TEACHER, The Tradition Bearer

Summary: ‘Nattuva Thilagam’ Indira Manikam and her sister Kamalaa Ramachandran belongs to a traditional family of Carnatic musicians and vocalists. She was born in Kuala Lumpur on 12 July 1951 to her father Govindaraju and mother Amaravathi.

At a very young age, the sisters were sent away to learn and master Barathanatyam, Carnatic music and Nattuvangam at the Pichaiya Pillai Bharatha Natya Vidyalaya in Tanjavur, South India, under the guidance of their guru, Srimathi Duraiammal. Their guru belonged to the lineage of the famed Tanjore Quartette, connoisseurs of the Tanjore style of Barathanatyam, known for its fluid and graceful footwork and facial expressions.

Upon graduating, the sisters returned to Malaysia and established Tanjai Kamala Indira Dance School (TKI), one of Malaysia’s longest-running dance academies, in 1966. The formative years of TKI weren’t easy; they hardened Indira in many ways. She met with the harsh realities of life, more glaringly the undesirable perception towards the divine classical dance form that she worships.

Indira Manikam has mastered Bharatanatyam and has dedicated her entire life to teaching the oldest classical dance tradition that originated almost 3,000 years ago in Tamil Nadu, India. In the ancient years, the spiritual dance Bharatanatyam was performed for deities within the sacred walls of the temples. But, when the British rulers annexed the Tanjore crown in 1856, the cultural patronage in Thanjavur officially collapsed. The Christian missionaries and British officials launched the anti-dance movement in 1892 and dishonoured the practice, ending the livelihood of the dance practitioners and performers. Many Devadasis took to prostitution, and Bharatanatyam fell into disrepute. Instead of protecting, some temple institutions even started exploiting the dancers.

However, in the early 20th century, renowned revivalists joined hands to reclaim the classical art form and gave it the lifeline that it has today. Like her forebears, dancer, and teacher, Indira Manikam has vowed to dance through the barriers, break the stereotype, dismantle old beliefs, and eventually elevate the classical dance’s stature among the traditional and new generation Malaysian Indian diaspora.

TEACHER, The Tradition Bearer intimately documents Bharatanatyam pioneer Indira Manikam’s role as a tradition bearer, one who kept this sacred dance form alive, vibrant and relevant, in all its splendid weightiness and dramatic vocabulary, for the past 55 years in Malaysia.

Through the lens of the legendary dance teacher, this documentary captures her journey, explores the power of art, and womanhood through various shades and vignettes that represent dance as she reflects on how she came to be the tradition bearer she is.

Producer: Maran Perianen
Director/Editor: Indrani Kopal
Director of Photography: Senthilkumaran Muniandy & Navin Perianen
Sound Design & Mixing: Jeson Gnanapnegasam & Soundniverse Studio
Music: Tanjai Kamalaa Indira Dance School’s Orchestra
Running Time: 58-minute
Country Malaysia:


AFT Interviews: Dr. James Muecke AM Australian of the Year 2020 wants to put diabetes in remission

Listen to the full interview on The Kurang Manis Podcast, Season 1, Episode 7

Type 2 Diabetes could be put into remission, says opthalmologist Dr. James Muecke AM. Almost as soon as he was named Australian of the Year 2020, Dr. Muecke started advocating for the implementation of a tax on sugary drinks in an effort to save more eyes. Dr. Muecke speaks to about his proposed change to Australia’s dietary guidelines, he expresses why there’s a need for government to impose a sugar tax and talks about his work in raising awareness about diabetes – a lifestyle disease that could lead to the loss of sight.

Dr. James Muecke with his team in Vietnam. Photo credit: Sight For All foundation

He began his career in Kenya, then returned to South Australia to become an eye surgeon and blindness prevention pioneer, starting both Vision Myanmar at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology in 2000, and Sight For All, an organisation which uses Australian and New Zealand eye specialists to train overseas doctors, a social impact organisation “aiming to create a world where everyone can see”.

Has sugar blinded our reasoning?

A few months ago, we featured a story about a patient of Dr. Muecke’s who woke up one morning Blinded by Sugar. Neil Hansel is sadly a victim of the debilitating disease which has not only taken his eyesight, but also his limbs.

In his address at the National Press Club in Canberra last year, Dr. James Muecke gave an immensely moving account about having had to remove a patient’s eye. He wanted to be an eye surgeon to give the gift of sight and not to take it away from someone, especially when someone has been needlessly blinded by an avoidable, man-made Type 2 Diabetes he said.

Sugar toxicity can be solved

Humans were for the first time in history “overfed and undernourished” with sugar and refined carbohydrates, he affirmed. We met with Dr. Muecke in person at a studio in Sydney this March 2021, one square year after the Australian border closures and he summed up our conversation to this, “When the mother is pregnant with the baby and if she’s consuming a diet high in sugar, that sugar crosses the placental barrier to the foetus but insulin doesn’t cross, so you’re already metabolically priming the child for health problems in the future. So gestational diabetes is a big big problem so people should be aware of that, that it be picked up early in pregnancy and wind right back on your consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates,”.

Dr. Muecke spoke to us at length about a strategy he came up with, which he calls the 5As of sugar toxicity.

  • Addiction
  • Alleviation
  • Accessibility
  • Addition
  • Advertising

It’s so hard to kick the habit. If you’ve ever tried to detox from sugar, it’s quite an unpleasant process. And even if you’re able to succesfully do it, everywhere you go, all the foods you eat, you’re just bombarded with sugar, so it makes it very difficult. So having a tax on sugary drinks, we know that it’s been shown to reduce purchase and consumption in 17 countries with Mexico being one of them.

Let’s say in Australia, we put a 20% levy on sugary drinks, that would raise about A$600million which could then be used to fund health awareness initiatives and about 77% of Australians agree with this in principle,” added Muecke, giving light into his call for a sugar tax.

Back home in Adelaide, Dr. Muecke continues his advocacy work in awareness building and has called for a crackdown on sugar in drinks and processed foods, also a change in Australia’s dietary guidelines.

He spoke about how diabetes, one of leading causes of blindness among Australian adults could be sent into remission. Diabetes is a metabolic disease, caused by the over-consumption of sugar, refined carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods which are cheap and accessible. He mentioned the dangers of seed oils, and that we should be aware of the types of oils we’re consuming daily.

Australia’s dietary guidelines was last updated in 2013 and in a Facebook post, Muecke suggests a certain biasness that 80% of the recommended foods were plant-based. He came up with this proposed diamond (see diagram below), shifting sugar and heavily processed & grain fed meats to the opposite tips of the healthy eating diamond.

A 7News report quoted Dr. Muecke saying, there were three successful ways to place type-two diabetes in remission – low calorie diets, low carbohydrate diets or bariatric surgery. Of these, he said the low-carbohydrate diet was the easiest solution. also attended a webinar in November 2020, organised by the Australian Society of Opthalmologists. In that webinar, Dr. Muecke shared an imagery about glucose metabolism likening it to a packed train at peak hour. When too much glucose is ingested, insulin level rises and tries to push glucose into the blood stream, but it’s rejected. It’s then stored as glycogen instead in the liver, giving rise to fatty liver. Fructose – when taken up by the liver, almost a third of it is converted to fat so fructose is far more toxic than glucose! 

Dynamic duo

Dr. James Muecke was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012, then in 2015 he was EY’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Australia, and in 2019 received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Adelaide. It was the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, that Dr. Muecke was named Australian of the Year for 2020 and appropriately so, considering he is not going to be silent anymore and will be carrying the torch to highlight the fact that non-communicable lifestyle diseases like diabetes can be put into remission, and one of the ways to achieve that is to intervene with awareness first, followed by a change in lifestyle and importantly, diet. Partnering Dr. Muecke in advocacy and stewardship of the non-profit work is spouse Mena Muecke OAM, who also plays a vital role in the marketing and publicity of Sight For All and is a co-founder of the Vision 1000 social investment initiative. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2018. The Mueckes run private consultancy,

Follow Dr. Muecke on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or LinkedIn

The podcast also features:

Dr. YokeLi Ling

In this 7th episode of Season 1 of The Kurang Manis (Sugar, Less) Podcast, we also speak with Dr YokeLi Ling, based in Kuala Lumpur who is passionately advocating Sleep and Airway Centric Dentistry and Oral Myofunctional Therapy. Dr. Ling shares more details in the 8th episode of the podcast (click here) with co-hosts Nikki Yeo and Jasmine Low. 

Mia Palencia

Our tradition continues where we introduce music from this region and we’ve chosen a song titled SUPERMAN by Tassie-based Mia Palencia who launched her career in Malaysia at the age of 14 as the other half of Sabahan jazz duo Double Take. The song reflects the advocacy work that’s being undertaken by Dr. James Muecke AM – Australia’s SUPERMAN. Mia composed, produced and performed the opening night theme song for the Southeast Asian Games 2017, and continues her PhD research in Songwriting at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Tasmania and released her 7th album with her Australian jazz quartet, In Good Company. Visit

Available wherever you get your podcasts:

Public advocacy

We welcome messages from our listeners, and invite you to send us a voice message if you have comments or feedback for our guests.

Feel free to share and repost these visuals via your social media pages or messages. Thank you.

Now streaming – Dr. James Muecke AM, Australian of the Year 2020 wants to put diabetes in remission. Listen to the podcast on or wherever you get your podcast: “The Kurang Manis (Sugar, Less) Podcast”
Now streaming – Dr. James Muecke AM, Australian of the Year 2020 wants to put diabetes in remission. Listen to the podcast on or wherever you get your podcast: “The Kurang Manis (Sugar, Less) Podcast”
Now streaming – Dr. James Muecke AM, Australian of the Year 2020 wants to put diabetes in remission. Listen to the podcast on or wherever you get your podcast: “The Kurang Manis (Sugar, Less) Podcast”

More opinion pieces by Dr. James Muecke AM:

Republish this: Interviews: Dr. James Muecke AM Australian of the Year 2020 wants to put diabetes in remission is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Source:

Wake-up call! Diabetes affects 12% adults in Guam

AFTNN — Reporter Sabrina Salas Matanane of Health Check, a program by KUAM News Extra in Guam presents the Guam Diabetes Control Coalition (GDCC) webinar with opening remarks from Dr. Keith Horinouchi, Chairperson of the GDCC.

The Diabetes Alert Day virtual conference on March 23rd also featured a presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Ann Pobutsky, PhD Territorial Epidemiologist / Department of Public Health and Social Services. Her research background includes chronic disease epimediology, social epimediology and community health needs assessment.

Dr. Pobutsky shared that data shows that Type 2 Diabetes or Insulin Resistance was in direct correlation with COVID-19 mortality, where the vast majority of COVID-19 cases on Guam (65.3%) were among those under age 45. The opposite is true of COVID-19 related deaths where 88% of the cases were among those older than 45 years. She highlights the following findings:

  • Three fourths of the COVID-19 related deaths were among those aged 55 years and above.
  • Diabetes was more common at older ages.
  • People with diabetes are also likely to have cardiovascular disease co-morbidities since diabetes interferes with the circulatory system.
  • There is a consistent pattern among Guam COVID-19 deaths from March 2020 to February 2021, whereby those with diagnosis of diabetes constitute about one-half of cases (49.6% – 56.3%).

What’s needed to move forward?

  • Establishment of a Diabetes Registry although this may not be feasible.
  • Continued health education on diabetes prevention, and management of diabetes mainly dietary changes to stem obesity.
  • Change the physical environment to make exercise more accessible.

More details of Dr. Pobutsky’s presentation can be seen in the video below.

The good thing that’s come out of working from home is that people are cooking more at home, planting their own bananas, green beans and sharing with others, bicycles are out of stock, people are walking outdoors with their kids and it’s an amazing change, commented Honorable Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Maga ‘hagan Guahan.

“Diabetes as we all know cause major problems like being blind, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, lower limb amputations and other ailments. The tragedy of all this is that diabetes can be prevented. A healthy diet, physical activity, avoiding tobacco, these actions can delay or even prevent Type 2 Diabetes. As a nurse, I know full well what diabetes can do to a person, and the toll it can take on a family if treatment is prolonged,”.

Honorable Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Maga ‘hagan Guahan.

The GDCC coalition has a mission to educate the community on healthy lifestyles, expansion of aquaculture and agriculture industries with a focus on children’s nutrition with local foods. They will be working closely with Guam Department of Education and establishing a school healthcare initiative with school health councillors. Outreach programs will identify families who are at high risk and under utilising health care and inviting them to the community health centres to benefit from the programs, said Honorable Joshua Tenorio, Segundo na Maga’lahen Guahan – Lt. Governor of Guam.

A message was read from the Office of the Speaker of the 36th Legislature and Chairperson for the Committee on Health, Land, Justice and Culture, Senator Therese M. Terlaje who shared these key points, “…we have been hearing that Guam’s diabetes rates have been at epidemic proportions for many years now and as far back as 2010, the Pacific Islands health officers association has declared a regional state of health emergency due to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the United States Affiliated Pacific Islands USAPI which included American Samoa, Guam, The Republic of Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, The Republic of Palau and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island…”

Her address was followed by a message from Arthur San Agustin, Director / Department of Public Health and Social Services, who shared a message from a personal angle as both his parents had diabetes and passed away from complications of diabetes – “It really is a lifestyle change”.

The full ADA Diabetes Alert Day Presentation sponsored by the Guam Diabetes Control Coalition is featured in full below:

Podcast Kurang Manis (BM)

Versi Bahasa Inggeris mempersembahkan Podcast Kurang Manis, sebuah rancangan bicarawara mengenai sukan, kecergasan dan kesejahteraan bersama personaliti dari Asia dan Pasifik (Bahasa Malaysia/Inggeris).

Sebuah dokumentari, “berinspirasi dari zaman Redifussion”, kedua hos Nikki Yeo dan Jasmine Low berbual bersama dengan atlet, doktor perubatan, pakar kesihatan dan kecergasan sedunia. Mereka bersembang dengan oleh personaliti dari pelbagai lapisan masyarakat dari Kuala Lumpur, Sydney dan dari seluruh dunia tentang pengalaman hidup dan berkongsi maklumat kesihatan yang disokong oleh penyelidikan saintifik. Jom, teh tarik kurang manis satu! Kurang manis ya, bos!

KINI STREAMING di semua platform mulai 9 Februari 2021, 09:00 AM (+ GMT). Episod baru keluar setiap hari Selasa.

Dengar di sini


Musim 1

Episod 1 (9/2/21): Datuk Nicol David

Juara Squash No.1 Dunia, terpilih sebagai Atlet Terrunggul Sepanjang Zaman Sukan Dunia.

Baca Artikel Penuh

PERGERAKAN • SUKAN • Nicol David adalah juara skuasy No. 1 sedunia, warga Malaysia yang juga wanita Asia pertama yang menduduki tangga No. 1 dunia dalam sukan skuasy wanita. Pada 2 Februari 2021, dengan sejumlah 318,943 undi, dia dinobatkan sebagai Atlet Terunggul Sepanjang Zaman Sukan Dunia.

Datuk Nicol Ann David DB PJN DSPN KMN AMN (lahir pada 26 Ogos 1983) digelar sebagai pemain wanita No. 1 di dunia pada bulan Januari 1996 – status yang tidak pernah dipegang oleh wanita Asia sebelum ini. Dia memegang status itu selama 108 bulan berturut-turut! Nicol bertemu kami dalam talian dari pangkalan keduanya di Colombia dan kami berbicara tentang kesihatan mental dan bagaimana sukan membantu mempersiapkannya untuk menjadi kuat mental semasa wabak COVID-19. Dia teringat akan kampung halamannya di Pulau Pinang, ayahnya yang merupakan bekas atlet, makanan kegemarannya, kari ketam cili ibunya dan adik-beradiknya yang aktif ketika kecil. Nicol juga berkongsi mengenai Yayasannya yang ingin memperkasakan wanita muda. “Juara Skuasy Kesayangan Asia, Nicol David dinobatkan Atlet Terunggul Sepanjang Zaman Sukan Dunia” – baca lebih lanjut

Dengar bicarawara Nicol David secara LIVE bersama Jasmine Low, Nikki Yeo bersama saintis Dr. Desmond Menon dari Perth, Australia yang membawa soal kepada Nicol mengenai latihan atlet elit.

IRAMA • Edisi podcast ini juga memperkenalkan muzik dari penyanyi-penulis lagu dari rantau ini dan kami memperkenalkan Amrita Soon penulis lagu dan penyanyi muda yang mempunyai impian untuk mengunjungi Nashville, Tenneesee ketika dia bertemu Jasmine & Nikki, yang kemudian mengadakan kafe muzik dan acara mikrofon terbuka. Sejak itu dia telah mengeluarkan dua album dan tampil di Malaysia, China, Nashville dan bahkan menyanyi di Bluebird Cafe yang terkenal di A.S.!

Kami mempromosi irama & pergerakan sebagai terapi. Ketahui lebih lanjut mengenai pergerakan kecergasan Move8 di

Episode 2 (16/2/21): Dr. Desmond Menon

Saintis makmal perubatan bercakap mengenai Genetik dan adakah kita terdedah kepada penyakit ibu bapa kita – Artikel Temuduga Penuh | Dengarkan Semua Platforms | Bonus Spotify

SAINS | Dr. Desmond Menon berkongsi beberapa penemuannya dari kajian perubatan dan makmal mengenai gen dan bagaimana intervensi pemakanan dan kecergasan berkesan dalam membuat perubahan pada “keplastikan” dan prestasi badan. Dia juga menjadi subjek eksperimennya sendiri; dari pelari jarak jauh 69kg, dia bertukar dan membina badannya sendiri dengan 15% lemak pada 110kg. Saintis Makmal Perubatan yang berpengalaman dalam makmal akademik dan patologi klinikal, Dr. Desmond Menon adalah Pengasas R3Gen, sebuah syarikat penyelidikan makmal penyelidikan di Perth, Western Australia. Dia juga merupakan Ketua Pegawai Ilmiah MyGenica, sebuah syarikat ujian genetik kesihatan dan kesihatan yang berpusat di Singapura. Dalam Episode No. 2 “Podcast Kurang Manis” oleh Asia Fitness, Dr. Desmond Menon bercakap dengan hos Jasmine Low & Nikki Yeo. Termasuk dalam episod ini, adalah Q&A Dr. Desmond dengan Nicol David, Juara Squash No. 1 Dunia & Atlet Terrunggul Sepanjang Zaman Sukan Dunia. Baca wawancara penuh dengan Dr. Desmond Menon di sini:

IRAMA DI SPOTIFY Kami dengan senang hati memaparkan lagu yang ditulis oleh musisi Jazz hebat Singapura Jeremy Monteiro, yang didedikasikan untuk ibu saudaranya Lorna. Berjudul Lorna’s Kitchen, kami tahu bahawa kari Debal-nya memang sedapppp! Episod ini didedikasikan untuk Lorna – orang yang luar biasa yang karinya yang berapi-api penuh semangat.

Episod 3 (23/2/21): Dr. Pran Yoganathan

Pakar Gastroenterologi & Hepatologi, Sydney, Australia | IG: dr_pran_yoganathan

Episod 4 (2/3/21): Papi Zak

Pelawak standup, atlet gusti | IG: papizak | FB: papizak

Episod 5 (10/3/21): Jasmine Low

Filem Kurang Manis – Bagaimana semuanya bermula!

Pertandingan Script-to-Screen daripada Motion Picture Association Asia Pacific yang dianjurkan bersama Wildsnapper Films dan FINAS diadakan di Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia pada Februari 2019. Rakaman secara live ini merangkumi suara-suara Zabrina Fernandez, Wildsnapper Films (fasilitator) dan hakim pertandingan • U-Wei Haji Saari, pengarah filem • Stephen Jenner, VP Communications APAC Motion Picture Association • Jason Van Genderen, direktor filem kreatif.

Langgan buletin dan akses kandungan premium secara percuma, dapatikan akses awal ke temu ramah LIVE dan banyak lagi!

Misi kami di; MISI 2030 ingin mengurangkan penyakit tidak berjangkit (NCD) seperti diabetes, kanser, darah tinggi dan penyakit paru-paru di rantau Asia Pasifik. Adakah anda boleh berkongsi podcast ini di media sosial atau dengan orang yang anda kenal dan sayangi sehingga kami dapat mengabadikan riak kesedaran ini di masyarakat. Ia bermula dengan kita.


KURANG MANIS dianugerahkan hadiah istimewa di Bengkel Skrip-ke-Skrin Malaysia 2019 yang dianjurkan bersama oleh Motion Picture Association – Asia PasifikWildsnapper TV & FINAS bersama hakim, U-Wei Bin Haji SaariStephen Jenner & Jason van Genderen dan dibimbing oleh pengarah filem Tan Chui Mui. Sebuah produksi oleh, dihasilkan bersama oleh Jasmine Low & Nikki Yeo, pembimbing projek ini – penerbit filem Jules Ong, mentor kejuruteraan bunyi Werner Theunissen, jurutera teknikal Sydney Podcast Studios. Baca lebih lanjut mengenai projek filem KURANG MANIS di sini.

Podcast Kurang Manis dihasilkan dan dihoskan oleh Nikki Yeo di Kuala Lumpur & Jasmine Low di Sydney – dua orang biasa yang ingin menyebarkan kesedaran tentang kesihatan & kecergasan bermula dengan diri mereka sendiri.

Kurang manis, ya…

Can Low-FODMAP diets help patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is one of the most common gastro-intestinal disorders, affecting 10% -15% of the population worldwide. But what is IBS? 

IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine and involves a disturbance in the intestinal or bowel motor function and sensation. While the cause for IBS is not completely found, genetic disposition, infection especially in the intestine and traumatic life experiences that cause chronic stress are factors may play a role.

People with IBS have symptoms ranging from bloating to abdominal pain  It is usually triggered by diet, stress, changes in gut bacteria and poor sleep. The symptoms change over time. Sometimes it reduces or disappears and there may be periods where it flares up. Bowel movement will also vary accordingly.

The effect of diet on IBS varies from person to person. The food consumed might worsen the IBS in some people. Certain foods are known to stimulate gut reactions in general, and in those with IBS eating too much of these might worsen symptoms. That is why a research team in Monash University Australia developed the Low-FODMAP diet to help reduce symptoms of IBS. 

In Australia, the Low-FODMAP diet has been accepted as the primary strategy for managing IBS in patients. The Australian team found that a short-chain of carbohydrates called FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) caused problems for people with IBS. 

These carbohydrates are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and they quickly get fermented by the bacteria that is in the gut. These bacteria produce gas which is a major contributor to IBS symptoms. 

By reducing FODMAP in the diet of patients with IBS, studies found that there was improvement in gut health and a reduction in symptoms of IBS. The low FODMAP diet is flexible and can be tailored to meet an individual’s lifestyle and preferences. Following the low FODMAP approach does not cure IBS, but allows successful drug-free management of symptoms through diet in many patients.  

Monash University also has a Low FODMAP Diet app which provides users with easy access to recommended foods that should be eaten and those which should be avoided at every meal. The app is directly from the research team who developed FODMAP. The app also has an easy guide on which foods have high and low FODMAPs as well over 80 low-FODMAP recipes. 

It is important to know that the application  of a low-FODMAP diet requires expert guidance from a dietician or a nutritionist trained in IBS. Low-FODMAP diets involve restricting FODMAPs for 6 to 8 weeks and then slowly introducing small amounts of Low-FODMAPs. 

This diet is not a lifetime diet and the progress will be monitored by a dietician who will advise you on when and which foods need to be slowly introduced back into your diet. The Low-FODMAP diet is a process and not just a list of foods, therefore expert guidance is required throughout your journey.

This article has been researched, compiled and written by the team at Asia Fitness Today; Sneha Ramesh – Intern, Monash University (Sunway campus), Syuhada Adam – Editorial consultant, Nikki Yeo & Jasmine Low – Director/Producer.

Asia Fitness Today has embarked on MISSION 2030 — to halve NCD rates in the Asia Pacific region by 2030. If we could ask if you could please share this article on social media or with someone you know and care about so we can perpetuate this ripples of awareness in the community. It begins with a whisper, a drop in the ocean and slowly, change can happen. It begins with us. Learn more:


Cathy Freeman’s Golden Olympic moment preserved on synthetic DNA in high tech capsule to last thousands of years

On 25 September 2020, the famous white exterior sails of the Sydney Opera House became an enormous movie screen, showing footage of Australian Catherine Freeman’s 400-metre gold medal win on the very same day, 20 years ago at the Sydney Olympic Games 2000.

In 49.11 seconds, Freeman crossed the historical finish as the first Aboriginal athlete to win gold in an individual event at the Olympic Games. The cinematic event celebrated not only Freeman’s historic achievement but also its audiovisual preservation for future generations on an innovative, sustainable, long-term storage technology called “synthetic DNA”.

This has been made possible thanks to a partnership between the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage (OFCH) and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA). The synthetic DNA project is a world first, and Freeman’s 400-metre gold medal win is the first Australian video to be encoded. The master recording of the historic race has been stored by the OFCH in Switzerland on magnetic tape, a technology commonly used 20 years ago. It is part of the 6.6 petabytes (1 petabyte = 1 million gigabytes) of the IOC’s audiovisual archives, a massive volume that could nonetheless triple in another 10 years. Thanks to this collective effort between the OFCH and NFAS, the one-gigabyte digitised file of Freeman’s gold-winning race will now be kept on microscopic synthetic DNA in a vial the size of a AAA battery. This innovative, sustainable storage technology can be preserved for thousands of years without maintenance. “As the custodian of large digital collections, and with the growing amount of images produced at every Games edition – more than 7,000 hours are planned for Tokyo 2020 – plus the evolution towards 4k and 8k, data storage will soon become an issue for the IOC. We are therefore always looking for ways to improve technologies and test innovations,” said Yasmin Meichtry, Head of Heritage at the OFCH.

“Synthetic DNA storage is the avant-garde technology that could lead to cost efficiencies and more sustainable and environmentally responsible ways to increase the capacity of our data storage,” Meichtry continued. “We are thus thrilled to partner with the NFSA in experimenting with that ground-breaking scientific knowledge, using one of our emblematic Olympic moments.” NFSA Chief Executive Officer Jan Müller said, “Catherine Freeman’s triumph at Sydney 2000 was a key moment in Australian sporting history. It brought Australians of all ages and backgrounds together in celebration, and it was viewed by billions of people around the world. We see this moment as part of ‘Australia’s DNA’, ideal to be preserved in actual DNA and become Australia’s first usage of this new technology.”

Source: PRNewsGIG/IOC
Video Courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

AFT Interviews: Malaysia’s “biggest” comedian Papi Zak: high uric acid got your tongue?

We captured some curious questions from Malaysia’s “biggest” standup comedian and debut wrestler, Papi Zak (, to Australia’s gastroenterologist and Instagram educator Dr. Pran Yoganathan (IG @dr_pran_yoganathan) – he spoke with us on Episode 3. Dr. Pran elaborates on the expensive tissue hypothesis (ETH) which relates brain and gut size in evolution (specifically in human evolution). Listen in to the trailer below for information on gout, uric acid on a high protein diet, our gut and metabolic health. 

The full episode of Ep. 4 with Papi Zak – listen below.

TV host & celebrity entertainer

Introducing Papi Zak, well known in the comedy circuit in Malaysia and the “biggest” Malaysia has to offer, states his website. For over 12 years, he’s written and performed material for his shows, and has fast established his quirky brand of humour and witty observations on the absurdities of every-day life. Zak was a former LiteFM and REDFM radio broadcaster and his comfortable presence in front of a camera has landed him screen work as the host of two television lifestyle programs – ‘The Halal Foodie’ and ‘Happy Endings’. Zak is currently the brand ambassador for Mr. Potato.

In doing our research on Papi Zak’s The Halal Foodie show, we found this bootleggish version translated and dubbed in Thai!

Papi Zak speaks to co-hosts Jasmine Low and Nikki Yeo in Episode 4 about his fitness journey – how he shed over 30kg from his 160kg stature, his childhood as a third culture kid, his mother’s amazing cooking, his new foray into wrestling and his quest to inspire others on the path towards fitness – just as he has. He also indulges us in his relationships… with food!

In this same episode, you’ll hear the voices of Dr. Pran Yoganathan, gastroenterologist featured in Ep. 3 and Dr. Desmond Menon, medical lab scientist from Ep. 2. Papi poses some curious questions Dr. Pran and together, we learn about gout, gut health, satiety, cholesterol levels and gout.

In the tradition of’s methods of using rhythm and movement as therapy, we introduce a comedy skit by Papi Zak at a TimeOut Kuala Lumpur show to seal off the episode. Tune in to the podcast to listen now.

Learn more about The Kurang Manis Podcast, click here:

AFT Interviews: Dr. Pran Yoganathan Gastroenterologist and passionate educator uses IG memes to drive understanding on satiety

Gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in Sydney, Dr. Pran Yoganathan is an extremely passionate educator, a Mathematician-turned doctor who aims to empower his patients with data that can help them on a journey of self-healing using the philosophy of “let food be thy medicine”.

Dr. Pran who has innovatively harnessed creative technology and 14,400 followers on Instagram @dr_pran_yoganathan, stresses that his educational memes are not medical advice or recommendations, simply his opinions — and rather strong science-backed opinions they are too!

In the podcast interview, Dr. Pran speaks about his diet of choice, which comprises predominantly of grass-fed steak and eggs and why that has raised eyebrows and temperatures not just in the oven, but in conversation with peers as well. We ask him about butyrate and got him all fired up and excited! Now, are WE ready to absorb the fact that we’re meant to burn fat for energy and not glycogen? Let’s save that for perhaps another conversation. 

Joining co-hosts Jasmine Low and Nikki Yeo in this same episode are Dr. Desmond Menon, medical lab scientist featured in Ep. 2 Do Our Genes Predispose us to Diseases of our Parents and Malaysia’s “biggest” stand-up comedian Papi Zak who’s in training to be a wrestler.

Together, we pose our numerous curious questions to Dr. Pran and have a content-packed conversation that’s science-based yet entertaining and revealing at the same time! Dr. Pran’s message is to “eat a diet that is not rubbish, move your body”, and he shares science in between some of his Instagram posts.

We ask him why he got into gastroenterology, his inspiration behind the Hippocrates’ philosophy “let food be thy medicine” and his personal dietary habits.

On the table, we discuss hunter gatherer societies in our modern world where Dr. Pran shares about the Hazda ethnic group from Tanzania and how they forage for food today.

Dr. Pran sheds some light on high fibre diets – a push by the standard Western Diet and how excess fibre can slow down gut motility, cause reflux and bloating and fundamentally IBS.

“If you’re going to deal with fibre, you need the machinery. That is why you see our primate cousins, like the chimps and gorillas tend to have a thick hind gut, a very big belly, that’s not visceral fat, it’s simply machinery to deal with rough fibrous tissue. That’s not my theory, that is a scientific fact and it’s called the expensive tissue hypothesis. It’s what makes us special in terms of our species; our brains grew in response to a shrinking gut.

Dr. Pran Yoganathan, gastroenterologist

Incidentally, on a side track, if you’re interested to deep dive into the Expensitve Tissue Hypothesis by American paleoanthropologist and professor emeritus of the University College London Leslie Crum Aiello – click here. She co-authored the textbook, “An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy”, which uses the fossil record to predict the ways early hominids moved, ate, and looked. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed these bite-sized pieces of information. Keep reading below for more about Dr. Pran’s credentials and to listen to the full podcast.

Click to view Dr. Pran’s posts on Instagram

More about Dr. Pran Yoganathan

Graduating from medicine from the University of Otago in New Zealand, Dr. Pran is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physician (FRACP) and a member of Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA). He has accredited expertise in Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and Colonoscopy as certified by the Conjoint Committee for the recognition of training in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Working across the public and private sectors in Greater Sydney, Dr. Pran has a strong interest in the field of human nutrition. He practices an approach to healthcare that assesses the lifestyle of the patient to see how it impacts on their gastrointestinal and metabolic health. Dr. Pran believes that the current day nutritional guidelines may not be based on perfect evidence and he passionately strives to provide the most up to date literature in healthcare and science to provide “Evidence-Based Medicine”. 

Dr. Pran has a special interest in conditions such as Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GORD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and abdominal bloating. He takes a very thorough approach to resolve these issues using dietary manipulation In conjunction with an accredited highly qualified dietician rather than resort to long-term medications.

Ready to digest the podcast episode with Dr. Pran? Listen here:

In this BONUS edition for Spotify Listeners only – In the tradition of’s methods of using rhythm and movement as therapy, we introduce a song to seal off this episode. We have selected a mash-up song made popular by Yohani De Silva – a Sri Lankan singer songwriter and rapper, a social media star herself. Yohani did her Masters in Accounting at a Queensland university.

AFT Interviews: Dr. Desmond Menon on genes & if we’re predisposed to diseases of our parents

Team speaks with medical lab scientist and founder of R3Gen Dr. Desmond Menon based in Perth, Western Australia. Dr. Menon consults on medical and sports medicine projects, but what’s most interesting was his early days as a researcher, where he was his own experiment. Growing up as a kid with asthma, Dr. Menon looked to science to get himself fit and healthy after a string of allergic reactions to prescribed medications. Today, he supports a number of University-based sports medicine projects, one of which looks at the effects of the menstrual cycle on the performance of elite female cyclists.’s The Kurang Manis Podcast co-hosts Jasmine Low and Nikki Yeo met Desmond at The Fit Summit in 2019, and have been keeping in touch about DNA testing methods, genetics and our predisposition to diseases our parents had/have.

We asked Desmond to explain what his job entails, and he shared that his work in Medical Laboratory Science is an area specialising in ensuring that the appropriate biomarkers are collected and analysed the correct way to ensure that the results obtained are valid and provide accuracy. Nowadays, most medical/sports science projects, especially multidisciplinary projects have very complex agendas and hope to investigate multiple variables within the study. When there is blood work involved, often there is not enough understanding within the team or enough funding within the project to thoroughly consider the requirements to ensure that appropriate markers are taken and measured at the appropriate timeframe in an appropriate protocol to ensure validity of the results obtained from the analyses.

I have seen projects where the principal investigator was essentially experimenting with varying centrifuging speeds to find out what would provide him with a ‘good sample’ to analyse for blood markers studied within his study.

There are procedures already established in medical laboratory science, such as the rotational speed and gravitational force required, depending on the analyte to be measured, when centrifuging blood collection tubes.

Additionally, when blood is collected for storage as well, there are variables that will also need to be considered to ensure the integrity of the sample is maintained throughout the storage period and how it is treated to ensure that results obtained from analyses thereafter are still valid.

In some studies, samples require immediate analyses as the results dictate the following steps for the participant within the project. 

What I do at R3Gen, is to help to meet these requirements by ensuring that samples are analysed ‘STAT’ to accommodate the project protocols, organising the process from pre-analytical blood collection, all the way to post-analytical result provision and sample storage if required for future analyses, cost effectively.

What this does for projects is to help investigators dedicate their focus and time on the actual project instead, and freeing up their limited resource to ensure the proposed intent of the project is not short-changed.

As the work of a Medical Lab Scientist can get technical with jargons, we asked him more questions from a ‘layman’ to gain more understanding into his work. This is what we discovered…

Understanding genetics and lifestyle

AFT: Can a couch potato be transformed, coached and guided into the fastest runner on the track and field?

DM: The intervention. As an experiment, one has a protocol requiring them to lay on the couch, eat whatever they want and be as sedentary as possible. The other has a protocol requiring them to have a regimented diet and planned intense activity during their day. Each therefore, as a result of their interventions, encourage very different genetic expressions to meet the demand set out.

It’s not that complicated if we wanted to encourage a positive/healthy change. It’s a issue of mind over matter, and thereafter, it’s really an endurance race to see how long you can keep your new intervention going.

Maximising performance is ultimately about a body’s propensity to enhancing its plasticity. With training, plasticity is attained. Looking at it simply, it’s about effecting an underlying lifestyle change.

Understanding your body’s physical baseline

AFT: So what you mean is we are able to increase and improve our baseline with the correct training and interventions in lifestyle and diet?

DM: Interventions – from a scientific perspective, it’s an intervention. For an everyday person, it’s a lifestyle habit. 

There was a study done on 70,000 nurses who were in the 40-65 years age range. They were selected to participate in a Nurses Health Study. They found that there was a huge correlation between chronic diseases and their movement patterns, there was a direct link on those who moved more and those who didn’t. 

AFT: Do our genes alone predispose us to a particular health condition? 

DM: Looking over a broad time frame, the Centre for Disease Control USA (CDC) reports that genes do not predispose us to the health condition. Therefore, while our genes provide us with a blue-print, a lot of what is expressed from our genes is actually quite plastic and is a reflection of the intervention that we provide.

AFT: In a recent conversation, we discussed habit and culture at home. Our health is not merely a physiological or gene makeup, it’s very much a cultural and habitual makeup too. Imagine a child growing up at home where his father imposes his eating beliefs, lifes and dislikes upon his child. It’s what the father brings home, what he eats, or snacks that the child will learn and adopt.

DM: Here’s some information I have found to be interesting. Grandparents have a big part to play in the grandchild, especially from the maternal side. Here’s the explanation from a physiological side. If a female child, whatever a grandmother goes through in her life, has an impact on her genetic expression (that’s her lifestyle intervention). These expressions invariably have an effect on her eggs she is carrying. If one of those eggs contribute to a conception of a female child, during the development of that fetus, the eggs in the fetus also start to develop 8 to 20 weeks after it has started to grow. As such, whatever the grandmother is exposed to in her lifestyle in essence has an impact on her future child, and that of her grandchild. 

AFT: Tell us a little about the types of fitness interventions.

DM: Exercise movements can basically be split up into different modalities. Concentric moves for example a flex going up stairs or eccentric moves for example a controlled extension like when you’re going down stairs. These are antagonistic moves and give an idea how your muscles work.

It requires a certain amount of energy or resource from our bodies when applied. How much exactly we don’t know, but if we understood that, we could then prescribe it better. They found that participants going down the stairs had a more significant benefit seen in their health markers – insulin sensitivity increased, bone density increased and cholesterol decreased. 

It provides some insight into how exercise could be prescriptive. So by understanding this kind of exercise, one could then prescribe more efficient options to patients.

AFT: Hypothetically, can we transform a couch potato into the fastest man on the planet? Imagine Usain Bolt or Nicol David, an athlete whose body is so efficient, and if we turn them into a couch potato with bad habits, what would then happen? Desmond suspects that scientific evidence suggest that we can definitely provide an intervention to transform the couch potato participant into something closer to an Usain Bolt.

DM: An elite swimmer expands less energy to swim across the pool as his body is fine tuned to it as compared to a less than healthy individual.

GLUTS 4 gene, expressed based on lifestyle

DM: GLUTS 4 gene is considered one example of a lifestyle gene. It’s expression is altered by the level of muscle contraction. Failure to be active enough, could lead to the body being predisposed to diabetes by storing a lot of insulin. 

In the video above, I shared a photo from my school days – I was an avid distance runner weighing in at only 69kg in my competition weight. I injured my knee (torn ACL and partial torn meniscus) in the army, and had to change sport. I got addicted to lifting weights in the gym as a result of seeing gains from physiotherapy on my legs post knee surgery. I had to undergo surgery to reconstruct my ACL. In that short amount of time that I was off my feet or on crutches, the loss of quad muscle was very visible. It is almost like an intervention experiment on myself, where the intervention here is the removal of as much muscle activity in my left quad over that period. It was shocking to see how fast your body decides to remove that musculature as a form of conservation of energy and resource. 

After a few years of weight lifting, I managed to weigh in at 110KG with 12% body fat. While Dr. Desmond considered it an improvement, his mom’s was of the opinion that he had ruined her good work by looking “buff” like that. What it was for him, was a science experiment. He diligently weighed what he ate and how he trained to better understand the correlation between the intervention and the epigenetic expression.

Coming from an active family, Dr. Desmond’s mother was a runner for the state of Perak, Malaysia. His maternal great grandmother lived up to 100 and his maternal grandmother will be turning 100 soon. It seems health & fitness is a natural state of being for his family.

At one point, he collected data of his own blood work to determine the impact of his training and diet on his health markers and was able to see how his body was responding to what he was doing. It took a good number of years, but progressively trained the body to accept 8 meals a day from 3 to 4 meals before, while still maintaining an average 12% body fat. (At that point he was eating 8 meals a day like a gym fanatic. Also knew what he was doing with exercise.) In pathology, he learnt about the association between high CK and CK-MB (proteins present in heart muscle, also in skeletal muscles) with cardiovascular episodes. He found that the intense gym training produced abnormally high levels of CK and CKMB in his blood that looked like he was having small little cardiac episodes, but were actually attributed to the high amount of skeletal muscle tearing (hypertrophy) from his intense gym sessions. 

AFT: How do we then measure a person’s baseline, or maximum exercise intervention before the body shows a high or overly high CK/CKMD level. Is there a sweet spot between exercise and too much exercise? 

DM: Essentially, we need to understand that our baseline changes according to our lifestyle (intervention protocols).

In many professional athletes, part of their routine is having blood test done to identify how well their body is coping with their interventions and ensure that their body is showing signs of being in optimum performance. There are a whole barrage of markers that can be capitalised on if need be. For the everday athlete, perhaps these are not necessary or available but there are more basic markers readily available that can be capitalised on by anyone concerned about their health to ensure that their body is performing well to their lifestyle interventions. When monitored over time, these can provide a good indication over time of how we’re coping.

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Special Bonus Edition on Spotify Only features “Lorna’s Kitchen” by Singapore’s Jazz Great, Jeremy Monteiro

We are pleased to feature a song written by Singapore’s great Jazz muso Jeremy Monteiro, dedicated to his aunt Lorna. Titled Lorna’s Kitchen, we know for a fact that her Debal curry is divine. This episode is dedicated to Lorna – an amazing person whose fiery curry speaks volumes for her passion for life. We love you, Lorna!

This interview was recorded live with special guests in the panel:

  • Datuk Nicol David, World No. 1 Squash Champion, voted The World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time
  • Dr. Pran Yoganathan, Gastroenterologist & hepatologist
  • Papi Zak, Standup comedian

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Chinese New Year – Nian

AFT TV selects this Chinese New Year story, Nian – a legend reimagined as a contemporary coming-of-age story. Shot on an iPhone 12 Pro Max, this short film was directed by Lulu Wang and created by the team behind the Golden Globe nominated film, The Farewell which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2019, with the original score by Alex Weston.

The making of…

This heart warming story by award-winning producer/director – Lulu Wang reminds us of the reunion dinner to welcome in the Chinese Lunar New Year. 2021 welcomes the Year of the Ox.

We’ve also selected another heartwarming film surrouding reunion dinners. This one’s from Singapore, it’s short and sweet.

Where will you be this Lunar New Year? Share your story by emailing us at