Periodic Fasting May Reduce Inflammation That Causes Multiple Maladies

(p. A15) Mr. Hendricks sees fasting as a way of combating a range of ailments. (“Surgery without a scalpel” was how some doctors once described the practice.) He cites studies showing fasting to be effective against arthritis, hypertension and fibromyalgia, among other afflictions. The medical logic in these cases is that fasting reduces inflammation—the source of multiple maladies—while promoting insulin sensitivity, stimulating DNA repair and generating antioxidants that neutralize a harmful molecule known as reactive oxygen species. Mr. Hendricks argues that fasting leads to better outcomes from chemotherapy, too—by causing healthy cells to go dormant and avoid the treatment’s toxic chemicals.

And, yes, fasting triggers weight loss. The fasting Mr. Hendricks has in mind is periodic, its frequency and duration varying from person to person.

. . .

A theme running through “The Oldest Cure in the World” is the author’s exasperation with the American approach to practicing medicine. Few physicians, he notes, are knowledgeable about fasting, despite the benefits it provides. He favorably profiles two researchers—Valter Longo and Satchin Panda, at the University of Southern California and the Salk Institute, respectively—who have conducted ground-breaking studies on the value of restrictive food consumption.

The book’s most compelling story features an infant who in 1993 started having daily seizures after his first birthday. Neither medications nor brain surgery provided significant relief. Pediatric neurologists told the parents that their son, Charlie, faced a life of mental and physical retardation.

Charlie’s father discovered an obscure clinic at Johns Hopkins University that offered a treatment that involved brief fasting followed by a high-fat, ketogenic diet. The family’s neurologist dismissed the treatment as unworkable, but the family tried it anyway. On the second day of Charlie’s fast, the seizures stopped. Over time, his physical and mental development returned to normal, and he has grown up to be as healthy as his siblings. Later research has shown that fasting and a high-fat diet is a potent method for reducing seizures in epileptic children.

For the full review, see:

Matthew Rees. “BOOKSHELF; No First Helpings.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, October 7, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date October 6, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Oldest Cure in the World’ Review: No First Helpings.”)

The book under review is:

Hendricks, Steve. The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2022.

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