Month: December 2013

Rubbish Island in the Maldives

The Maldives is a unique holiday destination, a honeymoon dream destination for many. With its pristine white sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and shallow waters, the island nation offers the holiday of a lifetime. Its fabulous setting and luxury resorts are truly unparalleled. These features are coupled with one of the most friendly and hospitable people on Earth, who make an escape to the Maldives truly special.

When we see pictures of this paradise country in glossy magazines or hear about a perfect honeymoon spent on one of the islands of the Maldives, it does not really occur to us where the waste products go from these impeccable luxury resorts and how the country disposes of its rubbish. If we were to know, we might be shocked.

César Quintero - Pinterest

Thilafushi, the Waste Dump of the Maldives

The waste of the otherwise perfect country is disposed on an artificial island named Thilafushi.

Thilafushi is less than 7 kilometres away from Male, the capital of the Maldives. It was brought into existence in the early 1990s after reclaiming one of the shallowest lagoons in the country, Thilafalhu. At that time the lagoon was barely 7 km long and 200 meters wide. Today, due to the landfilling activity of two decades, the landmass of Thilafushi is 0.43 square kilometres (4.6 million square feet).

Currently, Thilafushi is partially a waste dump and partially an industrial area. At its creation Thilafushi-2 was used as supplement land for ever-growing industrialisation. It is used for boat manufacturing, cement packing, methane gas bottling and warehousing. All of these industrial activities take place on landfill.

According to environmentalists, Thilafushi is growing by one square meter a day due to the vast amount of rubbish – approximately 330 tonnes – arriving on the rubbish island on an average day.

Environmental Apocalypse on Thilafushi

The shocking thing about Thilafushi is not the landfill or the rubbish island by itself. It is not beyond imagination that waste is produced even on the paradise islands of the Maldives and there is a need to get rid of it. It can even be said that it is sensible that the waste is accumulated in one place as opposed to be burnt locally on each island or dumped into the sea.

The problem with Thilafushi is twofold:

  • The way the rubbish is collected and processed on the rubbish island does not happen in an environmentally-friendly way. The waste is not sorted properly. Only plastic bottles, engine oil, metals and paper are extracted from the inbound rubbish and sent to India for processing. Everything else – including electronics and batteries – are simply burnt on the spot. As a result, toxic fumes are created, which simply go up into the air, polluting the environment.
  • As a result of land reclamation by landfilling, toxic waste is simply placed into the ocean. Lead, mercury, asbestos and other hazardous waste ends up in the water, which may poison the water, marine life and consequently endangers the food chain, risking human health, too.
  • Several dozen migrant workers are employed on Thilafushi, whose work conditions are of a serious concern. According to reports, they work 12-hour shifts 7 days a week on the rubbish island, without any safety clothing and equipment. This means that they constantly breathe in toxic fumes as a result of irresponsible burning of waste products.
DailyMail-Mail Online-Maldives
Daily Mail, Mail Online

Is There a Solution?

The government of the Maldives signed a privatisation deal with a German-Indian waste management company back in 2008. It promised to deploy modern technology to process waste on Thilafushi. However, the private company has not arrived on the rubbish island, to date.

Promises are made that the private partner will start work this year and will install an incinerator on Thilafushi. From this it is expected that the open burning of unsorted waste will stop on the island.

Environmentalists call for more effective waste collection, recycling and monitoring of air and sea pollution around Thilafushi, too.

As Thilafushi is in a state of crisis at the present time, hopefully, the government will finally stop delaying the implementation of a resolution for the matter.

Superfoods in Action

What is a Superfood?

Superfood is a buzzword in the nutrition & health literature these days. It is a commonly used term; even the Oxford English Dictionary includes it as an approved word. A superfood is: “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being”.

The term “superfood” has been subject to misrepresentation and misuse by food manufacturers, who sometimes use it as a mere marketing tool. The European Union, for instance, prohibited the use of the term “superfood” to market food products as of 1 July 2007, unless a specific medial claim for product can be validated, supported by credible scientific research. In other jurisdictions the term “superfood” may appear on food packaging without any basis.  We should be careful what we believe about this claim.

The “real superfood” is used to refer to foods that have high nutrient value or phytochemical content, the consumption of which has proven health benefits. Normally they are raw vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and certain types of fish. Packaged and processed foods do not tend to be superfoods.

My Favourite Superfoods 

I do eat a lot of plant-based superfoods, which – I do genuinely believe – help me to stay fit and healthy. Here are my top 10 superfoods that I love and whose health properties I have confidence in.

Berries including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are nutritional powerhouses. They contain a moderate-to-rich concentration of anthocyanins, vitamin C, manganese and dietary fibre. They taste absolutely fabulous and are relatively low in calories.

Dark leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard. These vegetables fight cancer; improve cardiovascular health and help brain function.

Taliah Rivera, Pinterest

Dark green vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. They contain antioxidants and folate, which help to prevent heart disease. They also contain lutein, which contributes to delaying the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which causes impaired vision and blindness. They also contain sulphoraphane, an anti-cancer phytochemical.

Beans and lentils are very good sources of protein, plus they contain fibre, iron and calcium. The glycaemic index is low so they are digested slowly and are absorbed into the bloodstream gradually.

Olive oil is the primarily ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, which has proven health benefits. The monosaturated fat in olive oil lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol levels. It is rich in antioxidants. Nonetheless, it is very rich in calories, so its best to use sparingly.

Wholegrain bread is the only good type of bread in my view. It has a low glycaemic index, protects against heart disease, while being rich in fibre and containing essential fatty acids.

Green tea is famous for its health properties, especially due to it being rich in catechins, an antioxidant. These protect the artery walls and prevent the formation of blood clots.

Jacqueline Coyne, Pinterest

Garlic and onion are very beneficial for you if you have high blood pressure. Additionally they fight cancer, kill bad bacteria, improve cholesterol and strengthen heart health.

Nuts including walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Nuts are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.  Plus they are good sources of plant-based protein. Eating a handful of nuts regularly can help to reduce risk of heart disease. Brazil nuts are especially rich in selenium, which may protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Apples are packed with antioxidants, in particular vitamin C. They contain pectin, which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels and helps with healthy digestion. They support healthy skin and gums, too. The glycaemic index of apples is low.

Other plants that have superfood type qualities I would recommend for regular consumption are tomatoes, grapes, pumpkins, carrots, bananas, pineapples, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, beets, mushrooms, brown rice and dark chocolate. They are very rich in phytochemicals, tend to have anticancer properties, taste fantastic and are generally very healthy for you.

I do not eat meat or fish, as I am a vegetarian. Therefore I do not count fish as my personal superfood. However, fish can be rich in omega-3 depending on its type and origin.  If you do eat fish, you may consider salmon, mackerel and sardines in your superfood-based diet. They are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, they help reduce blood clotting and inflammation in your system and they may prevent depression and dementia, too.

If you have a personal favourite superfood that you eat regularly, do let us know. We are keen on hearing about further nutritional powerhouses!

Poison in Perfume

Fragrance is Everywhere

Fragrance can be found in most personal care and household products. It is used abundantly in perfume and in every single type of skincare, personal care and cleaning product ranging from hairspray to dishwashing liquid. These fragrances tend to be created via synthetic and chemical methods (barring genuine organic and natural products that use either no fragrance or only pure essential oils for scent).

Chemically derived scents are cheap and are very easy to produce. They motivate us to buy the products, as we all respond well to attractive scenting. That’s why the personal care industry uses an overwhelming amount of synthetic fragrance with one single objective in mind: to boost sales.

The problem here is that thousands of chemically-created ingredients end up in these products, which we absorb via our skin or through inhalation. These may be either known irritants or allergens, or have unknown potential side effects.

Matt Mands, Flickr

Trade Secrets and Insufficient Regulation

Fragrance is a special type of ingredient, which perfumiers and other personal care manufacturers are not always required to disclose. Ingredients may be protected from disclosure as they qualify as “trade secrets”. Therefore, hundreds of chemicals can be disguised as “fragrance”, “perfume”, “linalool” and “limonene”. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA), which has over 100 members manufacturing perfume & fragrance all around the world, keeps lobbying for the protection of the formulas of perfumes and scented products, under the proviso of “trade secrets”.

As a consequence of the lobby activity from organisations like the IFRA and manufacturers, there is no federal regulation regarding the disclosure of the ingredients used to create scents of cosmetics, personal care and household cleaning products in the United States. The European Union is somewhat stricter in regulating the use of fragrances. It restricts the use of nitromusks and other synthetics. It requires manufacturers to use warnings on products if their scenting formula contains any of 26 known and commonly used allergens.

Research Shows…

Scientific research has been conducted on several occasions on perfumes and fragrances, by independent organisations. Their results tend to be alarming.

Most recently the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – a non-profit organisation – completed an analysis of 17 popular perfumes, including well-known brand names. The research found that a range of chemical ingredients is included in these top-selling perfumes, without such being listed on labels. Further, several ingredients were found to have the potential to trigger allergic reactions and cause hormone disruption.

The research found alarming results, including the identification of ten sensitizing chemicals associated with allergic reactions like asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis.  As well as four hormone-disrupting ingredients linked to sperm damage, thyroid disruption and cancer, in the analysed perfumes.

The alarming results of the research conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics implies that thousands of other fragrances may contain the same or similar harmful ingredients, without any listing on their labels. Products ranging from perfume and body spray to hair spray, dyes, air fresheners, scented candles, shampoos, soaps, perfumes and cleaning products can all contain such items.

What to Do?

Given that regulations do not require manufacturers to list many of the potentially harmful chemicals used in these products, it is a prudent idea to ditch cosmetics, personal care and household cleaning products that are synthetic. However, that’s easier to say than to do, as we are all swamped with chemically-manufactured products. To help you filter down your synthetic products, here are a few tips that you may wish to consider:

  • Get rid of your synthetic perfumes. Opt for natural brands using pure essential oils extracted via a cold pressing process, without the use of solvents.
  • Choose genuinely natural or organic skincare and personal care products with no scent, whenever possible.
  • Go for natural, ecologically friendly and home-made cleaning methods.
  • Choose natural beeswax candles instead of commercial, fragranced candles to scent your home.

What is Behind The Global Success of Zumba?

One of my favourite exercise types is Zumba. In today’s article I am going to give you a bit of insight into this fitness programme. If you can dance a bit or are used to other types of dynamic aerobic classes, it won’t be difficult for you. If you have never danced or participated in choreographed aerobic classes perhaps it will take a couple of occasions to be able to follow the routine. Don’t be shy or afraid of trying. Just give it a go and get hooked. It is fun!

Krista Oetjens, Pinterest

 Zumba = Fitness & Fun

Zumba is an exciting and dynamic fitness regime, which involves dance and aerobic elements. The programme includes steps from a range of dances including chachacha, cumbia, flamenco, soca, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, reggaeton, rumba and tango. You may even find hip-hop, belly dance, Indian Bollywood and bhangra dance moves in a Zumba regime, as well as squats and lunges. It is sometimes fast-paced and sometimes slow and the various Zumba regimes vary. Instructors have the freedom to assemble their own routine, that’s why Zumba classes can be quite different. Nonetheless, all use the same steps and step combinations, so it is surprisingly easy to adapt to different classes run by different instructors, once you got the feel for it.

Zumba classes tend to be an hour long, just like normal aerobic classes. The fast and slow dance elements & the varying rhythms change, supporting cardio health. Most of the time they are accompanied by some resistance training, too. There are eight different Zumba class types, which suit different ages, fitness levels and fitness objectives. These include special classes like Zumba Gold, targeting the elderly; and Aqua Zumba for those who wish to exercise in the swimming pool. All of the regimes are done to high-energy music and their objective is to motivate you to exercise in a fun way. The key elements of Zumba is to have fun and stay fit.

Krista Oetjens, Pinterest

The Humble Start of a Global Success Story

Zumba was invented by a Columbian dancer and fitness instructor, Alberto “Beto” Perez. Stories about the origins of Zumba suggest that he substituted an injured aerobic instructor in a local gym in his Columbian home town, back in the 1990s. However, he forgot to take the tape with him. Fortunately, he had a Latin music tape in his backpack, so he decided to use that and improvise. His accidental dance aerobic class became an instant hit and a new style, “Rumbacise” set off on its successful journey. It was so successful, the gym kept it on its schedule. Fast forward a few years, Beto moved to Miami. He renamed and refined “Rumbacise”, teamed up with other entrepreneurial spirits and launched “Zumba”. Within a few years, the fitness regime of Beto had reached an audience in 150 countries and had become a widely popular programme all around the globe. As the company’s CEO and Marketing & Business Development Expert, Alberto Perlman suggests that Zumba: “offers South Beach coolness with classic Latin American and Colombian flavour, mixing them into something unique and distinctive”. This must be the core of Zumba’s worldwide success.

Zumba Today

Zumba is not only a widely popular fitness regime that you can practice in lots of local gyms all around the world. It is much more than that. It is a fitness empire – running under the name “Zumba Fitness” – which does not charge licensing fee from gyms but offers unique training and membership services to instructors. Within eight hours of formal training, anyone can become a licensed instructor for approximately USD 250. Once licensed, for a monthly membership fee, instructors may become members of the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN). The ZIN provides fresh and unique choreography, new music choices, marketing support and a listing of vacancies for licensed instructors.

Zumba also offers its own clothing and footwear line and accessories, CDs, DVDs and Zumba-themed video games. The company commissions Latino musicians to create music for Zumba classes and nurtures young Latino artists, dancers and choreographers, too.

Krista Oetjens, Pinterest

Research Proves Benefits of Zumba

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science were mandated by the American Council on Exercise to conduct  scientific research on Zumba, to determine whether it is an effective form of physical exercise.

The researchers used volunteers regularly attending Zumba classes to determine exercise intensity and energy expenditure during class. Once the baseline fitness levels of volunteers had been determined, the volunteers regularly participated in Zumba classes equipped with heart-rate monitors. It transpired that an average of 369 calories are burnt during a Zumba class. Zumba therefore helps with weight loss or weight maintenance. The research suggests that it burns more calories than other types of exercise including cardio kickboxing, step aerobics and power yoga. The data suggested that Zumba boosts cardio endurance regardless of existing fitness level. Zumba proved to be a total-body exercise useful for core strengthening and improving flexibility, too.

Zumba is therefore not only fun but very effective in helping you achieve your fitness goals. If you have experience with Zumba, know about further benefits or just have an interesting story connected to a Zumba class, let us know!

Living Long In Okinawa

Okinawa is a Special Place

Okinawa is a rural prefecture of Japan, famous for the longevity of its population. It is a special place, as on the islands of Okinawa the number of centenarians – i.e. people who live at least 100 years – is one of the highest in the world, in proportion to the total population. Currently there are approximately 700 centenarians living on the islands of Okinawa, according to Dr. Bradley Willcox, a geriatric specialist.

Aubrey Backscheider, Pinterest

The centenarians and other elderly of Okinawa are a prime example of successful aging. Okinawans do not only live long but they live a long and healthy life. They go through a slow and delayed aging process and they experience cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia to a much lesser extent than other populations.

Although the genes of Okinawans may play a role in their longevity, the way they live may also give us indications as to a lifestyle supporting a long and healthy life.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study

In order to determine the secret of longevity of the Okinawans, Japan’s Health Ministry has been funding a health study among the Okinawan elderly since 1975. This ongoing health study is The Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS). The OCS aims to uncover the genetic and lifestyle factors associated with longevity of Okinawans; and based on the results it wishes to improve the health and life expectancy of other populations.

The age of the subjects of the OCS have been validated through the Japanese family registration system, the so-called “koseki”. The physical and mental state of the subjects has been assessed by baseline geriatric examinations. Since the launch of the study in 1975, the assessment of 900 subjects has been carried out and further assessments are to be expected. The OCS is highly respected in the scientific community and its results are assumed to be generally valid.

Jake Jung, Flickr

Let’s see how Okinawans live and try to follow at least some of components of their lifestyle.

Lifestyle Tips of The Okinawans to Support Longevity

According to the results of the OCS, the lifestyle and the unique diet of Okinawans may be the most important factors in favour of their long and healthy lives.

  • Okinawans follow a primarily plant-based diet. They eat at least seven servings of vegetables and a few servings of fruits on average, in particular dark green leaves, seaweed, bean sprouts, green peppers, onions and sweet potatoes. The vegetables and fruits they eat tend to come from their own farms and gardens.
  • Okinawans used to consume lots of sweet potatoes. It used to be so popular that sometimes it made up to 70% of the traditional Okinawan diet. This may be very significant, as sweet potatoes have a low glycaemic index and contain a type of flavonoid in abundance. The OCS shows that when the sweet potato consumption of Okinawans tended to decrease in favour of rice, type II diabetes and obesity started to increase among the subjects of the study. A lesson to learn is to eat carbohydrates with low glycaemic load, e.g. sweet potatoes instead of white rice.
  • Soy consumption is key in the diet of Okinawans, which may be responsible for avoiding menopause symptoms like hot flushes, osteoporosis and heart disease. As soy is a weak estrogen, it creates a protective effect against diseases like breast cancer. Other isoflavones in soy slow the development of prostate cancer, which is virtually non-existent in Okinawa. As soybeans, tofu and miso are eaten every day in Okinawa, it’s time for us too to incorporate them into our diet.
  • One of the favourite spices of Okinawans is turmeric, which as been popular since the first imports from India arrived in the 6th Century. Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric is assumed to be a powerful anti-inflammatory substance that can be efficiently used in cancer prevention and treatment of tumours. As the cancer rates in Okinawa are exceptionally low, the turmeric consumption of the population may be responsible for the low prevalence of the disease. Check out Terrific Tumeric to know more about this special spice.
  • The people of Okinawa eat meat as only a rare treat. They do consume pork and beef, however they do so sparingly and tend to save it for special occasions. They do eat fish in larger quantities but do not eat dairy at all. Their diet is largely vegetable-based and their primary source of protein are legumes and soy. The lesson to learn is to limit meat, fish and dairy intake and try to follow a primarily vegetable & fruit-based diet.
  • Okinawans drink lots of water and green tea. They consume up to 12 glasses of water a day and drink lots of unsweetened green tea, too. The potent blend of Okinawan blend of green tea, Sanpin, protects against cancer, heart disease and the aging effects of UV rays. Try to get hold of Sanpin or, if not possible, at least drink lots of Japanese green tea.
  • The people of Okinawa start a meal by saying “hara hachi bu”, which roughly means “eat until you are 80% full”. They eat slowly and they stop before getting full. Thanks to this habit Okinawans are accustomed to living on less calories – only 1200 – than other populations. These eating habits reflect their cultural values of respecting moderation and balance. Let’s try to eat less, but more nutrition-rich food, eaten slowly, just as the Okinawans do.
  • Last but not least, the Okinawans lead a peaceful, stress-free lifestyle. They wake up at sunrise and go to bed at sunset. There is no rush and no artificial stress in their lives. They meditate, follow the rhythm of nature and they are very optimistic and positive people. It’s a useful lesson to learn from them to limit our exposure to stress and learn to cope with it.

Let us all follow the Okinawans and live long and healthy!

Eddie Levin, Pinterest

If you are interested in The Okinawa Centenarian Study in more detail, the official website is as follows: