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THE OLDEST CURE IN THE WORLD

September | 2022

A journalist delves into the history, science—and practice—of fasting, an ancient cure enjoying a dynamic resurgence

When should we eat, and when should we not? The answers to these simple questions, as journalist Steve Hendricks shows in his irresistibly readable exploration of fasting, are not at all what you might expect. Stop eating for long enough, and you’ll set in motion cellular repairs that can slow aging and prevent and reverse diseases like diabetes and hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and epilepsy, asthma and schizophrenia, and much more. Astoundingly, fasting can even make chemotherapy better at killing cancer while protecting patients from the worst of chemo’s side effects.

 

Hendricks also takes us on a tour of the surprisingly expansive history of fasting, from the ancient Chinese woodcarver who fasted to still his mind and "to forget I have four limbs,” to the unlikely nineteenth-century doctor whose stupendous forty-day fast on a New York stage caused a stir around the world and inaugurated the modern era of therapeutic fasting that we’re still living in.

 Threaded throughout are Hendricks’s own adventures in fasting, by turns playful and moving. One of these, an account of his fast of twenty days, helped launch the recent wave of interest in fasting when it was first published a decade ago. The lasting achievement of The Oldest Cure in the World is to guide us through a terrain we thought we knew well—our own bodies and when to feed them—but whose secrets we’re only beginning to unlock, with great promise for health and longevity.