Do you struggle with unwanted belly fat? Not getting enough sleep may be the culprit, a recent study suggests. Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study found that insufficient sleep increases calorie consumption and fat accumulation, leading to unhealthy fat deposition inside the belly. In the study, getting 4 hours of sleep per night led to a 9% increase in total abdominal fat area and an 11% increase in abdominal visceral fat. This type of fat is deposited deep inside the abdomen around internal organs and is linked to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
“Our findings show that shortened sleep- even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects- is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly,” says Dr. Virend Somers, the study’s principal investigator. “Normally, fat is deposited under the skin, but inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment. Importantly, although during recovery sleep there was a decrease in calorie intake and weight, visceral fat continued to increase. This suggests that inadequate sleep is a previously unrecognised trigger for visceral fat deposition, and that catch-up sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse the visceral fat accumulation.”
Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Click here to learn about possible causes of insomnia and simple ways to promote better sleep.
Sleeping your 8 hours a night and living an active, healthy lifestyle- but still struggling to lose weight? Click here to learn about 5 hidden causes that may be preventing you from losing weight.
The 2022 Dirty Dozen™ List is out! Here are the foods that contain the most pesticide residues:
Kale, collard & mustard greens
Bell and hot peppers
The list is released each year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization which uses more than 40,000 produce samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization which uses more than 40,000 produce samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If your favourite fruit or vegetable is on the list, consider buying organic. Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have shown that switching to an organic diet can decrease concentrations and measurements of pesticides in the body.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT PESTICIDES?
Childhood cancer, brain disorders such as ADHD/ autism/ dyslexia and infertility have all been linked to pesticide exposure. The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture insist that pesticides on produce are nothing to worry about, but doctors and scientists strongly disagree.
Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard and lead author of a 2014 study linking synthetic chemicals to brain disorders, is concerned because even ordinary (undiagnosed) children are often affected. In the study, he found that certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays. “The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis… They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.”
“Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in Covid patients
An Oxford University study published in the journal Nature yesterday (March 7th) found that COVID-19 can cause the brain to shrink, reduce grey matter in the regions that control emotion and memory as well as damage areas that control the sense of smell. These brain changes, detected months after infection, included shrinkage in size equivalent to as much as 10 years of normal aging.
“There is strong evidence for brain-related abnormalities in COVID-19,” the researchers concluded in their study. Even in mild cases, participants in the research showed “a worsening of executive function” responsible for focus and organising. The study investigated brain changes in 785 UK Biobank participants aged 51 to 81 who were imaged twice. 401 cases tested positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2 between their two scans, with 141 days on average separating their diagnosis and second scan. There were 384 controls. The brain imaging not only showed a shrinkage in brain size in infected participants, but the infected participants also showed larger cognitive decline. On average, brain sizes shrank between 0.2% and 2%. A 2% reduction represents around 10 years of aging.
What researchers have discovered about Long Covid
On a separate note, dozens of studies on Long Covid have been published in recent months. In Long Covid patients, researchers have found evidence of sustained inflammation and activation of the immune response months after initial infection. Research to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in April 2022 suggests that damage to the vagus nerve (which extends from the brain down the torso and is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as vasomotor activity, and certain reflex actions, such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting) is behind many Long Covid symptoms. After studying almost 350 patients with Long Covid, the researchers found that 66% had symptoms indicative of vagus nerve damage, including abnormal heart rate, dizziness, and gastrointestinal problems.
Other studies argue that tiny “microclots” in the blood may cause many Long Covid symptoms by preventing oxygen from reaching the body’s tissues. Intolerance to exercise, experienced by Long Covid sufferers, may be related to poor oxygen delivery.
Other researchers believe that remnants of the COVID-19 virus may linger in the body, potentially causing lasting symptoms. It is also possible that, for some people, COVID-19 pushes the immune system into a hyperactive state, essentially causing it to attack itself.
Researchers have, so far, found 4 key risk factors associated with developing Long Covid:
a type 2 diabetes diagnosis
genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the blood
evidence of Epstein-Barr virus in the blood
the presence of autoantibodies- molecules that attack the body’s own tissues, instead of foreign pathogens like a virus
Experts now believe Long Covid is part of a much wider network of chronic diseases. It seems to overlap significantly with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a condition that can manifest after viral illnesses and leads to debilitating exhaustion. Some experts believe that some people with Long Covid meet the diagnostic criteria of ME/ CFS.
Is there anything we can do to prevent severe infection or Long Covid?
Gut health is key. More than two thirds of immune cells in the human body reside in our gut. Our gut microbiome directly impacts our immune system. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) found that that certain strains of bacteria (including Bifidobacterium adolescentis) were missing in the intestines of patients with Long Covid. CUHK has since developed a special microbiome immunity formula including those strains. A clinical study by CUHK showed that COVID-19 patients who received the microbiome immunity formula had complete symptom resolution, reduced proinflammatory markers, increased favorable gut bacteria and neutralizing antibody compared with subjects who did not take the formula.
Protect your lungs and brain. Studies show that NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) can boost the immune system, break up mucus (so the body can cough it up easily) and reduce inflammation. Safe and well tolerated, NAC is a precursor to glutathione and regulates glutamate levels in the brain. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce brain cell oxidative damage, while the neurotransmitter glutamate is involved in a broad range of learning, behavior and memory functions. Serious COVID-19 patients have increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals, often presenting with glutathione depletion, which can prompt a cytokine storm. Studies in 2020 and 2021 found that NAC is a promising molecule that can help prevent severe COVID-19 infections as well as protect the lungs and brain. There are several ongoing clinical trials in progress determining the potential use of NAC in treating COVID-19 infections. The FDA is currently looking to ban the sale of NAC as a dietary supplement (and potentially sell it as a drug).
Prevent unnecessary inflammation/ Promote optimal inflammation response. An overexuberant immune response to COVID-19 can cause excessive inflammation in the lungs and other parts of the body. MIS (Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome) is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition associated with COVID in which various body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and/or gastrointestinal organs. MIS can affect children (MIS-C) and adults (MIS-A). Research has found that inflammation and cell damage can reach even the testicles in men. Long Covid patients are found to have sustained inflammation and activation of the immune response for at least 8 months after initial infection. If you suffer from Long Covid or dysregulated inflammation, talk to your healthcare practitioner on ways to lower unwanted inflammation naturally and to promote an optimal inflammation response.
“It’s the terrain!” Researchers have discovered that people with certain pre-existing conditions have a higher risk of developing Long Covid. How healthy our body (“terrain”) is will determine how well it will fight off Covid- and the next pathogen. Click here to read more on how to support your immune system. As part of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic guidance, the Scottish government has recommended that people start getting a daily dose of vitamin D. Click here to read the role of vitamin D in immune function.
To those in Hong Kong, stay safe and take care. We will get through this together.
No, cigar smoking isn’t safer than cigarette smoking- even if you don’t intentionally inhale the smoke. Cigars, like cigarettes, contain nicotine, the substance that can lead to tobacco dependence. Historically, cigar smoking has been a behaviour of older men, but the industry’s increased marketing of these products as symbols of a luxurious and successful lifestyle has increased the prevalence of cigar use, even among adolescents recently. Let’s take a closer look at cigars and how they affect your health.
A single full-size cigar can contain nearly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. A typical cigarette contains one to two milligrams of nicotine while a cigar contains 100 to 200 milligrams. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary. So you reach for another cigarette or cigar in order to get the same feeling, and soon, the craving or “need” for it will make smoking habitual.
Nicotine dependence/ addiction. Nicotine, found in tobacco products such as cigars and cigarettes, is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Nicotine dependence occurs when you need nicotine and can’t stop using it.
Heart Disease. Cigar smoking can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and a narrowing of the arteries. Nicotine can also contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, which in turn, may lead to a heart attack.
Cancer. All tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can cause cancer, and cigar smoke is no exception. Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus.
Lung Damage. Nicotine triggers an increase in free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) which causes oxidative stress and inflammation as well as damage to cell membranes and DNA. The more cigars you smoke or the deeper you inhale, the higher your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Oral disease. Cigar smoking has been linked to oral and dental disease, such as gum disease and tooth loss. Even if you don’t intentionally inhale, large amounts of nicotine can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
Secondhand smoke from cigars contains the same toxic chemicals that secondhand cigarette smoke does. This type of smoke increases the risk and severity of childhood asthma, ear infections, and upper and lower respiratory infections in children. It can also cause or contribute to lung cancer.
The American Cancer Society states that “there is no safe form of tobacco. Staying tobacco free is the best way to protect your health.” Smoking is the one of the most preventable causes of death. Instead of trying to choose between cigarette smoking and cigar smoking, try to quit tobacco entirely.
The Hong Kong Consumer Council revealed today that it had tested 49 different types of coffee products on the market and found the cancer-causing agent, acrylamide, in 47 samples. Instant coffee samples contained the highest.
The samples tested included instant coffee, coffee beans, capsules and powder.
Acrylamide is a genotoxic carcinogen and neurotoxic substance.* Prolonged exposure to high doses of acrylamide can increase the risk of cancer.
“Although the acrylamide content in coffee is relatively lower than fried foods, such as potato chips and French fries, consumers should pay attention to the amount and frequency of consumption when drinking coffee to reduce the intake of acrylamide,” said Nora Tam Fung-yee, chairwoman of the council’s research and testing committee.
The highest amount of acrylamide detected was Taster’s Choice (Nestle) Original Soluble Coffee, at 790 micrograms per kilogram. Only two products, OPAL Coffee’s Toraja Drip Coffee and The Coffee Academics’ TCA House Blend Specialty Coffee Capsules, did not contain any traces of the chemical.
*A genotoxic carcinogen causes cancer by damaging cellular DNA which results in mutations. A neurotoxic substance disrupts or even kills neurons, which are cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
Have you struggled with an unresolved health issue for months or years? Do certain symptoms or ailments keep coming back (e.g. recurrent warts, cold sores i.e. fever blisters, ovarian cysts, PMS/ pre-menstrual symptoms, infections, eczema, diarrhea/ loose stool, etc.)?
If so, it’s time to take a deeper look at the various factors that contribute to both health and disease. Finding a licensed healthcare practitioner who is trained to find the root causes of complex illnesses is key. Functional medicine practitioners such as licensed naturopathic doctors have specialized training to investigate multiple factors that may be causing a certain condition. Considering things such as diet, genetics, environment, hormonal imbalance, psycho-emotional state, stress and other lifestyle components, they work holistically and consider the full picture of your physical, mental and emotional health. They understand that what happens in one part of the body may affect the entire being. This is why functional medicine practitioners often solve complex and multifaceted health issues. But even if you don’t have a severe illness, you can still seek the help of a functional medicine practitioner to help you stay healthy and prevent illness. Here are the top reasons why people see a functional medicine practitioner:
You want to consider the full picture of your health (or disease). You want a trained healthcare practitioner to do a thorough investigation and treat the whole person, not just one aspect. You understand that you, as a being, are made up of different parts/components that are connected as a whole. Many people with “unexplained” conditions are disheartened when conventional lab tests come back “normal” and they are told that everything is OK. One example is unexplained fertility. If a successful pregnancy is only about an egg and sperm joining together, then IVF procedures should be 100% successful but in reality, IVF procedures are only 20% to 40% successful. Why is that? A fertilized egg is only one part of the whole picture. Click here to read about Dr. Yik’s natural fertility enhancement program.
You have a chronic illness or an unresolved health issue. You want a trained healthcare practitioner to investigate the causes of chronic disease using a variety of techniques (e.g. comprehensive lab testing like DNA/ genetic tests, hormonal tests, nutrition status tests, heavy metal tests, GI-map test, etc.), and not just treat the symptoms. Click here to read the case of disappearing eyebrows. Click here to read the case of bleeding through the skin (pores). Click here if you experience bloating or excessive gas/ burping after meals.
You want longer appointments with your doctor. Functional medicine practitioners spend more time with you because they want to know all the details of your health history. The more they know, the more likely they are able to put together the different pieces of your “disease” puzzle and solve it. Dr. Yik spends one hour with her patients in the initial consultation.
You want a personalized approach to healthcare. Each person is unique, and the reasons you’re unwell are unique, too. Dr. Yik can help guide and figure out which specific treatments are right for you.
You are open to alternative, integrative treatment. Treatments like nutraceuticals, herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, exercise and stress-reducing techniques may be prescribed to correct, rebalance and replenish your body.
If you’re in a relationship, your partner’s outlook can have a significant impact on how long and how well you live, according to a study by researchers at Michigan State University.
Optimism is typically defined as a general expectation that good things will happen, and being hopeful or confident about the future. Looking on the bright side is not only good for our own health and cognition, it’s good for our partners as well, says the study’s co-author, Dr. William Chopik.
The Journal of Personality study involved up to 8 years of data on more than 4,400 heterosexual couples and concluded “a potential link between being married to an optimistic person and preventing the onset of cognitive decline.”
“There’s a sense where optimists lead by example, and their partners follow their lead,” says Chopik. “We found that when you look at the risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors,” he says. “People who are married to optimists tend to score better on all of those metrics.” Optimistic people tend to eat healthier diets, maintain a healthier weight, be more physically active, earn more and get promoted more often. The findings are suggestive, not definitive, of course, and they don’t account for every situation or all people.
In another study, women who rate themselves as having the highest levels of optimism live 15% longer than the least optimistic women and have a 50% greater chance of reaching age 85. The most optimistic men live 11% longer and are 70% more likely to reach 85. The research, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed 69,744 women for 10 years and 1,429 men for 30 years. Both groups were surveyed at the outset to assess their level of optimism, as well as other factors that researchers accounted for, including demographics, health conditions, depression, and diet.
“Just like how optimistic partners can inspire us to be more active and healthy, pessimistic partners can shut down our efforts and undermine our goals to be healthy,” he says. “Being married to a pessimist isn’t great for helping us cope with stress either- optimism can help us overcome stress in positive ways. Pessimism causes us to ruminate on problems in unhealthy ways and blame ourselves unnecessarily.”
What if you’re single? Chopik says it may be wise to surround yourself with others who are optimistic, too. “Optimism and other positive traits can spill over or be absorbed by the people we’re close to,” including friends and family, he says. “Preliminary results suggest that that’s the case, so it’s not just a story of romantic couples — being repeatedly exposed to environments full of optimists can be beneficial as well.”
2021 is coming to an end. The COVID pandemic is still here; the Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire in many parts of the world. You may have suffered immeasurable loss this year, or faced numerous challenges. Or you may have enjoyed a very productive and successful year.
Regardless of how 2021 has been for you, Dr. Yik would like to remind you of the following self-care strategies. Self-care is more than just an afternoon at the spa. Self-care is about prioritizing your physical, mental and emotional needs.
Take care of your physical health.
Limit your caffeine intake. Not only can caffeine keep you up at night, but it can also make you more anxious or jittery. Some people may feel palpitations (heart beating/ pounding) or restless after consuming caffeine. These symptoms don’t help when you’re already dealing with stress. Try caffeine-free herbal teas that promote relaxation, like chamomile, peppermint and lemon balm teas. Extra tip for parents: Parents sometimes forget that chocolates, chocolate chip baked goods and bubble tea contain caffeine. Try replacing these with yogurt/ fruit smoothies, trail mix or other snacks that are caffeine-free.
Limit your alcohol intake.Click here to read more.
Consume a healthful diet.Colourful vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean protein and good fats nourish your body and keep it healthy. Avoid excessive sugar intake as well as food additives such as MSG and artificial food colouring which can cause mood changes in some people, especially children.
Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Try to stick to your typical daily schedule as much as possible.
Keep active. Daily exercise helps reduce anxiety and improve mood. It can also take your mind off your problems. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Extra tip for parents: Children need daily exercise, too! Allow them to play actively, practise a sport and/ or try GoNoodle®, a free online website with movement and mindfulness videos for children created by child development experts.
Take care of your mental/ emotional health.
Stay connected to others. Let out any frustrations you have to a trusted friend or counsellor. Staying connected and maintaining meaningful relationships can help us feel secure and supported, which in turn helps us stay positive and resilient in the face of challenges. Extra tip for parents: Be sensitive to your child and listen actively. Allow them to share their thoughts and fears without judgement.
Focus on positivity.Start each day by listing 3 or more things you are thankful for. Some people find it helpful to draw on their faith or religion to maintain a sense of hope and purpose during difficult times. Others find purpose in helping those in need.
Practise deep breathing.Be mindful of how you’re breathing throughout the day. The deliberate process of taking slow, even breaths promotes a state of calmness, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Extra tip for parents: Take 2 deep breaths before responding to a difficult child or reacting to bad news.
Avoid constant exposure to media.Constant news from all types of media can fuel anxiety and fear. Get your news from a reliable source and limit your news reading or watching to once or twice a day.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2022!
Hong Kong authorities are urging the public not to consume 6 Godiva ice cream products imported from France after these products were found to contain a banned pesticide.
On December 9th, 2021, the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said a stabilizer used in the six products was found with a pesticide, ethylene oxide, which is not authorized by the European Union.
The 6 products with the banned pesticide are:
1) Chocolate Cheesecake Flavoured Ice Cream 2) Milk Chocolate Frozen Confection with Dark Chocolate 3) Belgian Dark Chocolate Ice Cream 4) Vanilla Flavoured Cocoa Infused Ice Cream 5) Caramel Coffee Frozen Confection with Dark Chocolate Chips 6) Strawberry Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Chips
All of them have a volume of 100 milliliters, and are imported by Godiva Chocolatier (Asia) Limited.
Their best-before dates are: 1) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023 2) October 31, 2022, March 31, 2023 and April 30, 2023 3) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023 and April 30, 2023 4) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023 5) November 30, 2022 and March 31, 2023 6) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023
Consumers should not consume the affected batches of ice cream if they have bought any. The trade should also stop using or selling the products concerned immediately if they possess them. Members of the public may call the relevant importer at 3765 5818 during office hours for enquiries about the recall.
Many parents come into Dr. Yik‘s office asking what their child can do or eat to grow taller. What factors influence how tall your child will be?
Scientists estimate that about 80% of your height is determined by the DNA sequence variants you inherited from your parents. For most individuals, height is controlled largely by genes, with some contribution from environmental factors such as those below. If you are a child or teenager, here are some things you should pay attention to if you want to reach your maximum height:
Nutrition and a balanced diet are key to children’s growth. Children and teenagers should eat appropriate amounts of protein (meat, fish, eggs, etc.), vegetables, grains, fruit, beans, milk and nuts/ seeds. Calcium, protein and zinc are important nutrients for height (linear) growth.
Adequate sleep is needed for optimal growth and development. Growth hormones are only released when we are in deep sleep, and studies show that peak growth hormone secretion occurs between 10pm to 2am. Children should go to bed before this golden period to allow themselves enough time to enter into deep sleep. 1- to 2- year-olds are advised to sleep 11 to 14 hours; 10 to 13 hours of sleep for 3- to 5-year-olds; 9 to 11 hours for 6- to 13-year-olds; and 8 to 10 hours for 14- to 17-year-olds.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! By stimulating growth hormone release, regular physical activity also plays a key role in childhood development and helping kids reach their maximum height. In particular, jumping/ skipping rope, basketball, swimming and cycling can help children and teens grow tall.
Dr. Yik can help you determine your nutrient status through various nutrition tests (new patients can request for the complimentary zinc tally test) and diet analysis. She knows which nutrients are key to optimizing growth and development. Click here to read how she can boost your child’s health.