Metabolic Type Diets – East and West

Below are four (4) different methods of classifying individuals according to general biochemical conditions or Metabolic Type. Two methods are from modern Western medicine, and two from Eastern medicine. While there are many methods of classifying metabolic activity, these give an overview of several popular methods. You and your medical advisors can help determine your metabolic type according to these or other standards. There are other methods of determining metabolic type not mentioned herein.

1 – Metabolic Type Diets based on Blood pH

Dr. Harold Kristal focuses on 4 metabolic types, in addition to a “perfect” balanced type. These metabolic types relate to how you predominately generate energy, either by Oxidation or via the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Furthermore, each of these has two sub-types which are opposites. Those who produce energy via Oxidation can be Fast Oxidizers or Slow Oxidizers. Those who produce energy via the ANS can do so predominately by either the Sympathetic Nervous System or Parasympathetic Nervous System branches of the ANS, and Dr. Kristal refers to them as Sympathetics or Parasympathetics. His five metabolic types, based on blood pH tendencies, are:

  1. Slow Oxidizers(blood pH tends more alkaline than 7.46)
  2. Fast Oxidizers(blood pH tends less alkaline than 7.46)
  3. Sympathetics(blood pH tends less alkaline than 7.46)
  4. Parasympathetics(blood pH tends more alkaline than 7.46)
  5. Balanced – none of the above metabolic types dominate

Diets for these metabolic types are detailed in The Nutrition Solution: A Guide to Your Metabolic Type authored by Harold J. Kristal, D.D.S. and James M. Haig, N.C.. More information about learning your metabolic type according to this book is available on Dr. Kristal’s Website ( It is possible to locate a doctor in about 30 states and several foreign countries who can determine your metabolic type. See Dr. Kristal’s Website ( or call 415-257-3099.

In general, Kristal & Haig have two diets. One diet is for Slow Oxidizers and Sympathetics, and is a diet higher in complex carbohydrates and lower in protein and fats. The other diet is for Fast Oxidizers and Parasympathetics, and is higher in protein and fats, but lower in complex carbohydrates. Each diet tends to bring the venous blood pH back to the ideal blood pH of 7.46. The Balanced Types will foods from both diets.

To determine if you are a Sympathetic (extreme or moderate), a Parasympathetic (extreme or moderate) metabolic type person, or neither one nor the other (neither dominates) a test, based on work by Dr. Bill Wolcott, one of the metabolic type pioneers, will assist you. It is detailed in
Your Body Knows Best, a paperback book by Ann Louise Gittleman
There is also an updated version of the test (called Dietary Needs Assessment) at this Mannatech Website, which also correlates results with recommended percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrate. These percentages may fit in with one of the many popular diets by Doctors Atkins, Ornish or Sears (whose diets are completely different with respect to percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrate), or with other diets. Dr, Kristal, on the other hand, has two different diets for various metabolic types. For information on his 5 Metabolic Types, see Dr. Kristal’s Website.

2 – Metabolic Type Diets based on Blood Type

Dr. Peter D’Adamo correlates metabolic types corresponding with blood types and, to a lesser extent, with other factors. In effect, this diet would encourage one to eat the way ones’s ancestors with the same blood type ate. According to Dr. D’Adamo, these are the possible metabolic types or blood types:

  1. Blood Type A(more vegetables in diet, yoga or gentle exercise)
  2. Blood Type B(varied diet, walking and meditation)
  3. Blood Type AB(smaller more frequent meals, physical activity throughout day)
  4. Blood Type O (more protein in diet, heavier exercise)

Each of these blood types has sub-types known as secretor status. Each person can be a secretor (80-85%% of the population) or a non-secretor (15-20% of the population). Dr. D’Adamo details all of this in a popular series of “Blood Type” books, which have evolved and became much more detailed as latter books were published. If you know your blood type (requires a blood sample), then you automatically know your metabolic (blood) type according to Dr. D’Adamo. A saliva sample can allow a lab to determine your secretor status. In some instances (e.g., dairy products), race (African, Caucasian, and Asian) is a factor in determining how much of a food is recommended per day or week, and portions can differ between men, and women, and children.

Each blood type/sub-type combination has beneficial, neutral, and avoid foods listed. Ideally you would eat only beneficial foods (extremely good for you) and neutral foods (contain a variety of healthy materials), avoiding the foods that are harmful to your blood type metabolism. Critics say that diets based solely on blood type tend to be a little bit of “one size fits all” diets. For example, blood type O people are assumed to have a lot of stomach acid. While this may be true when younger, the acids in the stomach often decline drastically as people get older. Or, is it perhaps due to the fact that eating outside the diet affects stomach acid?

A big part, but by no means all, of the blood type diets involves avoiding potentially harmful (depending on blood type) protein substances called lectins, which are found in many foods. A lectin (or other factor) might put a food, such as peanuts/peanut butter, into the Blood Type “avoid” list for blood types A and O and in the “beneficial” list for blood types A and AB. Mango/mango juice is on the “avoid” list for blood types A and AB, on the “neutral” list for blood type B, and on the “beneficial” list for blood type O. More information is available from Dr. D’Adamo’s Website and from Dr. D’Adamo’s many books, some of which are listed here:

1) Eat Right for Your Type by Peter J. D’Adamo with Catherine Whitney

2) Cook Right for Your Type: The Practical Kitchen Companion to Eat Right 4 Your Type by Peter J. D’Adamo with Catherine Whitney

3) Live Right 4 Your Type: The Individualized Prescription for Maximizing Health, Metabolism, and Vitality in Every Stage of Your Life by Peter J. D’Adamo with Catherine Whitney

4) The Eat Right for Your Type Complete Blood Type Encyclopedia by Peter J. D’Adamo with Catherine Whitney

3 – Ayurvedic Metabolic Type Diets based on Doshas (India)

Ayurvedic Medicine (of India) looks at three distinct metabolic types, called doshas, and each individual is assumed to be a combination of all of them. How much of each dosha the individual has will determine his or her predominant dosha, or a combination of doshas. An individual with all three in equal proportions has a balanced metabolic type. The 7 Ayurvedic “Metabolic Types,” related to the 3 Humors (called Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and 5 Elements (Air, Ether/Space, Fire, Water, and Earth), are:

  1. Vata(Ether/Space and Air)
  2. Pitta(Fire and Water)
  3. Kapha(Water and Earth)
  4. Vata – Pitta(combination of Vata and Pitta doshas)
  5. Vata – Kapha(combination of Vata and Kapha doshas)
  6. Pitta – Kapha(combination of Pitta and Kapha doshas)
  7. Vata – Pitta – Kapha (combination of all 3 doshas in balance)

A test in
Perfect Balance: Ayurvedic Nutrition for Mind, Body, and Soul by Atreya (he goes by a single name) gives some indication of which Ayurvedic metabolic type(s) you are. There are also dosha metabolic tests that can be worked on the Internet. You answer question related to two time periods in your life: (1) mind-body constitution (prakruti) “lifetime” answers and (2) “current condition” (vikruti) answers. Food in Ayurveda has 6 energies/tastes (neutral, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent) and they affect different types quite differently. There is a diet for each of the 3 basic types (doshas) while the combined metabolic types will use parts of several different diets. According to Avurvedic medicine, the way in which you should eat, sleep, drink, exercise and otherwise live would be determined by your unique combination of the three doshas (metabolic types).

A well known source of Avurvedic information is:

Textbook of Ayurveda by Vasant Lad

4 – Metabolic Type Diets based on Yin & Yang (China)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is about balancing Chi, Yin and Yang in the body. TCM categorizes people according to:

  1. Six Divisions of Yin and Yang, related to
    • Depth (interior, exterior)
    • Thermal nature (cold, heat)
    • Strength (deficiency, excess)
  2. Five Elements(wood, fire, earth, metal and water)
  3. Six Influences(heat, cold, wind, dry, damp, summer heat)
  4. Other factors, all of which are inherently interwoven with the opposing forces of Yin and Yang.

Macrobiotic Diet by Michio and Aveline Kushi is largely based on the Yin and Yang of an individual’s metabolism, and encourages food and a lifestyle that are compatible with the individual’s metabolism.

Dr. Henry Lu, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in his book Chinese System Of Food Cures: Prevention & Remedies defines these 6 different types of “physical constitution” which would be akin to metabolic types, although he states that most people have a mixture of these at the same time:

  1. Hot
  2. Cold
  3. Dry
  4. Damp
  5. Deficient
  6. Excessive

As to diet, he says: “The individual’s balanced diet, therefore, is always a mixture of foods with different flavors and energies suited to the needs of the individual’s physical constitution.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM), food qualities transcend the emphasis on carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in Western Medicine. Food qualities include flavors, energies and food movement. Flavors can be pungent, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Inherent energies are cold, hot, warm, cool, and neutral, and are food qualities quite apart from the temperature of the food. Food movement includes outward, inward, upward, downward, glossy, and obstructive. For a person vomiting, a food with a downward movement might be recommended. A patient with a runny nose might solve that problem with an obstructive food. Pain with an inguinal hernia might be relieved with an upward food.

Two other well known references on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are:

1) The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted J. Kaptchuk.
This classic, comprehensive guide on the theory and practice of Chinese medicine first appeared in 1982, but has been updated in recent years. It compares many Eastern and Western healing practices.

2) Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford. A guide to the theory and healing power of Chinese medicine. It’s also a primer on nutrition. About 200 pages of the more than 700 pages are devoted to food and to its preparation.

Finding A Diet based on Metabolic Type

One would be prudent to educate oneself in more depth (see references on this page) and to consult with nutritionally aware health professionals with regard to any particular diet based on metabolic type.

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