The Latest Trend in Wellness Tourism: Fasting Clinics | Kanebridge News
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The Latest Trend in Wellness Tourism: Fasting Clinics

Wed, Mar 22, 2023 9:47amGrey Clock 4 min

Guests at Lanserhof, a 35-year-old clinic less than five miles outside of the Austrian city of Innsbruck that attracts architects, entrepreneurs, financiers, and other well-heeled clientele, often leave hungry. The health retreat is known for its fasting program: a minimum of seven days consuming 650 calories per day, on average. The benefits include a gut bacteria reboot, cell and liver regeneration, and reduced inflammation. A 2019 study demonstrated patients with chronic conditions improved after fasting between four and 21 days.

Medically supervised fasting has long been popular at clinics in Germany and Austria, where spending a week focusing only on your health is not unusual. But the desire to combine a wellness holiday with science-based treatments is on the rise beyond European borders.

Wellness tourism is set to grow from US$436 billion to over US$1 trillion by 2025, according to a report by the Global Wellness Institute. A growing movement called biohacking is accelerating the trend, driven by consumers seeking healthier as well as longer lives.

Melanie Gatt has practiced cellular, also called mitochondrial medicine, at Lanserhof since 2018. She’s seen an increase in clients seeking to reduce inflammation and optimise performance.

“There’s greater demand for improving the immune system, cellular regeneration and longevity,” she says. “Cellular repair is one of the most important issues for this. In the last week, I received three emails from regular clients all interested in longevity treatments.”

James Stewart supervises an ice bath at Sand Valley Resort, Wisconsin.

Biohacking Goes Mainstream

Entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss has evangelised intermittent and longer-term fasting, dubbing it a “hack” to manage joint pain and other conditions. Ferriss and others, like Dutch wellness guru Wim Hof, have helped make biohacking mainstream.

Hof built a successful business and cult following globally with his two-pronged approach to combating wear and tear on the mind and body: mood-boosting ice baths and stress-reducing breath work requiring slow breathing.

Hundreds of certified Hof disciples around the world lead weekend and week-long retreats, including Chicago-based James Stewart. He started teaching Hof’s methods 10 years ago, and said one of the secrets to Hof’s success is his universal appeal to both men and women.

“The ice bath is a challenge,” Stewart says. “It’s a bit more robust and active, which makes it more appealing from a masculine point of view. And Wim Hof has made breathwork more palatable to people who might have been on the fence about it 10 years ago.”

A decade ago, Stewart says, he was the only person to brave the cold weather surrounding Lake Michigan for year-round dips. “Now, there are anywhere between 50 to 70 people who dip in winter. There’s something that grabs you physiologically; you’re getting that spike in epinephrine, norepinephrine, and you feel alive.”

Low-tech and high-tech treatments are being embraced by practitioners and consumers. In Los Angeles, Upgrade Labs bills itself as the first biohacking gym in the U.S., with an emphasis on specialized technology to assess cells and repair damage, along with a cryo chamber delivering cold immersion therapy with three-minute sessions in a sub-zero, temperature-controlled room or tank.

Lanserhof infusion room

A Physical and Mental Reset

At Lanserhof’s clinic, a window stretching the length of an entire wall faces snow-covered mountains in a state-of-the-art setting that feels more like a futuristic command center than a medical office. Doctors provide detailed analysis from a wide range of diagnostics.

A 24-hour heart rate variability monitor reveals how activities like working, resting and eating impact energy levels and sleep quality. Intermittent hypoxic training uses an oxygen mask to simulate mountain climbing to measure how cells adapt to reduced oxygen availability, the study of which won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2019.

Stimulated by oxygen regulation, cells reject and replace damaged ones with healthy, new cells. An endurance test, called spiroergometry, tracks a patient’s individual fat burning zones, versus sugars. The information illustrates what intensity levels are necessary, or not, for an efficient and effective workout. Results dictate treatments like vitamin infusions, and sports scientists devise training plans to achieve peak performance, as well as recovery.

Historically, patients at Lanserhof and other fasting clinics tended to be older; seeking to improve a heart condition or rheumatic pain, but in the last 10 years, the average age of clientele has dropped from 55 to 47 years old.

Now, Gatt says, guests frequently visit as a physical and mental reset. “Some guests want to optimise their endurance, and some have reduced energy after experiencing infections and they want to understand what’s going on with their immune system and restore their energy levels.”

While it is possible to gather excessive amounts of information, extracting and understanding data related to specific health concerns, like burnout, can underline the impact of lifestyle habits.

Witnessing the impact of stress on the body and how quickly or slowly it recovers, is a great motivator to stop ignoring advice to meditate. For many of Lanserhof’s younger clients, Gatt says, the key to living healthier for longer may lie in obsessing less, rather than more about biohacking.

“We don’t suggest extremes, like doing something every day or eating one meal a day, which is not enough, because you start to lose the benefit and it becomes a stressor for the system,” Gatt says. “It’s easy to go too far. Part of longevity and regeneration comes from balance and knowing how to take a vacation.”


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China’s EV Juggernaut Is a Warning for the West

Competitive pressure and creativity have made Chinese-designed and -built electric cars formidable competitors

Thu, Jun 8, 2023 4 min

China rocked the auto world twice this year. First, its electric vehicles stunned Western rivals at the Shanghai auto show with their quality, features and price. Then came reports that in the first quarter of 2023 it dethroned Japan as the world’s largest auto exporter.

How is China in contention to lead the world’s most lucrative and prestigious consumer goods market, one long dominated by American, European, Japanese and South Korean nameplates? The answer is a unique combination of industrial policy, protectionism and homegrown competitive dynamism. Western policy makers and business leaders are better prepared for the first two than the third.

Start with industrial policy—the use of government resources to help favoured sectors. China has practiced industrial policy for decades. While it’s finding increased favour even in the U.S., the concept remains controversial. Governments have a poor record of identifying winning technologies and often end up subsidising inferior and wasteful capacity, including in China.

But in the case of EVs, Chinese industrial policy had a couple of things going for it. First, governments around the world saw climate change as an enduring threat that would require decade-long interventions to transition away from fossil fuels. China bet correctly that in transportation, the transition would favour electric vehicles.

In 2009, China started handing out generous subsidies to buyers of EVs. Public procurement of taxis and buses was targeted to electric vehicles, rechargers were subsidised, and provincial governments stumped up capital for lithium mining and refining for EV batteries. In 2020 NIO, at the time an aspiring challenger to Tesla, avoided bankruptcy thanks to a government-led bailout.

While industrial policy guaranteed a demand for EVs, protectionism ensured those EVs would be made in China, by Chinese companies. To qualify for subsidies, cars had to be domestically made, although foreign brands did qualify. They also had to have batteries made by Chinese companies, giving Chinese national champions like Contemporary Amperex Technology and BYD an advantage over then-market leaders from Japan and South Korea.

To sell in China, foreign automakers had to abide by conditions intended to upgrade the local industry’s skills. State-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group developed the manufacturing know-how necessary to become a player in EVs thanks to joint ventures with Toyota and Honda, said Gregor Sebastian, an analyst at Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Despite all that government support, sales of EVs remained weak until 2019, when China let Tesla open a wholly owned factory in Shanghai. “It took this catalyst…to boost interest and increase the level of competitiveness of the local Chinese makers,” said Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights, a research service specialising in the Chinese auto industry.

Back in 2011 Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent, explained what set Chinese capitalism apart from its American counterpart. “In America, when you bring an idea to market you usually have several months before competition pops up, allowing you to capture significant market share,” he said, according to Fast Company, a technology magazine. “In China, you can have hundreds of competitors within the first hours of going live. Ideas are not important in China—execution is.”

Thanks to that competition and focus on execution, the EV industry went from a niche industrial-policy project to a sprawling ecosystem of predominantly private companies. Much of this happened below the Western radar while China was cut off from the world because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When Western auto executives flew in for April’s Shanghai auto show, “they saw a sea of green plates, a sea of Chinese brands,” said Le, referring to the green license plates assigned to clean-energy vehicles in China. “They hear the sounds of the door closing, sit inside and look at the quality of the materials, the fabric or the plastic on the console, that’s the other holy s— moment—they’ve caught up to us.”

Manufacturers of gasoline cars are product-oriented, whereas EV manufacturers, like tech companies, are user-oriented, Le said. Chinese EVs feature at least two, often three, display screens, one suitable for watching movies from the back seat, multiple lidars (laser-based sensors) for driver assistance, and even a microphone for karaoke (quickly copied by Tesla). Meanwhile, Chinese suppliers such as CATL have gone from laggard to leader.

Chinese dominance of EVs isn’t preordained. The low barriers to entry exploited by Chinese brands also open the door to future non-Chinese competitors. Nor does China’s success in EVs necessarily translate to other sectors where industrial policy matters less and creativity, privacy and deeply woven technological capability—such as software, cloud computing and semiconductors—matter more.

Still, the threat to Western auto market share posed by Chinese EVs is one for which Western policy makers have no obvious answer. “You can shut off your own market and to a certain extent that will shield production for your domestic needs,” said Sebastian. “The question really is, what are you going to do for the global south, countries that are still very happily trading with China?”

Western companies themselves are likely to respond by deepening their presence in China—not to sell cars, but for proximity to the most sophisticated customers and suppliers. Jörg Wuttke, the past president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, calls China a “fitness centre.” Even as conditions there become steadily more difficult, Western multinationals “have to be there. It keeps you fit.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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