The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting (Hardcover)
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A journalist delves into the history, science, and practice of fasting, an ancient cure enjoying a dynamic resurgence.
When should we eat, and when shouldn’t we? The answers to these simple questions are not what you might expect. As Steve Hendricks shows in The Oldest Cure in the World, stop eating long enough, and you’ll set in motion cellular repairs that can slow aging and prevent and reverse diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Fasting has improved the lives of people with epilepsy, asthma, and arthritis, and has even protected patients from the worst of chemotherapy’s side effects.
But for such an elegant and effective treatment, fasting has had a surprisingly long and fraught history. From the earliest days of humanity and the Greek fathers of medicine through Christianity’s “fasting saints” and a nineteenth-century doctor whose stupendous forty-day fast on a New York City stage inaugurated the modern era of therapeutic fasting, Hendricks takes readers on a rich and comprehensive tour.
Threaded throughout are Hendricks’s own adventures in fasting, including a stay at a luxurious fasting clinic in Germany and in a more spartan one closer to home in Northern California. This is a playful, insightful, and persuasive exploration of our bodies and when we should—and should not—feed them.
About the Author
Steve Hendricks is a freelance reporter and the author of two previous books, one of which, The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, made several best-of-the-year lists. He has written for Harper’s, Outside, Slate, and the Washington Post and lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife, a professor of family law, and his dog, a border collie cross.
“An illuminating exploration of the rich and varied history—and myriad health benefits—of fasting . . . Mr. Hendricks, a freelance reporter, is a deft stylist . . . and he excels at describing the experience of going without food . . .”
— The Wall Street Journal
“[A] thought-provoking survey . . . The author weaves a fascinating personal narrative . . . with a comprehensive history of the practice, from prehistoric humans who fasted from necessity up to modern-day clinics that use it. While enthusiastic, Hendricks is careful not to oversell fasting’s benefits . . . and he pulls no punches when highlighting flaws in research, as with studies that emphasize ‘profit rather than health.’ His levelheaded, irreverent approach and sharp reporting set the book apart. The result is a winning mix of captivating storytelling and fascinating science.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Hendricks’s book is a remarkable blend of authoritative history, illuminating science, and endearing storytelling. In The Oldest Cure in the World, Hendricks gives us the wonders of fasting—too long neglected by doctors and scientists, too often misunderstood by most of us, yet so potent a therapy—with marvelous clarity, page-turning crispness, and appealing humanity.”
— Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies
“Steve Hendricks set himself the Herculean task of weaving together the long history and deep science of fasting with his own revealing self-experiments—and has succeeded brilliantly in turning out a captivating tale. The Oldest Cure in the World is an engrossing tour de force and offers a bona fide strategy for slowing the aging process.”
— Dan Buettner, New York Times–bestselling author of The Blue Zones
“Few people know that science has shown fasting is a key that unlocks ancient restorative systems and mobilizes some of the body’s most powerful regenerative mechanisms. In The Oldest Cure in the World, Steve Hendricks proves to be a master of explaining the multitude of benefits that various kinds of fasting can unleash. Fasting is a core part of my integrative cardiology practice. This book is a must-read for those looking for a long healthspan.”
— Dr. Joel Kahn, author of Your Whole Heart Solution
“A smart, narrative look at a very hot topic, offering a fascinating look at the science behind the counterintuitive concept of going without food for our health.”
— The Next Big Idea Club