Review and Meta-analyses of the Epidemiologic Evidence. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 82:650-661, 1990.
12. Very Low Rate of Fat in Diet Is Advised to Fight Cancer. Boston Globe, April 23, 1991.
13. G. Hoff et. al., Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 21:199, 1986.
14. J. Anderson. Hypocholesterolemic Effects of Oat-Bran or Bean Intake for Hypercholesterolemic Men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 40:1146-55, 1984.
15. H. Hormozdiari et al. Dietary Factors and Esophageal Cancer in the Caspian Littoral of Iran. Cancer Research 35:3493-98, 1975.
16. SJ van Rensburg. Epidemiologic and Dietary Evidence for a Specific Nutritional Predisposition to Esophageal Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 67:243-51, 1981.
17. K. Morishita, M.D., The Hidden Truth of Cancer (San Francisco: George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1972).
18. RB Shekelle et al. Dietary Vitamin A and Risk of Cancer in the Western Electric Study. Lancet 2:1185-90, 1981.
19. Ernst L. Wynder, James R. Hebert, and Geoffrey Kabat, Association of Dietary Fat and Lung Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 79:631-37, 1987.
20. A. S. Cunningham, "Lymphomas and Animal-Protein Consumption," Lancet 2:1184-86. 1976.
21. G. Chihara et al., Fractionation and Purification of the Polysaccharides with Marked Antitumor Activity, Especially Lentinan, from Lentinus edodes (Berk.) Sing. (An Edible Mushroom). Cancer Research 30:2776-81, 1970.
22. I. Yamamoto et al. Antitumor Effect of Seaweeds. Japanese Journal of Experimental Medicine 44:543-46, 1974.
23. T. Hirayama. Relationship of Soybean Paste Soup Intake to Gastric Cancer Risk. Nutrition and Cancer 3:223-33, 1981.
24. T. Hirayama. Epidemiology of Stomach Cancer in T. Murakami (ed.), Early Gastric Cancer. Gann Monograph on Cancer Research, 11 (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, pp. 3-19), 1971.
25. SL Malhotra. Dietary Factors in a Study of Cancer Colon from Cancer Registry, with Special Reference to the Role of Saliva, Milk and Fermented Milk Products, and Vegetable Fibre. Medical Hypotheses 3:122-26, 1977.
26. RB Shekelle et al. Dietary Cholesterol and Incidence of Lung Cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology 134:48084, 1992.
27. Paul Talalay, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 16, 1992.
28. AMY Nomura et al. Dietary Factors in Cancer of the Lower Urinary Tract. International Journal of Cancer 48:1991.
29. Gladys Block et al., "Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer Prevention: A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence," Nutrition and Cancer 18:1-29, 1992.
30. SD Hursting et al. Diet and Human Leukemia: An Analysis of International Data.Preventive Medicine 22:409-22, 1993.
31. Zheng et al. A Cohort Study of Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Dietary Factors for Pancreatic Cancer. Cancer Causes and Control 4:477-82, 1993.


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About Sandra Goodman PhD

Sandra Goodman PhD, Co-founder and Editor of Positive Health, trained as a Molecular Biology scientist in Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada and the US, focusing upon health issues since the 1980s in the UK. Author of 4 books, including Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art, Vitamin C – The Master Nutrient, Germanium: The Health and Life Enhancer and numerous articles, Dr Goodman was the lead author of the Consensus Document Nutritional and LifeStyle Guidelines for People with Cancer and compiled the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in 1993. Dr Goodman is passionate about making available to all people, particularly those with cancer, clinical expertise in Nutrition and Complementary Therapies. Dr Goodman was recently featured as Doctor of the Fortnight in ThinkWellness360.

Dr Goodman and long-term partner Mike Howell seek individuals with vision, resources, and organization to continue and expand the Positive Health PH Online legacy beyond the first 30 years, with facilities for training, to fund alternative cancer research, and promote holistic organizations internationally. Read about Dr Goodman and purchase Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art.  She may be contacted privately for Research, Lectures and Editorial services via:   and

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