Quote: “Cycles of fasting were working as well as chemotherapy”.

Don’t most scientists, and all people for that matter, love to cherry-pick their data to support their arguments?  Ok, I’ll own that one. And cherry-picking is something that we would all have done over our hunter-gatherer history.

The quote in the title comes from this 8 minute podcast. The professor has found that the synergy between fasting and chemo is very impressive. All the more impressive was the statement that fasting was just as effective as chemo in some cancers for example breast cancer. Really, just fasting was as good as chemo?  I am not sure if the health industry will be endorsing this.

My interest in this was triggered by my understanding that it has just been 2 generations since we were engulfed by the digital age.  That it has been 7 generations since the industrial generation swept the planet.  We have lived for 350 generations with agriculture.  All these figures pale into insignificance when you consider that there have been 84,000 generations since we became hominids about 2.5 million years ago.  And we were developing as mammals since way before that.

So we have lived with agriculture for under half of one percent (0.41%) of our evolution.  Before we became consumers of agricultural product we were hunter-gatherers for 99.59% of our evolution.

If we were hunter-gatherers for most of that time I suggest that we are also hunter-gatherers now (with perhaps some fine tuning). As hunter-gatherers we would have had to become accustomed to an irregular food supply. So we are now hunter-gatherers in a time of bounty – and many people believe this could be a contributory factor to the increases in “western diseases”.

Here comes the cherry-picking – the possible hypothesis of the benefits of fasting regarding cancers are that cancer cells cannot survive a changing environment and so go through apoptosis – cell death – when the environment changes.  Healthy cells can withstand a changing environment.  Ergo as hunter-gatherers we are as habituated to a cycle of feast and famine as are our cells.  So perhaps rather than dieting why not just make your eating regime more irregular.  In fact as the professor says we can survive for 40 days without food.  To cover a short term famine we carry 2000 calories of glycogen (about a day’s energy requirement) in our muscles and liver – with such a store there is little likelihood of us collapsing in the street..

Setting to one side two of the spear points of the trident of our collective Western eating disorder (our munching carbohydrate rich grains and our lack of exercise), can the third spear point be that we eat too regularly? So now plagued with endless bounty our poor hunter-gatherer’s metabolism falters and develops diseases?

Furthermore, leaving to one side the possibility that the grain based diet of our agricultural heritage is perhaps at odds with our innate hunter-gatherer.  Western society has so inculcated us into the necessity of three square meals a day that we become anxious if we miss a meal or two.  And missing the odd meal might be what we really need to do to kill cancer cells and to stay healthy.

Salaams Slim (Pickings)

Furthermore – another article by the same professor – with some cautionary words.


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