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Staying young

The long-life secrets of Okinawa

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Longevity retreats are all the rage, says Samuel Ballard in Globetrender, and a hotel on Okinawa is offering guests the chance to learn the secrets of the locals’ long lives. The Japanese island is one of five global Blue Zones that are famous for the longevity of its inhabitants. It has 35 centenarians for every 100,000 inhabitants – five times more than the rest of Japan.

Diet is the key. Okinawans eat three servings of fish a week, and more tofu and kombu seaweed than anyone else in the world, as well as squid and octopus, both of which are thought to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The seawater in which the locals bathe is believed to have healing properties.

The retreat at the Halekulani hotel includes cookery classes, sunrise yoga, Okinawan karate and a dip in the hot spa pools, which are filled with mineral-rich water from the depths of the sea. Guests can also reflect on their ikigai (“sense of purpose”) on the sacred island of Kudaka, where islanders pray and worship.

Long life doesn’t come cheap – the three-day programme costs £1,540. But “immortality retreats” are increasingly popular: Globetrender says “the super-longevity market could be worth $600bn by 2025”.

Dirtiness is next to godliness

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Modern life is messing with our microbes, says Sarah Toy in The Wall Street Journal, and that’s a big problem. The billions of friendly bacteria that live on our bodies – known collectively as our microbiome – are vital for fighting bad bacteria, training our immune system, aiding metabolism and even programming our brains. But as we’ve moved from the mucky countryside into cities, we’ve become less exposed to the helpful microbes that live in soil and on animals. Over-reliance on antibiotics and antibacterial cleaning products, coupled with the rise of caesareans (the birth canal is full of helpful gunk), means our microbiome is in real danger. We’re just too clean.

Scientists are looking at ways to reverse that trend, mainly by trying to get more good bacteria into our lives. Some doctors smear babies born by C-section with their mother’s vaginal fluid to try to get all the good bugs into them. Pets, especially dogs, have been proven to boost our microbiomes, helping to prevent problems such as asthma.