Bottoms up: Why butt lifts are big business in parts of Africa

— While some women are doing everything they can to get rid of extra weight, a larger behind is so desirable in some countries that it’s fueling a whole industry of creams, surgery and padding.

2015 was called “the year of the rear” by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

“In some social circles it’s like, ‘You haven’t had your butt done? What’s wrong with you?'”, explained Dr. Stanley Okoro, a plastic surgeon who works in Atlanta, Georgia, and Lagos, Nigeria.

When he’s in Nigeria every two months, Okoro said he’s able to do four to six butt lifts in a week. Each one usually takes six to eight hours, and Okoro is often booked up until late. “Sometimes I’m in surgery until 1am. It’s exhausting,” he said.

Why the rear has grown

Dr. Okoro says the biggest contributor to the rise in buttock surgery is without a doubt social media.

“It is a combination of increased popularity of Kim Kardashian, known for her ample backside, as well as increased popularity of social media,” said Dr. Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York City.

“The pressure to look good is what’s driving people,” said Okoro. He said in Nigeria, the massive film industry, commonly referred to as Nollywood, has driven the demand for the perfect butt.

A growing middle class has significantly contributed to the growth of cosmetic plastic surgery — once a forbidden industry — in Nigeria and Ghana, added Okoro.

The availability of smartphones in Africa and access to social media has also fuelled the rise in cosmetic surgery, Okoro said.

Over the past three to five years increased economic power and awareness of cosmetic surgery has fueled the popularity of such procedures, said Dr. Ojochide Ebune, a Nigerian surgeon and assistant secretary general of Nigerian Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons.

The number of trained and certified plastic surgeons in Nigeria has grown in the last five years, says Ebune, from 70 plastic surgeons five years ago to around 100 now.

“The prosperity of patients is starting to increase. In a few years, it [cosmetic surgery] will be a mainstay in Nigeria and parts of Africa,” said Ebune, adding that the demand mostly comes from more cosmopolitan cities such as Lagos and Abuja.

In South Africa, in a suburb in Johannesburg, “Surgeon and Safari” helps clients facilitate their cosmetic procedures, and perhaps go on safari too.

Many clients come from abroad, said owner Lorraine Melvill, who started back in 2000 and told CNN there is an emergence of local Africans that chose to come to South Africa for elective surgery.

“There is quite a big market coming out of Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana. Their economies are growing and therefore their middle classes are growing and… the need increases,” she said.

Less invasive options

For those who can’t afford surgery, there are cheaper alternatives in the form of pills and creams.

Dr. Okoro advises caution, though, as their contents can be unclear and their effectiveness unproven.

The trend in Africa is definitely on the rise, he said. “The same trend in Nigeria [for butt lifts], we are seeing in other West African countries.”

ASPS’s report in February showed that 15.9 million surgical and less-invasive cosmetic procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2015, a two percent increase from 2014. Dr. Schulman says he saw the demand for butt lifts start five years ago, and he has patients from all over the world. “I think this trend is here to stay, at least for the near future.”

Schulman does warn about choosing an experienced and board certified plastic surgeon, however, as many of his clients come to him for corrective surgeries after bad results from other doctors.

His advice: only select a surgeon who does six to eight of these procedures per week, and can show over 100 of their own before and after photos.

These foods will make you smarter

— You don’t need another degree to boost your brainpower at work. According to one author and neurologist, if you want to work smarter, you have to eat smarter.

“The answer to a sharp brain is in the gut,” says Dr. David Perlmutter, whose latest book, “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes To Heal and Protect Your Brain — For Life,” tackles how a change of diet can seemingly alter brain chemistry.

“Food really affects the function of the brain,” he notes.

“Brain Maker” says our digestive system is the key to making our brain work better and making us healthier. Perlmutter surmises that our brains are dependent on the health of the bacteria in our intestine. It’s not necessarily a new theory. Greek physician and father of modern medicine Hippocrates famously said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

A nation of sick

Perlmutter says he wrote this book to shake people into action.

“I want people to be daunted,” he says, noting that in the United States, two-thirds of the population is overweight. He also associates the rise in autism and depression with America’s poor diet. He notes that when we eat processed, sugary and fatty food, our guts become dysfunctional and damaged, allowing bad bacteria to multiply.

The gut, he says, is a “second brain,” and when it’s healthy, he adds, the person is happier.

“When the gut is healthy, you create more serotonin. Approximately 80-90 percent of our serotonin comes from the gut,” he notes.

Perlmutter’s previous book “Grain Brain” looked at how carbohydrates and gluten are damaging our brains, leading to headaches, depression, dementia, ADHD and intestinal disorders.

The crux of Perlmutter’s latest book says we have two nervous systems — the central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord, and the enteric nervous system is linked to our gastrointestinal tract. Both systems are linked through the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain-stem to the abdomen.

Perlmutter explores the connection between intestinal microbes and the brain. He looks at how the microbiome (which outnumber our body cells 10 to 1) develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices, and how it can become “sick”.

Go Mediterranean

“The importance of the gut-brain axis is continuing to evolve and is an exciting new area of research,” admitted Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician focusing on nutrition and fitness. “I think in general we are beginning to understand that the health of the gut and the bacteria that colonize the gut (the microbiome) is critical to many aspects of good health, including brain health,” she said.

Jampolis recommends an anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-type diet, which she says addresses both gut health and brain health. The Mediterranean diet, long-heralded for its benefits for the heart, is high in whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish and red wine.

Her healthy brain diet also includes consuming a variety of plant-based polyphenols found in berries, tea and spices like curcumin. In addition, reducing sugar and refined carbohydrates and limiting fried food and processed red meat also plays an important role in both brain and gut health, she added.

Six steps to improve gut ecology

The good news? Perlmutter states that it doesn’t take too long to wipe out damaging gut bacteria, adding it can take as little as two weeks to make a change. Below is a step-by-step guide of what to eat to make sure your brain is in tip-top shape:

Choose foods rich in probiotics, including live-cultured yogurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and pickled fruits and vegetables.

Go low-carb and embrace high-quality fat. Brain Maker foods include:

Leafy greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, garlic, jimica and ginger

Low-sugar fruits — avocado, bell peppers, tomato, squash, zucchini, lemons and limes

Healthy fat — extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter, almond milk, olives, nuts, nut butters

Protein — whole eggs, wild fish, shellfish, grass-fed meat, fowl, poultry

Herbs, seasoning and condiments — mustard, horseradish, tapenade , salsa (if they are gluten and wheat free and free of soy or sugars)

Drink red wine, tea, coffee and chocolate

Choose foods rich in prebiotics: acacia gum, raw Chicory root, raw Jerusalem Artichoke, raw dandelion green, raw garlic, raw leek, raw onion and raw asparagus.

Drink filtered water: Tap water often has high levels of chlorine, which can kill off the good bacteria in your gut. Switch to filtered water to protect the good guys.

Get fasting: Perlmutter says the occasional 24-hour fast (all liquid, no food, no caffeine, plenty of water) can help clear out the toxins that may have built up in your system from years of poor diet choices.

‘Thinking Business’ focuses on the psychology of getting ahead in the workplace by exploring techniques to boost employee performance, increase creativity and productivity.


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R.I.P checkbook, adios PIN number: How you’ll manage your money in 2020

— The checkbook is dead. While we’re at it, let’s write an obit for card readers too.

And if you’ve ever worried about who might be looking over your shoulder at the ATM machine, or the exorbitant fee that money transfer will cost you, don’t fret.

In years to come — not even that many — these problems won’t even exist as the way we bank and control our finances will change vastly. It already has in many ways.

“We’re in this unprecedented space where technology is moving so quickly it’s starting to scare everyone,” said Gi Fernando, founder and investor of Free:Formers, a company which helps businesses and unemployed young adults with digital training.

“It’s sooner than you think,” said Fernando, who claims in five years from now the technology behind how we manage our banking and finances will be unrecognizable.

Here are five things you most likely won’t need in five years to keep your finances ticking along.

Pin numbers and card readers

As biometrics become the choice of more companies, outdated PIN numbers and clumsy card readers will be a thing of the past, said Fernando.

Fingerprints, retina readers, belt buckles, watches and even contact lenses will replace good old-fashioned pin numbers and card readers in our modern day transactions.

“We will see much more use of biometric data,” agrees Steven Lewis, global lead banking analyst at Ernst & Young. “Fingerprints and eye scanners will replace signatures and become more prevalent,” he said.

“For buying stuff it’s going to be pretty frictionless and seamless,” said Fernando, who described a scenario whereby shoppers walk into a store, pick up what they’re after, pay via their device or wearable, and walk out.

Banks — as you know them

Though there will continue to be physical banks, many of them won’t exist as we know them today. Some of them will appear in supermarkets, cafes and coffee shops, and in pop-up stores and concessions, says Fernando.

Like 14th-century coffee houses in Venetian society where business deals were done, these new banking environments will serve a similar purpose. “People have a need to meet face-to-face,” added Fernando.

So while there still will be bank branches, many of them will look and feel more like an Apple store, he suggests.

Cash and checks

There will always be cash despite what advocates of a cashless society may predict. It’s quick, easy, accepted almost anywhere and can keep your paper track simple.

“Cash will take longer to die out,” said Fernando. In the meantime, smartphones and contactless payment methods will grow in popularity as a way to purchase our groceries, clothes, train and bus tickets and more.

The same can’t be said of checks though. “Over the last few years, the check is pretty much dead,” said Lewis. “We’re using digital technology to transmit that check,” he said.

“We’re going to have a suite of different technologies. The early adopters will be very keen to use their phones. Others will still have cash, checks and cards,” added Lewis.

Traditional loans

Want to borrow money but your bank won’t provide the loan? Never fear, there are many different models of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending groups and websites who will lend money directly to individuals and businesses without going through a traditional financial institution.

Lending Club and Prosper are the two largest P2P lenders in the United States. They issued $2.4 billion in loans in 2013, up significantly from $871 million in 2012. And a recent report by venture capital firm Foundation Capital predicts the global market for P2P lending could be worth over $1 trillion by 2025.

Another example — Funding Circle, in the United Kingdom, is projecting massive growth. While banks still provide the majority of lending in the United Kingdom — over 85% — Funding Circle says it hopes to gain a large chunk of that market over the next five to 10 years.

“We’ve seen significant growth amongst P2P lenders over the last couple of years,” said Lewis. “Although they still represent only a tiny fraction of the overall lending market, their approach is beginning to shake up the traditional bank lending model — so much so that some banks are starting to partner with P2P lenders to offer greater choice to customers.”

Wire transfer companies

The days of trudging down to the bank or money transfer agent to send your hard-earned money back home or abroad may soon be over. Already there are a wide choice of companies online which offer money transfers with lower transaction fees — Transferwise, Kantox, CurrencyFair to name a few.

Social media could broaden the appeal, with financial services company Azimo letting users transfer money through Facebook, as well as via the Azimo website and app. While a commercial bank charges on average 12% to send remittances and a traditional transfer operator charges about 6.5%, Azimo says it charges only 2%.

Azimo is growing rapidly, doubling in size every two-and-a-half months, said the company’s CEO Michael Kent.”We estimate that about 98% of money transfers are still being conducted offline,” said Kent, “but with the numbers moving to us we see that changing rapidly and that there will soon be a tipping point as customers realize the cost savings and benefits that digital brings.”

It won’t be an immediate switch though, warns Lewis. “Certainly additional providers will increase competition, but we’re also seeing a number of banks be more restrictive in the money transfer space as they grapple with increasingly complex and punitive anti money-laundering regulations.”