TOKYO, July 24 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his ratings sinking over a suspected cronyism scandal, said on Monday he had never instructed that preferential treatment be given to a long-time friend and that his friend had never lobbied for favours. Abe and his aides have repeatedly denied intervening to help Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational Institution) win approval for a veterinary school in a special economic zone. Its director, Kotaro Kake, is a friend of Abe. Abe acknowledged that Kake had been his friend since they were students and told a special session of parliament's lower house budget committee that Kake had "never once" sought favours. "There was no request or lobbying regarding the establishment of a new veterinary school," Abe said. Asked if he had intervened in the approval process, Abe said: "I have never issued instructions regarding specific cases." The scandal, and a perception among many voters that Abe's administration is taking them for granted, are encouraging rivals and casting doubt on Abe's hopes for a third three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader. Several opinion polls have shown Abe's support has plunged below 30 percent and, while this does not immediately threaten his job, it does cloud the longer-term outlook. Abe was until recently seen as being on track to become Japan's longest-serving prime minister by winning a third three-year term when his current tenure ends in September 2018. Further pressure is likely to come from Sunday's victory by an opposition candidate in a mayoral election for the northern city of Sendai. That follows an historic defeat for the LDP in elections for the Tokyo assembly earlier this month, a devastating blow since much of Abe's clout has come from his record of leading the party to victories at the polls. A July 22-23 Mainichi newspaper poll published on Sunday showed Abe's support slipping 10 points to 26 percent from the previous survey in June. It also showed that 56 per cent of respondents did not back Abe's government, a 12 point rise. Also scheduled to appear at Monday's session are Abe's aide, Hiroto Izumi, and Kihei Maekawa, who resigned as the education ministry's top bureaucrat in January and has accused the government of distorting the approval process for the veterinary school. Abe is expected to reshuffle his cabinet early next month in an effort to repair his damaged ratings, a step often taken by beleaguered leaders but one that can backfire if novice ministers become embroiled in scandals or make gaffes. Also in trouble is Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, an Abe protege, who faces calls to resign over media reports of direct involvement in a ministry cover-up of documents about a sensitive peacekeeping operation. She denies the reports Opposition lawmakers are also expected to grill Abe about media reports that Inada allowed defence officials to conceal logs about the activities of the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan's military is known, in a U.N.-led peacekeeping operation in South Sudan.
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[caption id="attachment_353421" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Uber Singapore's general manager, Warren Tseng, had to start the company's Southeast Asia operations from scratch.[/caption]
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Gone are the days of fast food domination. These days, it’s cool to eat clean. Unfortunately, many people jump from one superfood trend to the next without first finding out how these foods can affect them. Before trying out a new diet, Derrick Ong, lead dietitian and director of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy, recommends that you check if your diet has these three things - balance, variety and moderation. To help you decide if your diet is right for you, we went behind the marketing material of some of Singapore's favourite health foods, and asked experts about the truth behind these seven popular health food trends: 1) Juices [caption id="attachment_354367" align="alignnone" width="527"] The Straits Times[/caption] Dr Heng Kiang Soon, a lecturer at Republic Polytechnic’s School of Applied Science, says the nutritional value of fruit juice really depends on what’s in it. Needless to say, fruits with higher sugar content will produce juices with higher sugar levels. Juices are also low in insoluble fibre, which is what is needed to delay the absorption of sugar. “Without insoluble fibre, the sugars (and also other nutrients) will be digested and absorbed faster into bloodstream,” Dr Heng says. Instead of juicing, Dr Heng suggests blending whole fruits and vegetables together so that the insoluble fibre content is not lost. Still, if you are embarking on a juice-only diet, Dr Heng advises against consuming only fruit and vegetable juices in the long-term as they do not provide the full range of nutrients required for metabolism. “In the short term, a juice detox diet may be practiced under professional advice to ensure nutritional adequacy of the person,” he adds. 2) Brown rice [caption id="attachment_354368" align="alignnone" width="775"] The Straits Times[/caption] More and more people are ditching the fluffy white rice in their meals with bowls of nutrient-filled brown rice. “Brown rice is rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients, and this wholegrain is definitely more nutritious than white rice,” Mr Ong says. Nonetheless, people who suffer from constipation, kidney disease, difficulty swallowing and malnutrition should not take brown rice. “Brown rice tends to be higher in potassium than white rice, so people with kidney problems may want to be cautious about over-consuming brown rice,” Mr Ong tells us. Some experts have also warned against taking too much brown rice because of its phytic acid content. According to Dr Heng, phytic acid “is an anti-nutrient as it binds with minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium and inhibits their absorption into the body through the intestine”. But there is a simple solution to that. “Research has shown that soaking grains in water before cooking can significantly cut down their phytic acid content. Even cooking itself will further reduce the phytic acid level,” Dr Heng says. Soaking brown rice overnight before cooking can also enhance its palatability, he adds. 3) Gluten-free food [caption id="attachment_354366" align="alignnone" width="800"] The Straits Times[/caption] From cakes to pizza dough, many Singaporeans are opting for gluten-free alternatives in their meals. However, scientists at Harvard have found that unless you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, going gluten-free is not actually going to improve your health. The long-running study also discovered that people who ate the most gluten were at no greater risk for a heart attack than those who ate the least of it. What they found instead, was that those who consumed less gluten also ate less dietary fibre and whole grains, which can help to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Dr Heng explains: “Unless one is diagnosed with any of the gluten-related allergies or sensitivity, it is not usually necessary to avoid gluten-containing foods or to go for a gluten-free diet". Nonetheless, Dr Heng says going gluten-free can be a good dietary practice as long as your diet is balanced and meets your nutritional requirements. 4) Coconut water [caption id="attachment_354369" align="alignnone" width="856"] Lianhe Zaobao[/caption] Coconut water’s popularity is rising thanks to its high electrolyte and low sugar content. Take note though: As it is easily spoiled by microbial growth and enzymatic reaction after being exposed to air, Dr Heng says coconut water is best consumed fresh. Moreover, packaged coconut water may have lost some of its nutrients and flavour in the packaging process, prompting some manufacturers to enhance its taste with sugar. Hence, it is also unwise to drink too much packaged coconut water if you're trying to lose weight. One way of ensuring that you are drinking additive-free coconut water is to check the product’s contents and look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol on the package, he says. 5) Chia seeds [caption id="attachment_354365" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The Straits Times[/caption] One of the most well-known superfoods in Singapore, the chia seed has an exotic sounding name and is high in nutritional content. While it is a great health food, there is some concern that the health benefits of superfoods such as this are often exaggerated. Mr Ong says that chia seeds are popular a weight-loss food as they swell up in water and promote satiety. But this can be problematic for some people as it can cause uncomfortable bloating as a result. As a nutrient-dense food, chia seeds may also interfere with certain medications and treatments, and people who wish to add it to their diet should check with their doctor beforehand. 6) Avocado [caption id="attachment_354364" align="alignnone" width="800"] The Straits Times[/caption] The avocado’s buttery goodness is hard to resist, and you might find yourself adding an entire fruit to your salad twice a day. It’s healthy fat, so eating more of it should be good for you, right? Well, not exactly. According to Mr Ong, ⅓ of an average avocado contains around 140 kcal of energy. When blended, an avocado shake - without added sugar- can easily contain about 300 kcal. “A useful tip to make sure you don't overdo the calories is to ask for less (or no) sugar, and to avoid 'upsizing' the shake. If having the shake with a meal, consider having a lighter meal with less calories to avoid busting the calorie budget for the meal or the day,” he says. In a similar vein, Dr Heng says it is better to make sure you exercise moderation and variety when consuming fruits like avocados. “Do not just limit yourself to one type of fruit. Instead, take a variety of fruits to obtain various types of phytochemicals and nutrients. Including an avocado into a daily diet is fine as long as the total caloric intake is still within a healthy range,” he suggests. 7) Kale [caption id="attachment_354363" align="alignnone" width="800"] Shin Min[/caption] Why people love kale is plain to see - it’s packed with numerous phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and can help prevent a variety of illnesses. Despite the benefits, some experts recommend that people with thyroid problems should stay away from kale, or speak to their doctors before adding the dark leafy green to their diets. This is because kale contains a type of anti-nutrient called glucosinolate, which can inhibit the absorption of iodine by the thyroid gland. But Dr Heng assures us that this is unlikely to be a problem unless you consume an unusually large amount of kale. Furthermore, glucosinolates can be degraded by heat, so eating kale cooked instead of raw will help resolve this problem. Kale does, however, contain raffinose, which can cause bloating and gas problems for those with sensitive digestive systems. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out kale completely from your diet though - you just have to avoid overdoing it.
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