Artificial colours in food linked to cancer and behavioural disorders in children: Study

Food dyes- used in everything from M&Ms to brightly coloured breakfast cereals to Kraft salad dressings- pose risks of cancer, allergies and hyperactivity in children, and should be banned, according the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The new report titled, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks”, found that artificial colours in foods may increase the risk of getting cancer, allergies and may trigger hyperactivity (e.g. ADHD) in susceptible children.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, co-author of the report said, “These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behaviour problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody.”

According to the CSPI, the colours contain known cancer-causing chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer in experimental rats. Common confectionaries and foods like biscuits, cereals and ice creams contain large amounts of these harmful colours. According to estimates, 7 million of these colours are used in manufacturing foods each year.

chocolate-mini-cupcakes-749498_1920Starting July 20th, 2010, European food manufacturers will be forced to put a warning on their food products labels if they contain any of the colours of the “Southampton Six” following a study on the issue. The name Southampton six was given to these six colours after a similar study at the Southampton University in 2008. The six colours known as the Southampton six are: sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), ponceau 4R (E124), and tartrazine (E102). The warning will read, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

How about in Hong Kong or China? Up to now, the Hong Kong government doesn’t even seem remotely aware of this situation. So, it’s up to you to be a smart consumer.

What Can We Do?

  1. If you or your child experiences behavioural problems, allergies or attention deficit issues after eating certain foods, find a licensed naturopathic physician who can help you treat the root cause. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND can help treat these conditions naturally.
  2. Read the labels and avoid buying foods with additives, especially the “Southampton six” (ingredients that begin with “E” followed by a number) or Blue 1, Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.
  3. Stop feeding your children (and yourself) processed, artificial foods (e.g. Avoid the cupcakes and donuts that have the colourful (harmful) sprinkles on top). See #4 for healthy snack alternatives.
  4. Instead of having brightly coloured breakfast cereal which is also usually loaded with sugar and artificial colours, switch to a natural whole-grain cereal or all-natural muesli.
  5. yogurt-1235353_1920Instead of artificially flavoured candies and sweets, choose healthy alternatives. Trail mix consisting of apricots, almonds, and sunflower seeds is a healthy and easy-to-make snack that you can store in airtight containers. Chunks of fresh fruit contain many nutrients, are high in fibre and make a refreshing snack. A healthy breakfast or dessert idea- chia seeds soaked in almond milk/ yogurt and topped with fresh berries and chopped almonds. Try freezing strawberries or cherries for a sweet frozen treat. If you really need a sugar fix, try all-natural Manuka honey candy.

If you suspect your health condition is caused by certain foods or additives- and want a thorough medical investigation- or if you want nutritional support and guidance, contact Dr. Yik today.


“Help! I’m overweight- but I don’t eat much!”

Whenever I hear this statement in my office, I first ask for a detailed 24-hour diet recall. Some people may not be consciously aware of how much they eat, so it’s a good idea to recall what’s actually been consumed (e.g. “Let’s see. I had coffee this morning. I only had a chicken salad for lunch. I had some HäagenDazs ice cream afterwards- it was hot outside… then a handful of almonds plus a banana in the afternoon- they’re healthy right?… I think that’s- oh wait- and 2 chocolate chip cookies from a colleague. Hmm. I guess I ate more than I thought!”). After I confirm the validity of their statement (i.e. that they really AREN’T over-eating), we start investigating functional or medical conditions which could be causing their weight gain or preventing them from losing weight. 

If you have an underlying condition that affects your metabolism or weight, you won’t be able to lose weight despite efforts to eat less and exercise more (you may even feel worse after such efforts). In this case, being overweight is merely the symptom.  You must address the cause. If you’ve been trying to lose weight without success,  it’s time to look beyond diet and exercise.

Go through the following statements and see if any apply to you:

  1. I constantly have cravings for sugars or carbs (breads, baked goods, pasta, white rice, etc.)
  2. My parents or grandparents have diabetes mellitus (and/or I do).
  3. I gain weight easily, especially around the abdomen (tummy).
  4. I feel sluggish, have brittle nails, dry skin, thinning or unhealthy hair, and am often cold when others around me feel comfortable.
  5. I have been told I have thyroid problems, high triglycerides, gout, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or cysts in the ovary, unwanted facial hair, or fertility problems.       
  6. I am currently taking thyroid medication. 
  7. I have fewer than 7 bowel movements per week.
  8. I eat hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, bacon, beef, fried chicken, fries or chips almost every day.
  9. I no longer enjoy doing the things I used to enjoy doing. Sometimes I experience suicidal thoughts.
  10. I need my comfort food (chocolate, ice cream, baked goods, etc.), especially in the evening, or else I’ll feel miserable.

If 2 or more statements apply to you, there may be hidden factors- hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, depression, sluggish detoxification/ constipation- preventing you from losing weight. Talk to your healthcare practitioner to further investigate possible underlying health issues affecting your weight.

Of course, before seeking medical help, I encourage you to do your own 24-hour diet recall first. 🙂

Healthy Eating on Vacation for Your Children

The suitcases are packed. The passports are ready. You and your children are all set for the upcoming trip. Don’t leave your healthy eating habits behind! Here are eight ways for you and your kids to stay healthy while on vacation.

1. Pack the snacks Fruit-and-nut bars, whole-grain crackers, and trail mixes are great snacks on-the-go (and also on the plane). Make your own trail mix by putting together juicy raisins, dried apricots, almonds and pumpkin seeds. If travelling by car, pack low-fat yoghurt cups, apple slices and chunks of melon, pineapple and papaya. Store them in a cooler and take them out for a refreshing treat.

2. Portion control Just because a cruise serves a 24-hour buffet doesn’t mean your children need to be eating 24 hours a day! Teach your children to stop eating when they are comfortably full. If you and your children have a hard time controlling the food portions at a buffet, try starting at the salad bar first and then using a smaller (salad/appetiser) plate, even for the main dishes. Using a smaller plate means less loading at one time, forcing you to get up more frequently and leaving time for your body to register whether or not you are full.

3. Fast-food stop? If a fast-food stop is inevitable, choose healthy options whenever available. Order a green salad or chicken veggie wrap instead of fries. Choose a berry smoothie or freshly squeezed fruit/ vegetable juice instead of a milkshake or soft drink.

4. Preparing infant formula On vacation, the best way to mix infant formula is with bottled distilled water. Most grocery stores sell bottled water labelled as purified, distilled, reverse osmosis or demineralised. You may even find bottled water labelled specifically for infant use. Bottled water should ideally be boiled for one to two minutes and cooled before mixing with formula, since most bottled distilled waters conform to the same standards as the public water supply.

5. Don’t skip breakfast! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should include foods from various food groups. If your child suffers from constipation while travelling, try adding half a grapefruit or stewed prunes to the breakfast.

6. Stay active Keeping your children active will help to offset the extra calories that might be consumed on vacation. Instead of sitting on a tour bus all day, consider sightseeing on foot. Go for a swim, hit the slopes or go hiking on a bird-trail with your children.

7. Keep hydrated Often times, children are so excited or preoccupied on vacation that they don’t even know when they are thirsty. Offer them water and fluids at regular intervals. Being active, travelling and staying out in the sun can cause dehydration, so make sure you bring water with you wherever you go.

8. Relax! After all, it is a vacation. It’s OK for your children to indulge once in a while. Try sharing the dessert or limiting the sweet indulgences to once a day.

Have a great trip!

Case of the disappearing eyebrows

I once saw a 5 or 6-year-old patient whose eyebrows were “falling out”. Her mother told me that she had brought her daughter to see a variety of doctors- GPs, endocrinologists, etc.- but none of them could figure out why the hair on her eyebrows were disappearing.

After talking to the young patient, asking her mother about family history, life at home, life at school, etc. and examining her sparse eyebrows, I told the mother that the diagnosis was trichotillomania, i.e. the girl was pulling out her eyebrows herself, as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and tension (mainly at home, in her case).

The mother’s reaction was shock and denial. She had spent all this time seeing so many doctors who ran so many tests but couldn’t find out what was wrong with her daughter, and here I was telling her that her daughter was doing this to herself. She just couldn’t believe it. I told her to observe her daughter (from a distance) for one week. If my assessment was right, they could come back to see me in a week’s time for treatment. If my assessment was wrong, they didn’t need to come back.

The mother came back with her daughter to see me in a week’s time and confirmed what I had suspected.  

Things aren’t what they seem sometimes. When “stuck” in a situation, we often need to think outside the box to figure out what’s really happening. I guess that goes for health ailments as well as everything else in life.

霸王Bawang shampoo contains cancer-causing agents

News released today reveals that 霸王Bawang shampoo (the 4th most popular shampoo manufacturer in China) contains cancer-causing agents. Its shares, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, have since plummeted.

霸王Bawang claims that their shampoos contain Chinese herbal medicine which nourish and prevent hair loss. They also have an anti-dandruff line. International movie star Jackie Chan is their spokesperson, and you often see him promoting 霸王Bawang shampoo products on TV.

Once again, this reminds us all that products made in China (and worldwide, for that matter) should be tested for quality assurance. This particular study revealing carcinogens in the shampoo was done by Hong Kong scientists. In my practice, patients who have taken Chinese herbal medicine (herbs taken from China) usually have some form of heavy metal toxicity. They often have lead, mercury and/ or arsenic levels in their body and need heavy metal detoxification. So, I advise my patients not to take Chinese herbal medicine from their TCM practitioners for a long period of time, or better yet, to find a source/ supplier who uses independently-tested herbs not made or cultivated in China. The herbal medicine (Chinese and Western herbs) I use in practice are wild-crafted and tested for heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, microbial levels, and aflatoxins for safety and quality assurance. Herbal medicine is effective and can help treat many conditions, but if it contains traces of heavy metals or other harmful substances, it may do more harm than good.

Lose weight to lose hot flushes

Intensive weight loss intervention may lead to fewer hot flushes during menopause in women who are overweight or obese. According to a  6-month randomized controlled study in the July 12th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, women who lost 7 to 9% of their body weight reported an improvement in hot flushes.

The women in the intensive intervention group were assigned to an exercise, nutrition and behavioural change program for 6 months. The participants were encouraged to engage in physical activity for at least 200 minutes per week using brisk walking or activities of a similar intensity. They also followed a reduced-calorie diet and were given sample meal plans providing appropriate food selections as well as meal-replacement products.

The study revealed that a decrease in weight, abdominal circumference and BMI (body mass index) were each associated with improvement in self-reported hot flushes during 6 months. 

“Our findings indicate that women who are overweight or obese and experience bothersome hot flushes may also experience improvement in these symptoms after pursuing behavioral weight loss strategies; however, improvements in weight or body composition may not be the only mediators of this effect,” the authors from the study conclude.  

(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine)


Welcome to the official website of Dr. Ardyce Yik, a Canadian-licensed naturopathic physician helping people attain optimal health naturally in Hong Kong, China. Here, you will find a wealth of information on health, wellness and disease. You will also learn more about a doctor who listens and medicines that work. Please note that all information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any condition.