From ancient religious rituals to the latest wellness trends, fasting has captured the imagination of countless individuals seeking both physical and spiritual benefits. This age-old practice has found renewed interest in recent years as scientific research delves into its potential health advantages, ranging from improved metabolic health and weight management to enhanced cognitive function and longevity. With an intriguing blend of tradition and cutting-edge science, fasting has become a topic of compelling relevance in the realm of modern health and wellness.
In this review, we will delve into the book The Oldest Cure in the World by Steve Hendricks, a comprehensive exploration of the historical roots, scientific underpinnings, and practical applications of fasting.
Steve Hendricks is a freelance writer and journalist.
Hendricks has contributed articles to various publications, including DoubleTake, Sierra, Orion, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. Additionally, he has written for the Progressive Media Project and Montana Public Radio.
What is the book about?
The Oldest Cure in the World by Steve Hendricks is a comprehensive exploration of the history, science, and practice of fasting – a timeless remedy that is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. This book takes readers on a journey through the ages, from the earliest days of humanity to the modern era, unravelling the complex and often surprising relationship between fasting and health.
Readers will gain insights into the potential benefits of fasting for a wide range of conditions, including asthma, psoriasis, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. Hendricks highlights the groundbreaking research on fasting’s impact on blood pressure and its ability to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy while mitigating its side effects.
The Oldest Cure in the World is a thought-provoking and persuasive exploration of when and why we should abstain from food. It challenges conventional wisdom and offers a fresh perspective on the ancient practice of fasting.
Table of contents
- PROLOGUE Criminal Quackery
- Fasting for a cure
- CHAPTER 1 Tanner’s Folly
- The birth of modern fasting
- CHAPTER 2 “I forget I have four limbs”
- Prehistory and the ancient East
- CHAPTER 3 Christ’s Athletes
- The ancient West
- CHAPTER 4 A Lesser Me
- I fast to slim
- CHAPTER 5 “The most complicated cage”
- The Middle Ages and Renaissance
- CHAPTER 6 “This cheap, simple, and vulgar remedy”
- American doctors find the lost cure
- CHAPTER 7 Arresting My Decline
- I fast to heal
- CHAPTER 8 “Refuse to be an invalid!”
- Fasting blooms in America
- CHAPTER 9 “Truth though the heavens fall”
- America’s foremost fasting doctor
- CHAPTER 10 A Gentle Deprivation, 1
- I fast at a German clinic
- CHAPTER 11 “What’s considered too difficult?”
- The starts and stops of fasting research
- CHAPTER 12 “A crazy idea with no relevance”
- Fasting against cancer
- CHAPTER 13 A Gentle Deprivation, 2
- My German fast, continued
- CHAPTER 14 What the Soviets Knew
- The psychotherapeutic fast
- CHAPTER 15 A Wine Country Abstention, 1
- I fast at a California clinic
- CHAPTER 16 You Are When You Eat
- The how of time-restricted eating
- CHAPTER 17 A Wine Country Abstention, 2
- My California fast, continued
- EPILOGUE Moral Malpractice
- Toward a future less benighted
- Sources on diet
- Index for searchable terms
Three key takeaways from The Oldest Cure in the World
1Fasting is deeply ingrained into human genes
The most important takeaway from The Oldest Cure in the World is the recognition that fasting is an ancient and deeply rooted tradition. Fasting has a rich history, dating back to the Vedic religion in India around 1500 BC, where it was practised as a means of spiritual purification. It was embraced in various forms by Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Jainism during the Axial Age, a period of significant religious and philosophical development.
Fasting served different purposes in these religions, from purification and self-discipline to spiritual enlightenment and penance. Notably, fasting for physical health was not a prevalent concept in these ancient traditions. Instead, it was mainly used as a tool for spiritual and moral development.
This historical perspective sheds light on the evolution of fasting and its diverse applications, from religious rituals to self-improvement. It underscores the enduring fascination with fasting as a means to achieve various goals, both spiritual and physical, and highlights how this practice has persisted and adapted over millennia.
2Fasting can aid cancer treatment and recovery
In one of the chapters, the book presents groundbreaking research by Dr. Valter Longo, who explored the profound impact of fasting on cancer treatment. He discovered that fasting could slow the growth of cancer by down-regulating pro-growth pathways and making it harder for tumour cells to thrive, particularly when they depend on glucose. Fasting also demonstrated remarkable potential when combined with chemotherapy and radiation, safeguarding healthy cells from the toxicity of treatment while allowing cancer cells to remain vulnerable. While doctors initially hesitated to incorporate fasting into cancer therapy due to concerns about patients losing weight, Longo’s experiments eventually showed that fasting could reduce chemotherapy’s side effects and improve its efficacy.
Subsequently, he developed a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) that replicates fasting’s benefits without the need for complete food deprivation. FMDs, consisting of specific calorie-restricted diets, have shown promising results in both mice and humans, improving overall health and potentially enhancing cancer treatment outcomes. These findings represent a groundbreaking shift in cancer therapy, emphasising the importance of protecting healthy cells as a means to combat cancer effectively.
3Fasting has the potential to be used in psychiatric healthcare
In the 1970s, there was a brief moment of curiosity in the West about the potential of therapeutic fasting for psychiatric health. American psychiatrist Allan Cott’s fasting experiments with thirty-five schizophrenic patients at New York’s Gracie Square Hospital showed remarkable improvements, with most patients recovering after an average fast of twenty-five days. Some remained healthy for several years, endorsing a vegetarian diet and regular maintenance fasts for long-term recovery. However, bureaucratic resistance and a preference for drug-based treatments hampered the widespread adoption of fasting therapy, despite its demonstrated safety and efficacy. Even though a few North American psychiatrists briefly explored fasting, it remained largely ignored by the scientific community. This historical episode highlights missed opportunities in exploring fasting as a potentially valuable tool in psychiatric healthcare, as it has remained largely dormant for over a generation.
Strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews
Offers an in-depth and well-researched exploration of the historical and scientific aspects of fasting.
The author’s firsthand experience with fasting adds credibility and depth to the book’s content, offering a unique perspective that resonates with readers.
Provides a balanced perspective on fasting, emphasising its benefits without excessively denigrating other lifestyles or viewpoints.
While exploring the scientific and historical aspects of fasting, the book’s aggressive stance against the spiritual aspects of fasting may alienate readers who value the intersection of spirituality and health.
Best quotes from The Oldest Cure in the World
“Moving on to fasted mice, he tested first how they fared with chemotherapy alone, in the absence of cancer. He fed one group of mice normally, fasted another for forty-eight hours, and then gave both a monstrous dose of chemotherapy – proportionally three times the maximum for humans. Ten days later, 43 percent of the fed group were dead, and those who survived were a sorry lot: lethargic, weak of stomach, patchy of hair, clearly not long for this world. The fasted group, on the other hand, looked an entirely different race: only 6 percent of them had died, and just a few of the survivors were visibly toxicated.”
“When researchers fasted mice every other day for several months, the mice learned new tasks better than their free-eating peers, and when mice were fasted every other day for nearly a year, they got through mazes more quickly and responded more prudently to threats. Old rats who ate every other day for three months learned to swim a water maze faster and remembered it better.”
The Oldest Cure in the World by Steve Hendricks offers a captivating journey through the history, science, and practice of fasting, shedding light on its multifaceted role in human culture and health. Readers will gain a profound understanding of fasting’s deep-rooted traditions, from spiritual practices to modern applications in healthcare.
This thought-provoking exploration of fasting is a valuable resource for anyone interested in uncovering the timeless and transformative potential of abstaining from food to enhance both physical and spiritual well-being.
Where to buy
You may purchase The Oldest Cure in the World on Amazon at the best price. It is available in paperback, hardcover, audio and Kindle versions, so you may choose an option that appeals to you the most.
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