Macrobiotics, Weston Price, and the Blood Type Diet
Macrobiotics, Weston Price, and the Blood Type Diet
I entered the nutritional field as a Macrobiotic, which is a health movement introduced into North America in the 70s. This Japanese system of healing is essentially based on the dietary principles of Zen Buddhism, which had been lost to the Japanese due to the influence of Western culture. While it is a dietary regime recommended for all people (by Macrobiotics), it is not necessarily a diet suitable for all people, at least based on the principles of the Blood Type Diet. Fortunately for me, my blood type (AB) happened to be well suited to this diet, which is low in animal protein, and high in grains and plant foods.
When comparing the two diets years ago, as I sought to reconcile them, I discovered this about the most common blood types in Japan: approximately 40 percent Type A; 30 percent Type O; 20 percent Type B and 10 percent Type AB. So the Macrobiotic diet, based on an early Japanese diet (before white rice), is well suited to at least 50% of their population (types A and AB).
At this point I’d like to comment on the Weston Price dietary approach. This dietary system is often a jumping off point for those choosing to follow a Paleo diet, one largely based on animal protein, with minimal grains and carbohydrates.
Dr. Price was a Canadian dentist “known primarily for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health. In 1939, he published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, detailing his global travels studying the diets and nutrition of various cultures”. (Source)
What is often overlooked by proponents of his dietary suggestions, is that all of the traditional diets studied by Dr. Price belonged to hunter gatherer peoples (dominantly type O blood). And, thus they were all suited to a diet high in animal protein and low in carbs. Not necessarily the best diet for everyone. Now, he was absolutely correct in determining that certain aspects of the modern Western diet (flour, sugar, and modern processed vegetable fats) were contributing not only to dental problems (the original motivation for his studies), but also to a wide range of degenerative diseases.
Nonetheless, for modern people, like us, to follow a hunter gatherer diet, and neither hunt nor gather, can be problematic. Imagine the caloric output from such activities, compared to many of us who travel, in a car, between the couch and the office desk. Therefore, those choosing an extreme Paleo style diet, should also have a vigorous, physically demanding lifestyle, which allows them to properly use up those nutrient-dense, high fat foods that their diet incorporates.
Thus we could say that even those with type O, or B, blood (suited to a high intake of animal protein), could benefit from less animal protein, more fruit and vegetables, and a certain amount of whole grains, if they have a sedentary lifestyle.
I tend to advocate that one chooses their diet based on a synthesis of Macrobiotics and Blood Type diet. For example, two principles of the Macrobiotic diet are: eat what is in season, and eat what grows within 500 miles of where you live. This allows one’s body to be in sync with one’s environment, which Macrobiotics believe is an important component to total health. This holds true for whichever basic diet we follow.
Although I follow most of the Macrobiotic dietary principles, I also include dairy products in my diet (something Macros are vehemently opposed to). I do so because the B factor in my blood type belongs to a nomad/herder heritage, and so is acceptable based on Blood Type diet principles. And, the fact is, I find no difficulty digesting dairy products (though I almost always use organic and fermented dairy foods).
What I suggest, to those I consult with, is to use their blood type to choose which diet to use as their base. Then, no matter which type of diet they choose, I recommend they narrow down the grains, beans, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and animal proteins consumed, based on which ones have “lectins” offensive to their blood type. (This link goes to a clinical review of lectins, well worth reading.)
Certain lectins cause negative reactions in certain blood types, ranging from being hard to digest, to causing inflammation, insulin spikes, and/or autoimmune responses, especially if one also has a leaky gut. Those familiar with the work of Dr. Gundry, author of The Plant Paradox, will know that he recommends avoiding all foods containing lectins, but in my opinion, he is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. T. Colin Wilson, author of The China Study, also feels this way as indicated in his critique of Dr. Gundry’s book.
From the perspective of the Blood type diet, those most suited to a Paleo or Keto diet (also low carb, high protein, but with more emphasis on fats), would be those with type O or B blood. But I’ve known people with type O blood, with Buddhist beliefs, who insist on following a vegetarian diet. In such cases, once they know their blood type has higher protein requirements than those with type A blood, these individuals can compensate by including protein shakes in their diet. And by really focussing on those plant foods with a higher protein value.
Those approaching diet from a philosophical angle often choose a “cruelty free” diet, one that is vegan or vegetarian. While one might think that the Macrobiotic diet is philosophical in nature, being based on Zen Buddhism, Macros are in fact adamant that a diet should be based on logic, not emotion. So, for example, since ten percent of our teeth are canines (the pointy ones), they believe this tells us that ten percent of our diet should be animal protein (pointy teeth rip flesh). Nonetheless, from the Blood Type diet perspective, types A and AB would do fine on a diet without animal protein, since their ancestors were agrarian and spent millenia eating grains.
Of course, a totally vegan diet is unnatural from a human perspective, there never being any culture that did not consume some animal protein. Therefore, a vegan diet can only be healthy when we use modern technology to provide us with the essential nutrients that are absent from such a diet. The most obvious example is vitamin B12, which is only found in animal foods. Other examples include certain amino acids found mostly in animal foods, such as L-methionine (necessary for methylation), L-carnitine (required to burn fat in the mitochondria), and L-taurine (required for a healthy heart and nervous system). But, again, these deficiencies found in the vegan diet can be overcome by using supplemental forms of those amino acids.
In conclusion, I will share two more Macrobiotic principles.
One: It is better to undereat poor quality food than to overeat good quality food. (Somewhat related to the English proverb: Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.)
Two: Chew your drink and drink your food. I will address the subject of chewing in a future newsletter, but the principle expressed here is pretty basic. Digestion begins with chewing, and the more chewing you do, the less strain put on the rest of your digestive system, and the less you deplete your reserve of enzymes. Enzymes serve many other functions besides just digestion, so freeing them from being used up for digestion improves health, and contributes to longevity. Essentially, what “drink your food” means is that you have chewed enough when your food becomes liquid (“drink”). And, “chew your drink” means even liquids (outside of water) should be rolled around the mouth, picking up saliva, to facilitate their digestion. The thicker the liquid, the more time it spends in the mouth. (Not doing this is one reason people often get gas from consuming protein shakes.)
All this means that there is no one diet suitable for everyone, and in order to choose a diet ideal for our health, we have to look at a variety of approaches, synthesizing them into a regimen that meets both our physical and philosophical needs.