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.

© Japan Today

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Regarding rice and noodles, I think if one ate brown rice and buckwheat noodles in moderation it would be fine. The white rice and white udon noodles have little nutrition and no fiber.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@sillygirl. Too bad that all the rice served in restaurants, cafeterias, conbinis or anywhere else is always white. White, white, white. So unhealthy yet Japan never gets its fill of white rice??

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Actually the low or no carb thing works well for me. I think that one of the best health decisions I ever made was giving up rice, noodles, bread, potatoes. Dropped several kilos and gained lots of energy without even trying. I do eat them on special occasions, but definitely not on a daily basis and if you ask me, only people engaged in extremely hard physical labour (which most of us aren't, in this day and age) have an excuse to be eating all that starch.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I wonder why Japan hasn't caught on the health benefits of eating brown rice. It's not like they didn't eat it in olden times. It's healthier and has more nutrients than all-carbs white rice. Perhaps there's a social stigma to eating it?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Royal Jelly, Chlororella, Tengu Juosei, etc., etc., etc. You know it's got to be phony when it's endorsed by pro wrestlers. I've even seen bottled extract of ants (!) which claims they'll give you the power of an ant, which can lift many times its own body weight. There's no end to the dumb things Japanese ingest in the futile hope that they can either prevent something from happening or make something happen. Instead of supplements they could save a fortune by swallowing M&Ms candy, which will probably have the same effect.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The problem is the laws in Japan, you can pretty much say anything and people will buy it

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Yup, all this is snake oil. Reason we live longer and healthier is partially due to invention of medecine rather than reliance on these "natural remedies".

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

These cures are just as bad as all the wonder diet pills that they advertise for on TV nonstop. How can people be so gullible to fall for this. If any of these actually had legitimate benefits then I'm pretty sure it would be more commonly known, or at least promoted by doctors/people other than those who are making money off the sales of books.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


With all due respect, putting ALL these 'natural remedies' into one box, calling them ALL 'snake oil' and saying they don't work is just as dumb as saying that eating fish makes you more intelligent.

Look at each with an open mind.

If it looks interesting, try it.

If it works, and you get some benefit, do it.

If it doesn't, don't.

Eating once a day is the only easy way I've found to keep my weight down.

You might not have this problem. And therefore this solution wouldn't work for you.

But we are all different.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's not the preoccupation with health that inspires miracle cure fads or reliance on snake oil, but ignorance, laziness, and irrational thought. Oh, and money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But we are all different.

Absolutely true. We have to find what works for us best. For me, cuttting out the carbs did it for me, because frankly I didn't need all those unnecessary and empty calories (according to my pedometer, I only walk about nine kilometres in an average working day, and I rarely do any heavy lifting). Other people in my life, especially Japanese people, insist that they need to eat white rice at least once a day, so they prefer to cut back on the sweets and between-meal snacks instead. Some people swear by green or oolong tea. And I know a couple of bodybuilders who quaff green juices and protein drinks in place of "real food." They only thing that we really have in common is that we are all healthy and happy, doing what works for us!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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