We get hundreds of books on the health desk every year. Few are as amusing as this 212-page crash course in wellness.
A first glance at the index might have you wondering about the title.
We all know about the benefits of chicken soup and yoga, vitamin C and naps. But start reading and you quickly discover that author Gene Stone dives into the heart of each of these old standbys -- and comes up with a pearl every time.
Take his chapter on chicken soup. There, Stone tells us, cooking the soup releases an amino acid that resembles the drug acetylcysteine, which is used to treat bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. The vitamins and nutrients in chicken soup slow the growth of mucus-stimulating white blood cells called neutrophils. And new Japanese research shows that the old-fashioned remedy may fight high blood pressure, too.
When Stone isn't playing biologist, he puts on his anthropologist's or historian's hat, explaining, for example, that tablets dating back to 3,000 B.C. show that the Assyrians and Sumerians used garlic -- another secret -- to treat fevers, inflammation and injuries.
Sometimes, he plays tour guide, too, taking us on side trips both educational and amusing.
He reveals the late comedian George Burns' secret to a long life; explains Breatharians, who believe in the air diet; and debunks what we've all heard about cold showers. Research, he says, indicates they may actually increase virility.
And where else can you read about the health pros and cons of picking your nose?
The more unusual secrets -- eating dirt, dunking your head in hydrogen peroxide and living in one of the world's five blue zones (area's with high concentrations of long-lived people) -- can't help but pique your interest. Most of the secrets, by the way, are not nearly as torturous as running marathons or drinking urine.
My favorite comes from Jeanne Calment, the longest-lived person in modern history:
". . . she ascribed her longevity to olive oil, which she poured on her food and rubbed into her skin, as well as a daily glass of port wine, and about two pounds of chocolate a week."
There's a secret to good health we can all live with.
The book is as instructive as it is entertaining, providing advice at the end of each chapter on how to adopt the secrets.
Stone tops it all off with details of what happened when he tried the tips. And he invites you to send him your secret to good health.
Could that mean there's a sequel in the works? Here's hoping so and that it's just as much as much fun as the first book.
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