What is the Sirtfood diet?

It’s the latest diet craze everyone’s talking about, a diet rich in ‘sirtfoods’.  If you’re trying to lose some weight after Christmas you may have come across this new phenomenon.  According to researchers, these special foods work by activating specific proteins in the body called sirtuins.  Sirtuins are believed to protect cells in the body from dying when they are under stress and are thought to regulate inflammation, metabolism and the aging process.  Researchers also believe sirtuins influence the body’s ability to burn fat and boost metabolism, resulting in a seven pound weight loss a week while maintaining muscle.

The diet 

So what are these magical ‘sirtfoods’?  The ten most common include:

  • Green Tea
  • Dark chocolate (that is at least 85 per cent cocoa)
  • Apples
  • Citrus fruits
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
  • Kale
  • Blueberries
  • Capers
  • Red wine

The diet is a two phase approach; the initial phase lasts one week and involves restricting calories to 1000kcal for three days consuming three sirtfood green juices and one meal a day that is rich in sirtfoods.  The juices include kale, celery, rocket, parsley, green tea and lemon and meals include turkey escalope with sage, capers and parsley, chicken and kale curry and prawn stir fry with buckwheat noodles.  From days four to seven, intakes are increased to 1500kcal comprising of two sirtfood green juices and two sirtfood-rich meals a day.

The second phase is known as the maintenance phase which lasts 14 days where steady weight loss occurs.  The authors believe it’s a sustainable and realistic way to lose weight. However, focusing on weight loss is not what the diet is all about – it’s designed to be about eating the best foods nature has to offer.  Long term they recommend eating three balanced sirtfood rich meals a day along with one sirtfood green juice.

Dietician Emer Delaney says:

"At first glance, this is not a diet I would advise for my clients.  Aiming to have 1000kcal for three consecutive days is extremely difficult and I believe the majority of people would be unable to achieve it.   Looking at the list of foods, you can see they are the sort of items that often appear on a ‘healthy food list’, however it would be better to encourage these as part of a healthy balanced diet.  Having a glass of red wine or a small amount of chocolate occasionally won’t do us any harm - I wouldn’t recommend them on a daily basis.  We should also be eating a mixture of different fruits and vegetables and not just those on the list.

"In terms of weight loss and boosting metabolism, people may have experienced a seven pound weight loss on the scales, but in my experience this will be fluid.  Burning and losing fat takes time so it is extremely unlikely this weight loss is a loss of fat.  I would be very cautious of any diet that recommends fast and sudden weight loss as this simply isn’t achievable and will more than likely be a loss of fluid.  As soon as people return to their regular eating habits, they will regain the weight.  Slow and steady weight loss is the key and for this we need to restrict calories and increase our activity levels.  Eating balanced regular meals made up of low GI foods, lean protein, fruit and vegetables and keeping well hydrated is the safest way to lose weight."

26 September, 2017

There’s a story that makes it abundantly clear how a small band of English holidaymakers changed Switzerland forever. It involves a bet between hotelier Johannes Badrutt and an aristocratic group of merchants and landowners that took place on a damp September evening in St Moritz in 1864. As the vacationers sat around the fire at the Engadiner Kulm Hotel, dreading the prospect of returning to the foggy London winter, the Swiss manager saw a golden opportunity.

“You holiday here in summer,” he challenged them over a bottle of Veltliner red wine. “Why not enjoy the mountains year-round? Winter is so pleasant that on fine days you can even walk without a jacket.” Lured by the promise of blemish-free skies against a backdrop of lofty peaks, the Englishmen were pleased to accept the wager; up until then, St Moritz had been a modest hiking destination in July and August. But if Badrutt’s promise proved false, the hotelier would pay for their journey and winter-long stay. How could they lose?

Come mid-December, the group of men returned to Switzerland. Towards the end of their week-long journey, sat on a horse-pulled sledge and wrapped head-to-toe in furs, they negotiated the 2,284m Julier Pass, a two-day Alpine crossing that first linked Chur in the Rhine valley with the Engadine valley in southeastern Switzerland. But by the time of their arrival in St Moritz, the skies had cleared, they were sweating profusely, and a beaming Badrutt, jacket-less and with his shirt sleeves rolled up, was there to greet them.

The genius of the wager, of course, was that when Badrutt won the bet (the Englishmen stayed on as paying guests until March) word quickly spread throughout their homeland about St Moritz’s distinctive ‘Champagne climate’ – dry and sunny with a high degree of snow certainty. Year-round tourism had arrived in the Alps, and the village of St Moritz seemed newborn.

“Some people think it’s a legend, but it’s all true,” said Richard Leuenberger, general manager of the five-star Badrutt’s Palace, during my visit this past July. Opened by Johannes Badrutt’s son Caspar in 1896 to further reap the benefits of his father’s gamble, the hotel has become a byword for the resort town’s lavish excess. “Before the Badrutts there was little reason to come to St Moritz, or holiday in the Swiss mountains, in winter at all. There had long been the demand in summer, but winter? It was lunacy.”

That the Badrutts almost single-handedly marketed this untapped winter wonderland is a little spurious. The first tourist office in Switzerland had been established in the same year as the bet, and there are tales of an Anglican priest, one Reverend Alfred Strettell, who came to preach the gospel in St Moritz in 1861 before returning to England to advocate the resort’s potential as a winter destination in open letters to British newspapers. By this time, other resorts in the Swiss regional cantons of Graubünden and Bern were also flush with business, with clinics in Davos, Arosa, Leysin and Grindelwald developed as winter sanctuaries to cure patients with tuberculosis and respiratory diseases.

But what Badrutt did was make the Swiss mountains accessible in a way that no one else had done before. In order to pay off the high cost of his ongoing investment at the Engadiner Kulm, he needed to keep the hotel open year-round, paving the way for a winter ice rink and regular curling tournaments played with stones first brought by early Scottish visitors. And by the 1880s, the number of English-speaking arrivals had increased to such an extent that a local newspaper – the Engadine Express & Alpine Post – was published entirely in English. Still, Badrutt’s role as pioneer cannot be downplayed.

“Before him there was only 75 beds in the village,” said Leuenberger, showing me around the Palace’s Great Hall, otherwise known as the ‘living room’ of St Moritz. “But because of Badrutt that number exploded to more than 2,000 over the next four decades.” 

To truly understand the town’s role in marketing mountains to the world, I set off to explore in the company of John Webster, a historian and guide who, having studied St Moritz for 27 years, knows the resort’s backstory best.

“The concept of the winter holiday was born here – and I’ve never come across any claims to counter the argument,” he said, while looking out to the pyramid-like peaks of the Muottas Muragl. “From the late 19th Century on, St Moritz’s evolution and sphere of influence was relentless. There is a list of firsts in St Moritz that no one else has.”

Among those novelties was Switzerland’s first electric light and streetlight, both installed at the Engadiner Kulm in 1879. That same year, Badrutt brought flushing toilets into the Alps and built the first hydro-electric plant in the country.

In tandem, winter sports found their place. Europe’s first curling tournament was held on frozen-over Lake St Moritz (now also the pitch and paddock for annual horse races, as well as ice polo and ice cricket tournaments). By 1882, the first European Ice-Skating Championships took place, then the first bobsleigh run and race were held in 1890. And all this was decades before downhill and slalom skiing became fashionable among the jet set.

The story of St Moritz is, in some ways, also a tale of social transformation.

“The newly wealthy were able to mingle with the aristocracy for the first time,” said Webster, singling out the fairytale rooftops of eight five-star hotels (nine if you include Grace St Moritz, opening in summer 2018). “And in this period, these palace hotels served as great stages.” 

Evocations of the past include grainy photos of Hollywood stars like Gregory Peck tackling the notorious Cresta Run bobsleigh (fanatical rider Errol Flynn’s claim to fame was that he never once finished the course). Audrey Heburn would sit and have tea at Confiserie Hanselmann, a storied chocolate shop still doing a fine trade on Via Maistra.

But while the resort once reveled in Xanadu-like fantasy – outlandish stories of elephants and sea lions flown in for legendary parties at Badrutt’s Palace are all true – it remains equally bombastic in the face of fierce seasonal competition today. In particular, two recent game-changers include the Swiss resort town of Andermatt, plucked from obscurity by billionaire Egyptian property tycoon Samih Sawiris in 2013, and the Bürgenstock, a mega hotel and spa project nine years in the making that opened above Lake Lucerne this July.

But there is still something that neither resort – nor St Moritz’s traditional rivals Gstaad and Zermatt – has. The Engadine Valley’s so-called ‘Champagne climate’. After all, St Moritz’s proud slogan, ‘300 days of sunshine a year’, is not only a cold, hard truth, but an undoubted wink to the past. Johannes Badrutt may be gone, but his impact will not be forgotten.


26 September, 2017

By now, the ubiquitous advertising — a young boy in a bow tie — has surely made you aware of the arrival of Young Sheldon, a prequel to The Big Bang Theory debuting this season on CBS.

If you’ve seen the face of actor Iain Armitage gazing pompously at you from the side of a bus, you’d be forgiven for assuming you know exactly what this show is: Young Sheldon (the little boy version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory) will get one over on his family and friends in 1980s Texas, while the studio audience cheers his every witticism. Such an assumption would fit with the conventional wisdom around Young Sheldon’s parent show, which is often derided as one of TV’s worst. (It’s not — as NPR’s Linda Holmes ably points out here — but The Big Bang Theory’s extreme popularity makes a backlash to it inevitable.)

However, in reality, Young Sheldon is something slightly stranger than that. It’s more or less an attempt to reboot The Wonder Years with the protagonist of an already popular sitcom reminiscing about his younger self. (Yes, Old Sheldon portrayer Jim Parsons is on hand to offer voiceover.) As such, it has a softer, more nostalgic, more film-like style, one that would likely result in tonal whiplash behind the more populist Big Bang Theory if the two didn’t feature literally the same main character.

Like most new comedies this fall, Young Sheldon isn’t yet very good at conveying what it’s trying to do. But what it’s trying to do is more interesting — and potentially more artistically exciting — than whatever first impressions you might have of the show. The series is at once better and worse than what you’d expect. So here’s what Young Sheldon is, and what it isn’t, in handy bullet point form.

What Young Sheldon is:

  • A sweetly nostalgic trip back to the late 1980s: Above all else, Young Sheldon would like to leave you with a feeling of warm nostalgia, not just for the decade but for the family sitcoms of same. The characters have moments when they learn to be nicer to each other. The parents reveal to their kids all the ways they’ve given up on certain dreams to let their kids thrive. Sheldon slowly comes to realize how much everyone in his family is making sacrifices for him because of his extraordinary intellect. The gags about ’80s culture are here, but they’re secondary to the nostalgia.
  • A show about being the parent of a gifted child: If there’s an element of Young Sheldon that could eventually make this one a must-watch and that’s evident in the show’s very shaky pilot, it’s the relationship between Sheldon and his parents Mary (Zoe Perry) and George (Lance Barber). (Perry is the daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays Sheldon’s mother in guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory.) The best elements of Young Sheldon’s pilot involve these two, far more than they do Sheldon or his older brother and twin sister. Where The Big Bang Theory can use Mary as the butt of its jokes, Young Sheldon more or less makes her the point-of-view character — a woman with strong faith who doesn’t entirely understand her child. When the show centers on her, it’s at its best, and I suspect the writers will figure this out quickly.
  • A minor tragedy: As my friend (and Vox contributor) Sara Ghaleb pointed out to me, everything we know about Sheldon’s childhood from The Big Bang Theory suggests it was awful. His relationship with his mother is strained. We rarely, if ever, hear about his other family members, with his MeeMaw (to be played by Annie Potts on Young Sheldon) presented as a ghoul who’s mostly spoken of, and almost never seen. Thus, we know that this Sheldon must become that Sheldon at some point, and that he will come to see his family not as a benefit but a burden. I don’t really expect Young Sheldon to lean into its fundamentally tragic nature, but if it did ... that could be really fascinating.

What Young Sheldon isn’t:

  • A multi-camera sitcom: The “multi-camera sitcom” is a show filmed in front of a live studio audience, staged almost like live theater (though captured by cameras). If you want to know much, much more about it, you can read my lengthy defense of the form here. But Young Sheldon is a single-camera sitcom, which means it’s filmed far more like a movie than a play, with the actors performing in a less broadly theatrical style and no audience laughter punctuating punchlines. And where many single-camera shows use this style to cram in more jokes, Young Sheldon is a throwback to shows like The Wonder Years, which limited its number of jokes in hopes of maintaining a bittersweet tone.
  • A particularly good comedy just yet: In particular, Young Sheldon looks a little cheap, relative to the other, glossier single-camera comedies in its rough weight class. (Compare it to the similarly ’80s-set The Goldbergs, which has a much more polished sheen.) This is a frequent problem with CBS’s stabs at the single-camera format; they often end up over-lit and shot from camera angles similar to multi-camera shows, which only adds to the feeling of flatness and artificiality when it comes to the sets and costumes. (The one CBS single-cam to escape this fate has been Life in Pieces.) If Young Sheldon’s jokes were funnier, this would be more forgivable, but since they’re not, it often feels like you’re watching an episode of One Life to Live that’s trying to be funny.
  • A blatant cash grab: I don’t really expect Young Sheldon to be a hit — once viewers realize that it’s not The Big Bang Theory starring a little kid, I think they might be a little perplexed — but it’s less of a blatant cash grab than it seems. The show really does make an attempt to deal with parenting and family issues, and somewhere inside of it beats the heart of a comedic tragedy. Whether it will get to tease out those elements, or whether it will become a broader, crasser version of itself, remains to be seen. (Oh, who am I kidding — it’ll be the latter.) But for now, Young Sheldon exists as the rare spinoff that wants to say something, even if it’s not quite clear what that is yet.

Young Sheldon airs Mondays at 8:30 pm Eastern on CBS, right after The Big Bang Theory. It will eventually move to Thursdays, but let’s not worry about that just yet.

26 September, 2017

The United Nations has created a new office in the Netherlands dedicated to the monitoring and research of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. The new office will collect information about the way in which AI is impacting the world. Researchers will have a particular focus on the way AI relates to global security but will also monitor the effects of job loss from AI and automation.

Irakli Beridze, a UN senior strategic adviser will head the office. They have described the new office saying, “A number of UN organisations operate projects involving robots and AI, such as the group of experts studying the role of autonomous military robots in the realm of conventional weapons. These are temporary measures. Ours is the first permanent UN office on this subject. We are looking at the risks as well as the advantages.”

Just two or three staff will operate The Hague located office to begin with, but it is expected that the team will grow as the focus of projects becomes clear. Beridze says that the way we are adapting to AI technology in relation to security will be the office’s initial priority. He suggests that the speed of AI technology development is of primary concern. He explains, “This can make for instability if society does not adapt quickly enough. One of our most important tasks is to set up a network of experts from business, knowledge institutes, civil society organisations and governments. We certainly do not want to plead for a ban or a brake on technologies. We will also explore how new technology can contribute to the sustainable development goals of the UN. For this, we want to start concrete projects. We will not be a talking club.”

This move from the UN comes after Elon Musk and other big players in the AI world called on the UN to impose legislation on the development of AI weapons or so-called ‘killer robots’. The group which included Stephen Hawking and members of Google’s Alphabet team wrote an open letter to the UN asking for action on the matter. The group wrote, “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

While AI weapons are one major concern arising from the rise of the technology, the other is the loss of jobs to robots in the manufacturing and the construction industries. The World Economic Forum recently released a report where it suggested that more than half a million construction jobs will be replaced by robots by the end of the next decade. The UN office has their work cut out for them keeping up with the rapid rise in AI. The race for better and smarter AI is certainly underway with results we are still unsure of.


30 September, 2017

Though Apple and Android fanboys and girls will scratch each other's eyes out arguing over which phones have the best technology, when it's time to trade in your old phone, there's still only one clear winner.

That's something to consider when investing in your next phone. The glory days of the wireless carrier subsidies are long gone, which means people actually have to pay full price for a brand-new phone. With high-end devices like the iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costing $1,000 or more, savvy shoppers know the best way to avoid sticker shock is to trade-in an old device.

Does it matter which brand you buy? In this edition of Ask Maggie, I answer that very question.

Dear Maggie,

I'm in the market for a new phone. My biggest priority is one with a terrific camera. I've owned iPhones, Samsungs and other Android phones in the past. I don't feel strongly about one operating system over the other. It seems like the new iPhones (the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X) and the latest Google Pixel 2 would be great choices.

But I'm having a hard time deciding. One thing I'm concerned about is resale value. Do iPhones still have better resale value than Android phones? Now that I trade in my old phones to help offset the cost of paying for a new one, is it smarter to go with an Apple product over something else?

Thinking Ahead

Dear Thinking,

The latest iPhones and the new Google Pixel 2 are supposed to have what are among the best smartphone cameras on the market. So when it comes to taking pictures, I don't think you could go wrong with either option. But you brought up a great question that's overlooked when people are shopping for a new phone.

The short answer to your question is yes. An Apple iPhone tends to retain its value better than any other smartphone on the market. If you're on the fence between the two, that's a great reason to go Apple over Google.  

Let's look at some numbers. Compare 2016's flagship models from Apple, Samsung and Google. The iPhone 7 has retained about 54 percent of its trade-in-value. The Google Pixel has retained 46 percent of its value. And the Samsung Galaxy has retained just 31 percent, according to spokesman Brian Morris, whose site lets people comparison shop for the best trade-in value for a phone.

The difference in trade-in value may shrink over time as devices age. For example, the iPhone 6S, released in 2015, has retained 33 percent of its trade-in value. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S6, released the same year, has retained 21 percent of its value. Still, the fact remains that you'll still get less money for that Samsung phone when you trade it in or sell it after two years than you'd get with an iPhone.

This makes sense says Chase Freeman, a spokesman for Gazelle, a site for buying and selling used phones and other gadgets. Freeman listed the five biggest factors that influence the value of a phone at trade-in. Here they are, in order of importance.

1. Brand
2. Device condition
3. Size of screen
4. Memory
5. Age of device

"You definitely get more bang for your buck if you buy an iPhone, because you'll be able to get more money back when you trade it in," Freeman said.

The difference in trade-in values has existed since the iPhone was launched a decade ago, a fact that's infuriated many a Samsung and Google Android fan. Even when another phone may be technically more advanced than the iPhone, and even when it costs the same at retail, the iPhone will still likely net you more when it's time to trade up to your next device.

This fact is more important now than ever, since wireless carriers are no longer subsidizing the cost of a new device every year. Now you're expected to pay full retail price for a new device, whether that's in a lump sum or broken up into payments. With high-end phones costing upwards of $650, most people trade in their older devices to help defray the cost of a new one.

The bottom line
There are lots of reasons to buy the Pixel 2 or the latest Samsung or LG devices. But if value is what's most important to you, and you're truly on the fence when it comes to the operating system, go with the iPhone. The iPhone 8 will cost you $50 more at retail than the Pixel 2, but it will likely hold its value much better, which will give you a bigger chunk of change to put toward a new phone in a couple of years.

CNET an Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.


9 October, 2017