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The history of macrobiotics

The term "macrobiotics" comes from Greek; macro means long or great and biotic means concerning life .The earliest recorded usage of the term "macrobiotics" is found in the writings of Hippocrates, who is considered the father of western medicine.

An early version of the macrobiotic diet was first outlined by a German physician Dr. Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland who published his book Macrobiotics: The Art of Prolonging Life in 1796. His focus was on a diet of natural foods and was primarily a vegetarian. He did, however, include some animal foods in his diet.

Around the end of the 18th century a high ranking Japanese army doctor (a Western-trained MD), named Sagen Ishizuka (1850-1910), established a theory of nutrition and medicine based on the traditional Oriental diet, to which he applied the Western medical sciences of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and physiology. In 1909 he started a movement called Shoku-Yo, "Food Cure", which later became known as macrobiotics.

The modern philosophy, practice, and diet of macrobiotics was started in the 1920s by George Ohsawa (1893-1966), a philosopher who sought to integrate Zen Buddhism, Asian medicine, Christian teachings, and some aspects of Western medicine. Mr. Ohsawa is generally considered to be the founder of the modern Macrobiotic Diet. It became his life passion after he cured himself of a serious illness by changing to a simple diet of brown rice, miso soup, and sea vegetables recommended by Doctor Sagen Ishizuka. George Ohsawa published numerous works in Japanese, English and French, which combined the western traditions of macrobiotics with 5,000 years of traditional oriental medicine. He brought his teachings to the United States in the 1960s, advocating his philosophy of health and healing through proper diet and natural medicine.

Michio Kushi was inspired by philosopher-writer George Ohsawa and continued to expand the macrobiotics theories, practices, and lifestyle. He opened the Kushi Institute in Boston in 1978 to promote the philosophy and its practices. According to Kushi, a macrobiotic diet is a common-sense approach to daily living, not just a type of therapy. Although macrobiotic diets were not developed primarily as cancer treatments, they have been widely promoted for that purpose. During the 1980s, interest in the diet grew through a book written by a physician and president of Philadelphia Hospital, Anthony Sattilaro, who felt that his prostate cancer went into remission because of the diet. He lived cancer free for another seven years before passing.

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