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Macrobiotics and Rickets


Rickets returns with faddy diets
Rickets, once the scourge of Victorian Britain, is back.
According to the latest edition of The Lancet
Macrobiotic diets, for example, are not ideal for young children.
They exclude dairy produce, meat and wheat, all excellent sources of vitamin D and calcium. In the Telegraph Newspaper.
Also read: Rickets in infants on macrobiotic diets

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Comments about rickets from Macrobiotic Teachers:


Causes: Rickets is caused by the failure of osteoid to calcify in the growing person or animal. Failure of osteoid to calcify in the adult is called osteomalacia. Rickets occurs when the metabolites of vitamin D are deficient. Less commonly, dietary deficiency of calcium or phosphorus may produce rickets. Vitamin D (cholecalciferol [vitamin D-3], a steroid compound) is formed in the skin under the stimulus of ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light was the only significant source of vitamin D until early in the twentieth century, when ergosterol (vitamin D-2), which is contained in fish liver oil or as an irradiated plant steroid, was discovered. Ergosterol can be taken orally with good effect.



I have raised 6 children via macrobiotics. No rickets. I have not seen any cases of rickets in my 30 years of macrobiotics.
If some children did get rickets, then it must have be from an EXTREMELY restricted MB practice.
Go to any MB camp or conference and you will see all of the amazingly healthy and vibrant MB children. People are always astonished.

David Briscoe



Over the years, rickets has been a concern to some parents in the macrobiotic community. For the vast majority, it has not been an issue because ttheir families were observing a balanced diet, with plenty of scope and variety. However, in a few cases, a very narrow, imbalanced way of eating has led to developmental bone problems. It is important that plenty of green leafy vegetables high in calcium be eaten daily, as well as regular amounts of beans and bean products such as tofu, nuts and seeds, and sea vegetables that are high in calcium and other minerals and vitamins. Exposure to natural sunlight is important for the synthesis of vitamin D. In the few cases where macrobiotic children developed growth problems, lack of sunshine and being outdoors appeared to have been a factor.

The Telegraph incorrectly states that the macrobiotic diet excludes wheat. Wheat, especially in whole form, is an important part of the standard macrobiotic way of eating, and is used daily in cooking with shoyu (of which wheat is a primary ingredient), as well as occasional consumption of whole wheat berries, udon and somen noodles, fu, and a wide assortment of bread and baked products made from whole grain wheat.

Overall, there should be no need for parents to worry about a macrobiotic diet for their children if it is balanced, and the many positive benefits greatly outweigh any slight risk from this or other deficiency.

Alex Jack

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I have seen rickets problems in mb children. It was one of the reasons why I left the standard diet of MB (Kushi way) behind. Children need more animal fats, animal protein and above all cod liver oil from Sep. to April. The Dutch study of 1987 showed some major problems which Kushi and others chose to ignore and explain away.

Steven Acuff

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It is quite unfortunate that macrobiotics is mentioned as a diet who can produce rickets.
As a father of 4 children who were all brought up macrobiotically we never had any problem with rickets or any other serious disease. Also, the hundreds of children in our community never had rickets either.

I have seen a few cases of rickets in Holland and Belgium in children where the parents followed a very strict diet with no oil, no animal food at all and very little variety.

I firmly believe that if macrobiotics is practiced properly and with good variety, rickets is not a concern, so I would advise parents who are concerned about the problem to see a macrobiotic counselor and enroll in cooking classes to prevent the problem from happening and to feel more secure about their practice.

Francisco Varatojo IMP

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There were cases of rickets among macrobiotic children. I do not reccommend a strict macrobiotic diet, especially for children. I suggest you read the book "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon
Ronald Koetzsch

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No macrobiotic children get Rickets. Malnutrition means people are not balancing correctly and not cooking fresh food every day. My children and my friends who are over 20 years macrobiotic never had any problem. All Kushi's children are adults (40 years and more) and never suffered with this problem. Mother cooked every day fresh meals.
We get plenty of Vit. D and calcium - in grains, sea vegetables, soy products, shiso leave, umeboshi plums, beans, seeds, bancha twig tea miso, leafy greens, etc.

Mina Dobic


I have seen 2 cases in Italy of mild possible Rickets in vegan children years ago.
They happened in winter to 1.5 yr.old toddlers and child had never been exposed to sunshine, plus I found that diet was way too strict, lacking variety, fresh vegs, and too rich in floury meals incl. wheat meal
creams, and lacking oil or nuts, and one little girl was being practically left
alone all day in front of TV.Both cases have been completely solved, changing diet + some good old Cod Liver Oil and natural sunshine on naked skin during favourable season.
Our own 2 boys and few hundreds of other macro children now aging about 2-20s that I know of never suffered from Rickets and a host of otherdiseases, mainly thanks to diet, sport and good care.

Roberto Marrocchesi,
N.D. ,Macrobiotic Consultant

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The most important thing to know about rickets is that it is not a "vitamin deficiency disease". It is, in fact, a lack of SUNSHINE that causes rickets.

"Vitamin D" is not a normal component of the diet of most people thoughout the world. The statement in the article is not accurate in that it states that it implies that "dairy products, meat and wheat" are good sources of vitamin D and calcium.

Neither meat nor wheat contain any vitamin D and dairy products would not contribute much "vitamin D" to the diet, if they were not heavily fortified.

Since sunshine, not diet, is the major factor influencing development of rickets, the article needs to be more carefully evaluated. If, for instance, dark-skinned (Asian or African, etc) macrobiotics move to Glasgow (the seat of rickets in the 1620s), they would be well-advised to provide their infants with a source of "vitamin D", and this would effectively prevent them from developing rickets. However, this has little relevance for macrobiotics living in the United States, as numerous studies have clearly demonstrated that infants receiving adequate sunshine do not develop rickets.

Thus, as should be clear, recommendations regarding the use of vitamin D/calciferol are dependent upon planetary location, and awareness of mothers regarding the value of small amounts of sunshine in prevention of rickets.

If a mother gives birth to an infant in the winter months in a region where there is scarce sunshine, small amounts of vitamin D/calciferol may be necessary to prevent rickets. However, the amounts of vitamin D/calciferol presently added to milk and infant formula are far in excess of the amount needed.

The current adequate intake (AI) is 200 I.U. of vitamin D/calciferol per day. This is for infants that receive no sunshine.

Breast-fed infants with only the cheeks and hands exposed for about 1/2 hour per day in continental United States have no propensity to develop rickets. Mother's milk, by the way contains very little vitmain D, and yet breast-fed infants are much less susceptible to rickets than artificially fed infants. Milk is fortified with about 10 times as much vitamin D/calciferol as is necessary, and this may pose a greater hazard than rickets.

Recently, dermatologists have begun to play an important role in the development of rickets. Since the ozone layer is being depleted, we are being exposed to greater amounts of uv radiation. It is theUV that caused vitamin D/calciferol synthesis in the skin. Unfortunately, the same UV in excess causes skin cancer.

Hence the widespread use of sun blockers. This can lead to rickets among infants that do not receive dietary vitamin D/calciferol.

The problem of preventing both rickets and skin cancer is one of the most important an pressing
problems of the 21st century! I hope this helps to clarify this very important area of human health.

Jym MOON, Ph.D

The Author of "A Macrobiotic Explanation of Pathological Calcification

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Concerns About Rickets
By Michael Rossoff, L.Ac.
Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.A.

I have had little personal experience with rickets. I saw one child in the Boston macrobiotic community with the condition in the 1970s.

The question at hand is why would rickets occur in macrobiotic children. Therefore we can automatically discount lack of sunlight, which is a significant factor in more northern countries, but I assume has already be accounted for in any scientific study.

The following thoughts are offered as reflections and pointers to explain the possible causes and solutions to this serious problem.

 (1) On the one hand I suspect that the parents have been very strictly macrobiotic. By this I mean rigidly adhering to a narrow diet. Particularly, this includes eating too much brown rice, which is often the only grain eaten. I suspect that these children are fed lots of breads, which may be too difficult for them to digest. Often there is little variety of food selection, particularly of vegetables.

 (2) Pressure cooking of grains is excessively yang and can actually make young children too "tight," which in turn can create malfunctioning of the pancreas and disturb smooth digestion, especially the powers of transformation and assimilation.

 (3) Too much salt (sodium) in the forms of sea salt, miso, tamari, gomasio, tekka. Often the use of seaweed, which is a primary salt source as well as important other minerals, is lacking. If too much salt is consumed, along with few primary sources of calcium, it can weaken bones. In Chinese medicine the Kidneys are nourished by salt. Since the Kidneys control bones, salt can help or hinder. If there is an excess of salt it will weaken bones. The correspondence of salt to Kidneys could be better expressed as a relationship of minerals to Kidneys.

 (4) When the family is over-cooking and over-salting and over-pressure cooking for extended months and years there will eventually be a reaction. This is the "binge." I suspect that they suddenly consume extreme yin in the form of sugary foods, such as ice cream, chocolate, soft drinks or other favorite sweets. These types of foods are well known to acidify the blood and can then weaken bones.

 (5) The above four issues are my main points. But I can't help but wonder about the following: I suspect that the child with rickets will often be the third, fourth or fifth child. Over numerous pregnancies, childbirths and years of nursing, the mother's condition can become depleted. This can "predispose" the child.

A basic solution needs to include finding a more realistic balance to the macrobiotic dietary approach. Consider the following: avoid pressure cooking of grains (beans are ok); decrease excess salt, especially with babies and young children; include a much wider variety of vegetables (even the "forbidden" nightshade); use herbs in the cooking on a daily basis (herbs are green plants that grow in a temperate climate, for example thyme and rosemary). In my opinion, most people need some animal food for basic wellness. Whether fish is adequate will depend of individual factors. The relative value of some dairy food, especially cheese or yogurt, which are cultured, should be encouraged for children.

While macrobiotics has a strong common sense quality and a deep appreciation of the natural world, we still must live in the modern times. Already there are obvious stresses and strains on everyone by virtue of living in cities and towns, having cars, telephones, television and living in dangerous times. These factors mean that we need to maintain flexibility and strength, calm and clarity. When people eat too narrowly, this strictness makes it difficult to maintain a dynamic center, and full health.

The issues that rickets raise can offer everyone a new view of why and how each can integrate foods into their overall life. This is especially true when it comes to families and the young children.


Any journalist will find a date base on Macro and look for the negative slant - a doctors opinion.
I have never seen rickets in macro kids in the UK , but cases were reported in Holland and France in the 1980's. Always advise people with kids to have consultation from Macro mum with kids - best advise

Jon Sandifer

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