Preoccupation with health spawns rumors of miracle cures
Our ancient forebears sought elixirs; we seek cures. And we find them. Name the affliction – there’s a cure for it out there somewhere. Does it work, though?
If by “working” we mean generating bestselling books, the answer is emphatically yes. Few books sell better than those claiming they can cure us of something. Otherwise, the evidence is mixed. It depends on which expert you speak to. Enthusiasm in one incites caution in another. Let the consumer beware.
Shukan Shincho (Sept 19) presents a case by case study. Problem, solution, critique. What ails you? Baldness? Jettison the shampoo. Metabolic syndrome? Live on one meal a day. It’s that simple – or it’s not. Even Alzheimer’s, that blight on the flower of rising longevity, is easily preventable, if the author who maintains the key is avoiding carbohydrates after age 50 is right. Is he?
The no-shampoo advocate is Dr Ryu Utsuki, a cosmetic surgeon whose own hair, he says, grew thick again after he was inspired to challenge on his own scalp the common sense dictum that cleanliness is essential to healthy hair. In fact it probably is – only washing with shampoo isn’t the best road to it, he says. (His bestseller is titled “Quitting Shampoo Thickens Your Hair.”) Shampoo washes away not only dirt but essential oils. Warm water gets you as clean as you need be, without the destructive side effects.
One doubter raises a historical point: there was no shampoo as we know it in Edo Japan (1603-1867) – they typically washed their hair with rice bran. Were there no bald men then? There were, of course – and Utsuki admits it, but maintains all the same that in an informal sampling of his own, “7 or 8” of 20 test subjects reported positive results. Try it – why not? What is there to lose?
Living on one meal a day is a life-prolonging strategy Dr Yoshinori Nagumo arrived at slowly. He’s 58 but (says Shukan Shincho) could easily pass for 20 years younger. When he was 20 years younger he was seriously overweight and suffered chronic back pains. He tried this diet and that diet. Nothing worked. He thought of reducing each meal to the barest minimum, but that meant being something of a wet blanket at after-work get-togethers with friends. Then he noticed almost by accident that skipping breakfast and lunch didn’t phase him as long as he could eat his fill at dinner. “Don’t force yourself to do the impossible,” he advises; “consult your body and give it what it wants” – but only what it wants. He draws an implicit distinction between what the body want and what the mind wants. The body knows when to stop. It’s the mind that needs to be reined in.
The connection between carbohydrates and Alzheimer’s is drawn by the eminent parasitologist Koichiro Fujita, 74, whose book, titled, “Stop Eating Carbohydrates After 50,” has sold over 120,000 copies in a year. No carbohydrates means no white rice or noodles – both major components of the Japanese diet. As in the other cases surveyed by Shukan Shincho, Fujita’s prime evidence is himself. Ten years ago his blood sugar suddenly shot up. A calorie restricted diet had no effect. Swearing off carbohydrates brought the desired results within three years. His analysis: chemical changes within cells after age 50 produce oxygen radicals – the lead villains in the Alzheimer’s drama – as a byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism.
That’s not proven, say expert doubters who fear nutritional imbalance if carbohydrates are eliminated. True, it’s not, Fujita concedes, except anecdotally, to his satisfaction. And to yours? You may not be an expert, but it’s with you that the final choice rests.