Wednesday 21 September 2011

Why Hong Kong People Are Unhealthy

Following my recent post about poorly-conditioned local beauty contestants, it dawned on me that most people in Hong Kong lead unhealthy lifestyles. Put simply, they don't exercise (or exercise much) and they don't eat balanced and healthy meals.

Visitors stock up on the last day of the Food Expo, filling their bags and trolleys with cut-price foods and hard-to-get items. Pic by Felix Wong

On the same day in the local rag (SCMP) last month, there were two contrasting articles that reveal the total mismatch and disconnect in What people eat and What people should eat or do.

What local Hong Kong people buy and eat (from Crowds find appetite for bargains)
a) biscuits, frozen dumplings and seaweed
b) dried abalone, steamed buns

c) biscuits, coffee, peanuts, crabs and seaweed

Also, hotels and restaurants like to push luxury food items such as sea cucumbers (see Football Players and Healthy Eating)

What people should eat or do (from 10 tips for a healthy glow)
1. Drink mineralised water
2. Eat a rainbow of colours and at least five vegetable servings a day

3. Load up on vitamin D

4. Get checked for food intolerances

5. Ensure daily bowel movements

6. Drink green tea daily

7. Take fish oils daily

8. Choose organic

9. Get at least seven to nine hours sleep a night

10. Exercise

I do not necessarily agree with everything that Dr Benita Perch, a naturopathic physician, suggests. This post is just to show that there are two sets of people who do not understand each other. There is a total disconnect. It has been like this for a long, long time.


Crowds find appetite for bargains (SCMP; paywall)
Exhibition's last day attracts those shoppers happy to open their purses for cut-price offerings
Helene Franchineau and LeeAnn Shan
Aug 16, 2011

Casually leaning against the wall, Ken Chen watches over two carts and several bags full of biscuits, frozen dumplings and seaweed. He is also waiting for his wife to return with more goods. Although she holds the purse strings in the household, she is now busy loosening them.

"We spent HK$1,000 so far together, but I think my wife has already spent much more [on her own]," said the car mechanic from Yuen Long.

Chen was one of 382,000 visitors who shopped for and sampled food from 19 countries and multiple regions at this year's Hong Kong Trade Development Council Food Expo at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event, which ended last night after five days, attracted 3 per cent more visitors than last year.

As it was the last day, most of the 900 exhibitors slashed their prices, and thousands of people came with bags, carts and even suitcases to stock up on everything from ground coffee to mooncakes.

Dried abalone, normally priced at HK$5,600 for 500g was discounted by 50 per cent, while two packs of four steamed buns cost HK$10, instead of HK$14 for one.

Phillis Man, a housewife from the New Territories, chose to come on the last day because she already knew what she wanted and how much she wanted to spend.

"I came here for items that cannot be found in normal supermarkets or are usually too expensive," she said, filling two suitcases with biscuits, coffee, peanuts, crabs and seaweed.

A primary school teacher from Kowloon bought HK$1,500 worth of Chinese traditional medicine. She estimated she spent a total of HK$3,000 on her first visit to the expo.

Most exhibitors were satisfied with this year's show.

"In the Trade Zone, we made 1,360 business contacts, which was slightly better than our expectations," said Tomohiro Ando, the director of agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food business promotion division at the Japan External Trade Organisation, which co-organised the Japanese pavilion.

With more than 160 exhibitors, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster-hit country sent its largest-ever group of participants in order to restore people's faith in food coming from Japan.

"It is remarkable that our exhibitors sold their products so well, even under such difficult conditions," Ando said, referring to worries about the fallout from the damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima.

"This shows that Hong Kong people still love Japanese food. We found it very encouraging."

10 tips for a healthy glow(SCMP; paywall)
Dr Benita Perch
Aug 16, 2011

Most of us are overtired and overworked. But these dietary tips will give a healthy glow.

1. Drink mineralised water
Water is essential for cells and organs to function optimally. Most people are chronically dehydrated and should drink at least 30 millilitres per kilogram of body weight daily. Drinking enough water gives you more energy, and can help with weight management, as hunger is often confused with thirst.

Additionally, when dehydrated, the body adapts by reabsorbing water from the colon, causing constipation, which could lead to poor health and skin.

Tap water is full of toxins and heavy metals that do not benefit the body, and distilled water lacks minerals, so I recommend mineralised water.

2. Eat a rainbow of colours and at least five vegetable servings a day
The more colourful the fruit or vegetable, the more nutrients it has. The orange colour of butternut squash, for example, is due to its high level of beta-carotene. Eat a variety of colours to get full benefits. For healthy skin and hair, try these specific compounds:
# Vitamin C helps in the formation of connective tissue.
# Biotin, a B vitamin found in peanuts and some fruit and vegetables, may improve hair growth.
# Silica, found in horsetail, alfalfa and many other fruit and vegetables, is an important component of collagen, the substance that gives skin its bounce.

3. Load up on vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Most people are deficient because they stay indoors, use sunblock and don't get enough D from the diet. Get a blood test for 25-hydroxy vitamin D and take supplements if necessary. It can often take six to 10 months to get back to optimal levels.

4. Get checked for food intolerances
The common ones are dairy, gluten, wheat, eggs and soya beans. Such intolerances can play a key role in many ailments. Discovering and treating intolerances can help with weight loss and boost energy levels, prevent headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. It can improve mood and autoimmune conditions.

5. Ensure daily bowel movements
It's essential for health. The ideal is a bowel movement after every meal. With a lack of movement, the body reabsorbs toxins, leading to headaches, fatigue and poor skin. Simply drink enough water, eat enough fibre - found in wholegrains and vegetables - and exercise. Magnesium deficiency can also cause slow bowel movements.

6. Drink green tea daily
Green tea has antioxidant compounds and is naturally detoxifying. Much research has shown the benefits of antioxidants, particularly in cancer prevention.

7. Take fish oils daily
There is a vast amount of research that shows the benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), compounds found in fish oil. EPA and DHA have been found to help with everything from preventing cardiovascular disease by lowering lipid levels to helping combat depression. They work by keeping cell walls healthy, which helps maintain healthy skin.

8. Choose organic
Eating organic food is important to prevent a high intake of insecticides, hormones or antibiotics. Often the least contaminated fruit or vegetables are those with an outer layer that can be removed before eating, such as bananas or avocados. Also try to frequent local organic markets or use food-box deliveries.

9. Get at least seven to nine hours sleep a night
Most people are sleep deprived. They wake up exhausted and use coffee to keep going. A study carried out over 14 days at the University of Pennsylvania showed that subjects who had eight hours of sleep rarely suffered attention lapses and showed no cognitive decline over the study. Those in the four-hour and six-hour sleep group showed a steady decline in the same areas and, frighteningly, at the end of the study, felt that the lack of sleep was not affecting them.

Go to bed early. An hour's sleep before midnight is worth two after.

10. Exercise
Exercise is well known for its cardiovascular, osteoporotic and other health benefits. It is detoxifying and improves the functioning of the organ systems. Regular exercise also helps prevent anxiety and depression, as it releases endorphins, also known as happy hormones. It even helps reduce the severity and frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women.

Even a simple exercise programme helps, such as a daily 30-minute walk.

Dr Benita Perch is a naturopathic physician with Dr Susan Jamieson & Holistic Central Medical Practice.


  1. Though you can't buy long lasting choi, and I doubt that anyone there was selling that.

    "Look, the rare famed blue broccoli from a remote corner of Tibet! Only $200/kg!".

    As long as they eat the stuff gradually it's not too bad.

  2. Hey AW, perhaps we should go in to business together!? Your idea of blue broccoli (or lucky red broccoli?) may possibly work. Lol.

    I agree with you about gradual consumption. Also, as long as people eat balanced diets and expose themselves to reasonably diverse foods, then infrequent indulgences may be fine.

  3. You know anything about the genetics of vegetables? I didn't do well at high school biology.

    But for the Chinese market, all we'd need to do is make everything red.

    They need to do some exercise more than anything!

  4. These days the technology of gene transfer is a simple as pushing a button. It would be relatively easy to develop culturally-sensitive and awfully-bland red food products that are novel, fashionable and expensive. Lol.

    Somehow, the message to "do more exercise" is not getting through.

  5. It's that easy? Hell, we should set up a company for the Chinese market ASAP. We'll make every item of food red, which will sell for at least double the normal product's price. A licence to print money if I've ever seen one!

    Exercise take like, energy, and one might sweat. That's not on, and not civilised.