The Plan for the Protection of Health against Pseudotherapies is back in the news, after the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, published new reports in which the number of therapies that They do not have sufficient scientific support to support their effectiveness. Thus, some practices such as colon hydrotherapy, magnetotherapy, tai-chi, light therapy or aromatherapy, among many others, have been progressively incorporated into a list of pseudotherapies that already has more than one hundred. This means, according to this Plan, that none of them “can be recommended in any case for health purposes.”

The macrobiotic diet – which broadly proposes a diet based on the concepts of Ying and Yang – has long been part of the list of pseudotherapies proposed by the Ministry of Health. This organization warns that “the use of pseudotherapies negatively affects health, either by perpetuating some ailments, generating others, or even increasing the risk of death. The latter may occur either because they favor the delay or substitution of conventional treatments (whose effectiveness and safety have been proven) or because they reduce the effectiveness of the latter, as several investigations have shown.

It is likely that a part of the population, both those who follow a macrobiotic diet and those who do not, find it difficult to understand why a type of diet is called into question that, in short, does nothing more than propose a series of practices aimed at improving health. And macrobiotics is committed to an essentially natural and ecological diet, which promotes the consumption of legumes and whole grains and eliminates, among others, sugars, alcohol and processed foods. “It is difficult to understand what sense it makes to criminalize macrobiotics, which is promoting a healthy lifestyle and which advocates accompanying it with physical exercise, mental peace and quality time,” says Tina Asensio, biochef and director of the Baratza Macrobiotica center, in Pamplona, with more than twenty years of experience and extensive experience as a trainer.

“No one says that by following the macrobiotic diet you have to turn your back on allopathic medicine or reject certain treatments,” Asensio continues. That is inferring things that are not. Macrobiotics promote a healthy diet, so it works to prevent diseases because it improves the immune system and helps physical and emotional well-being. “What’s the point of questioning it?” The chef explains that she became interested in this “philosophy of life” after going through a serious health problem “that I couldn’t heal until I came to macrobiotics, which not only helped me heal, but completely transformed me.”

According to various entities that have been working for years to make pseudosciences visible and eradicate them, it is precisely in this supposed healing capacity of macrobiotics where the danger lies. This is the case of the Association to Protect Patients with Pseudoscientific Therapies (APETP), which has been working for some time to pressure administrations to take drastic measures to prevent the advance of pseudotherapies “beyond drawing up lists that no one pays attention to, but by establishing sanctions and prohibitions,” explains its member Emilio Molina.

In the case of macrobiotics, although it is true that it can propose a healthy eating pattern and lifestyle, “the problem is that its doctrinal basis says that non-existent energies are being balanced, so that this initial misinformation can lead those who “They follow her to make bad decisions regarding health.” Therefore, “as a diet it can be healthy, but its problem is the premise, which is what we must fight against,” says Molina.

Miguel Ángel Lurueña, doctor in Food Science and Technology and author of the blog Gominolas de Petróleo and the book Que no te líen con la food (Destino, 2021), has the same opinion, a guide that teaches, among other things, how to combat misinformation regarding food. “In the case of macrobiotics, there is not enough scientific evidence to support its effectiveness or safety, so it is not recommended for health purposes,” he explains.

This diet – Lurueña continues – “is based on unfounded beliefs, specifically on the idea that the universe is governed by the balance between two forces or energies: ying and yang, so it classifies foods into one group or another. , making recommendations based on that idea.” For the scientist, “the problem with this type of diet is that some people perceive them as healthy and beneficial, because they are associated with ideas such as energy, health, spirituality, natural, etc. If we add to that that it has been promoted even on primetime shows, like MasterChef, turn it off and let’s go…”

Asensio, for his part, effectively defines macrobiotics as “a philosophy of life” and claims the ancient origin of concepts such as ying and yang. “It is an ancient philosophy that comes from the East, and in the West it is difficult to connect with this way of understanding the world. Macrobiotics teaches us to know the origin of food and, therefore, of the world, understanding what its energy load is. Those who argue that there is no scientific basis should know that ying foods are richer in potassium and yang foods in sodium, for example,” he points out. For Matthias Hespe, trainer, chef and macrobiotics advisor at Espai Cuinar Sa (Girona), “just because there are people who have gotten sick from incorrectly applying some precepts of macrobiotics does not mean that this is the problem. It is based on traditional Chinese medicine, which in the end has evolved thanks to something as valuable as observation over the centuries about which foods work well and which do not. That many people apply it without criteria is not enough reason to destroy a very complete diet in terms of nutrients, which promotes eating organic, whole, natural products… “

Molina assures, however, that the problem of both macrobiotics and other Eastern-based therapies – this is the case of yoga or tai-chi, which have also just been included in the most recent reports as pseudotherapies – “can serve as an excuse to inoculate dangerous doctrines, since there are people who propose them as therapies. This represents an abuse of the term therapy that inevitably leads to misinformation,” she points out.

Luis Santamaría Del Río, a researcher at the Ibero-American Network for the Study of Sects (RIES), has also studied macrobiotics, for whom it is important to understand that “the genesis of macrobiotics is found in Taoism and Confucianism, which share the symbology of yin and yang.” This means that “we are making a leap to the worldview, to spirituality, to something that determines the entire life of the person. It is a very simple leap because, as we have seen, the oriental influence is notable, and in the East things cannot be separated as we do here.” This is how Asensio expresses it: “macrobiotics opened the doors to healing for me, it transformed my life. Thanks to her I have been born again.”

For Santamaría, “apart from the fact that there is no scientific evidence that this system is suitable for losing weight or provides special benefits, many critics highlight the insufficiency of some elements necessary for the body in the macrobiotic diet.” Thus, “a lack of fat is not necessarily good for the body, in addition to the fact that great insistence on eating whole grains can increase the risk of nutritional imbalances.”

Molina, for his part, points out that one of the main problems with this type of therapy is that “the vast majority of therapists genuinely believe that they are helping other people, so they have the role of victim and executioner at the same time. I would dare to say that there are only 5% of scamming psychopaths.” The member of the ATEPT assures, in this sense, that “many measures are necessary for these professionals to stop deceiving vulnerable people.” To this end, the ATEPT demands, first of all, sanctions. “How do you explain why this is happening?” warning against these therapies and keep consultations open? Do people believe, and rightly so, that if they were really dangerous they would be prohibited,” he concludes.