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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994 Feb;48 Suppl 1:S103-11; discussion S111-2.

Effects of macrobiotic diets on linear growth in infants and children until 10 years of age.

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Department of Human Nutrition, Agricultural University Wageningen, The Netherlands.


In order to study the relationship between diet and growth, we have assessed growth patterns in children 0-10 years old on macrobiotic diets. A cross-sectional anthropometric study (0-8 years old children, n = 243) indicated that deviation from the reference growth curve occurred during the weaning period. Between 2 and 4 years there was a partial catch-up for weight and arm circumference but not for height. As a next step, a mixed-longitudinal study was performed in 4-18-month-old macrobiotic infants (n = 53) and matched omnivorous controls (n = 57). For a period of 6 months, data on growth and dietary intake were collected. The data on linear growth supported the findings on growth stagnation observed cross-sectionally. Linear growth was associated with the protein content of the diet, but not with energy intake. On the basis of our findings nutritional modifications to the macrobiotic diet (addition of fat and fish) were recommended for all macrobiotic families. Six months later (two years after the first cross-sectional data collection) the anthropometric study was repeated in the same cohort (n = 194). This follow-up study revealed that children from families which, since the initial study, had increased the consumption of fatty fish, dairy products, or both, had grown in height more rapidly than the remaining children (P < 0.05). Since no indications were found for the presence of adverse social circumstances, infectious diseases or other confounding factors, our data clearly demonstrate that linear growth retardation in children on macrobiotic diets is caused by nutritional deficiencies alone.

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