Bone-ing Pains

Bone-ing Pains

April 28, 2022   Return

People with chronic bone and joint problems, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, often experience pain and aches especially when they try to move the affected joints. Here are two natural ingredients that may provide some much-needed relief.

Stronger cartilage with collagen peptides

Collagen peptides is a modified form of collagen, a naturally occurring protein found in many parts of our body, including the tissues connecting the bones at the joint.

Potential benefits

Some research suggests that collagen peptides, when consumed, would be converted to collagen by our body and accumulate in the cartilage.

  • Research found that collagen hydrolysate can be rapidly and readily absorbed into the joints.
  • A 2003 research found that this substance helps to stimulate the cells in the joint (called chondrocytes) to produce collagen for joint repair.
  • A 2000 review of research and clinical trials found that “its high level of safety makes it attractive as an agent for long-term use” in treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Therefore, it is possible that supplements or beverages fortified with collagen hydrolysate can help support our efforts to manage osteoarthritis.

Spice up with turmeric

For many Malaysians, turmeric or kunyit is a yellow powder, used as a delicious spice for curries, rice dishes and deep-fried meat. However, turmeric may have benefits that go beyond adding flavours to our beloved dishes. It has long been used for medicinal purposes among the Chinese and Indian communities.

Research suggests that curcumin helps to block substances that cause joint inflammation:

  • In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging, it was said that extracts from turmeric are “as effective as ibuprofen for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis”.
  • A 2010 clinical trial of a supplement containing curcumin found that it provides long-term benefits in pain reduction and improved function in 100 patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Therefore, if you suffer from osteoarthritis, it may be worth discussing the possible benefits of turmeric with your doctor or pharmacist.

Be careful! Avoid taking turmeric or curcumin supplements if you are already on medications that thin the blood (such as warfarin), about to undergo surgery, are pregnant or suffer from gallbladder disease.



Arthritis Foundation. Available at

Belcaro, G., et al. (2010). Altern Med Rev; 15(4): 337-344.

Kuptniratsaikul, V., et al. (2014). Clin Interv Aging; 9: 451-458.

Seifert, J. (2003). Satellite Symposium at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis (OARSI): The absorption and distribution of collagen hydrolysate after oral application. Berlin: Germany.

Oesser, S. (2003). Satellite Symposium at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis (OARSI): Impact of collagen fragments on the extracellular matrix metabolism. Berlin: Germany.

Moskowitz, R. W. (2000). Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Semin Arthritis Rheum.; 30(2): 87-99.

Bello A. E., Oesser S. (2006). Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Curr Med Res Opin.; 22(11): 2221-2232.

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Food for Your Throat!

Food for Your Throat!

April 29, 2022   Return

Don’t you wish you had a way to scratch that itch in your throat? A sore throat is an annoying and sometimes painful condition that arises when the throat becomes inflamed and irritated. Whether it is due to a cold, an infection, overuse of voice, or is a result of some medical condition that weakens the immune system, a sore throat can affect anyone of any age and at any time. 

Since food passes through your throat on the way down, it makes sense to watch out for the types of food you eat when you have a sore throat. 

Let’s take a look at certain foods that you should and shouldn’t eat while nursing your inflamed throat back to good health. Such foods won’t further irritate your already sore throat. Choose lean meats such as turkey, fish and chicken. Enjoy low-fat dairy products such as yoghurt for its probiotics benefits, or foods that are “easy to go down”  such as soup. If you have real trouble swallowing, you can puree your food.

Dip it in some milk

If foods such as rice, pasta and toast are hard on your throat, soak them in milk first.

Load up on nutrients

Look for nutrient-rich foods that can give your health a boost and help fight those pesky germs that cause your sore throat. Try oatmeal: it is easy to swallow and rich in fibre, folate, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids to keep you healthy and contented for a longer period of time. Just soak it in hot water or milk! Or, you can have soft fruits (such as bananas) or boiled vegetables (such as carrots).

Slurp on something warm

Have a warm cup of ginger or honey tea – this can make your throat feel better. You can also mix lemon juice and honey to soothe your throat. Inhaling steam from drinking a hot cuppa can also help with loosening congestion and tightness of the chest.

If you need more relief for your sore throat, get an antiseptic solution from your neighbourhood pharmacy. It will help kill most bacteria and germs responsible for sore or itchy throat with each gargle.

Food to avoid

Rough or fatty foods.  Avoid rough and dry foods. This means putting a stop to deep fried foods, nuts, pretzels, dry toast and such. Such foods can potentially irritate your throat further making it harder for you to swallow.

Acidic, salty or spicy foods. Temporarily put a hold on acidic fruits (oranges, tomatoes, etc) – they may be good for you but their acidic content will only irritate your throat. Cut down on salty foods (go salt-free!) as well as spicy foods such as curry.


ENT Specialists. Available at

Med Guidance. Available at

Live Strong. Available at

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Natural Immunity Boost

Natural Immunity Boost

April 29, 2022   Return

E_Dr Ammu

Ammu K Radhakrishnan   Professor of Pathology (Immunology), International Medical University Malaysia

Vitamin E has long been known as an antioxidant, capable of destroying potentially harmful free radicals in our body. There are two main types of vitamin E: tocopherols and tocotrienols. To date, tocopherols have been extensively researched, and nearly all the vitamin E supplements available today are derived from tocopherols. Tocotrienols, compared to tocopherols, are only starting to receive more attention from researchers, but even at this early stage, research is uncovering a considerable amount of promising potential benefits.

HealthToday sits down with Professor Ammu Radhakrishnan, who shares with us a study, in which she was involved, that demonstrates the potential benefits of tocotrienols to our body’s defense against infections.

Boosting the immune system

There had been some promising results on tests conducted on animals such as mice, which suggest that tocotrienols can give our immune system a boost. However, does this translate to humans as well?

Prof Ammu points to a 2-month clinical trial, which was conducted on 108 healthy, non-smoking women aged 18 to 25 years. The volunteers were randomly assigned into 2 groups. One would receive 400 mg of tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) supplement every day, while another group would receive a placebo. She explains that it was a double-blinded trial, so even the researchers did not know which team would be getting the TRF supplement. On day 28 of the trial, these volunteers were then given the tetanus toxoid vaccination.

The results, published in 2011 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that volunteers who received TRF supplementation had:

  • Increased production of antibody (IgG) against tetanus toxoid.  This can help the host immune system to better protect the host against this toxin, which is produced by a type of bacteria.
  • Increased production of interferon-γ and interleukin-4, cytokines that play an important role in triggering the immune response.
  • Significant increase in total levels of vitamin E in the plasma.

After analyzing the results, the researchers offered the following conclusions:

  • Daily supplementation of 400 mg TRF can play a beneficial role in strengthening the immune response in healthy people following vaccination.

Therefore, tocotrienol supplementation may be useful if we are considering a natural way to boost our immune system. People with weakened defense against infections, such as people with diabetes and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, especially, may find tocotrienol supplementation useful.

The Palm Oil Connection

Palm oil is one of the richest sources of tocotrienols, so it is unsurprising that we are also a major manufacturer of tocotrienol supplements in addition to palm oil.  In fact, an innovative technology to extract tocotrienol from palm oil is patented by a Malaysian company!

Reference: Mahalingam, D, et al. (2011). Effects of supplementation with tocotrienol-rich fraction on immune response to tetanus toxoid immunization in normal healthy volunteers.  Eur J Clin Nutr.;65(1):63-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.184. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

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Your Liver is What You Eat

Your Liver is What You Eat

April 28, 2022   Return

We often hear people talking about medical conditions such as heart failure, lung disease and breast cancer. And rightly so, considering these ailments are a few of the world’s leading killers. But there is another ‘killer’ on the prowl – and it is none other than liver disease. So, when was the last time we paid attention to our liver? Most of us might say that it was a long time ago while for some, it might have been “never”. If this is you, it’s time to buck up and begin caring for your liver.

Liver 101

Our liver deserves more credit than most of us give it for. A key component of our digestive system, it helps remove toxins from our body. It also produces bile, the substance required for breaking down fat in the food we consume. Other functions include defending against infections, aiding blood clotting, regulating our body’s cholesterol and reproductive hormones. But those listed are just the tip of the iceberg. Our liver has more than 500 functions! This is why it’s so crucial for our liver to stay healthy.

Here’s a rundown on steps to improve your liver health:

  • Consume alcohol moderately (women: one unit daily, men: two units daily) as excessive alcohol intake can result in cirrhosis. Even better, abstain from alcohol.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. As of now, there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
  • Get screened. Hepatitis typically doesn’t give off symptoms so it’s likely that you won’t know you are infected unless you get tested.
  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes or razors as hepatitis B and C spreads via bodily fluids and blood.
  • Never mix alcohol with medicines as the combination can damage your liver. Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index) by eating well-balanced meals (consume less fatty foods, more high-fibre foods) and exercising regularly (at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week). Excess fat is stored in the liver and a gradual accumulation may result in fatty liver disease.
  • Supplement your diet. It can be difficult obtaining the nutrients our body needs from our diet alone. Supplements containing minerals like phospholipid, zinc and chromium can improve liver health. For instance, chromium helps facilitate the breakdown of glucose and fats whereas phospholipid aids cholesterol metabolism. To find out more about the supplements which can benefit your liver, consult your doctor or pharmacist.


Canadian Liver Foundation. Available at

Healthy Xchange. Available at

Mayo Clinic. Available at

WebMD. Available at

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Say Goodbye to Trans Fat?

Say Goodbye to Trans Fat?

April 28, 2022   Return

Chemically modified fats are common in processed foods. A process called hydrogenation is often used to convert liquid oils into solids, and partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are commonly used to help extend the shelf life of food products and stabilize their flavours. PHOs are now recognized to be bad for health, as they contain trans fats, which can increase our cholesterol levels.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a statement proclaiming PHOs, the primary source of added trans fatty acids (TFAs) in processed foods, as being not ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) for human consumption. Food manufacturers in the country have been given 3 years to remove PHOs from their formulations.  

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s Acting Commissioner said, “The FDA’s action on this major source of added trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans. This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

We asked Nutrition Society of Malaysia president, Tee E Siong, PhD, for his views on the use of PHOs and their use in the Malaysian setting. When asked about the evidence against PHOs and their use in food preparation, Tee said: “The scientific evidence for the hazards of TFAs in foods is strong. There is conclusive evidence that TFAs increase the risk of coronary heart disease. “

Tee added, however, that the FDA site has not cited the opinions of other international agencies such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), WHO and Codex Alimentarius (an inter-governmental body developing international food standards). “For example, the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (2004) has highlighted the importance of eliminating the intake of TFAs.” Codex Alimentarius also discussed the mandatory labelling of TFAs, but there was no agreement at that time. 

As for similar steps being undertaken in the country, Tee said the Food Safety and Quality Division of MOH, which is the authority in charge of food safety in Malaysia, has considered and is fully aware of the hazards of TFAs to human health. The use of PHOs in foods for children is prohibited. He added: “It is specifically prohibited in formulated milk powder for children (previously known as ‘growing up milk’) and processed cereal-based foods for children.” 

When asked about the existence of local studies linking the use of PHOs to cardiovascular disease, Tee said: “I do not know of any local studies linking TFAs to cardiovascular disease … but I do not think such (local) studies are important. There is sufficient international data (already).”  

Tee said the hazards of TFA and PHO in the country are probably more attenuated compared to many other countries due to the fact that Malaysians utilize palm oil for cooking and food manufacturing.  “Palm oil does not need to be hydrogenated and its TFA is practically nil. PHOs are formed when polyunsaturated oils are used eg, soy, olive and sunflower.

Tee said: “Nevertheless, what would be important in the country is to study the amount of TFAs in the foods people consume, and estimate its exposure to Malaysians [including] children, women and adults. We need to understand if food industries, including small industries, are truly using minimal amounts of PHOs.”


Smart Balance. Available at

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ACK! Why am I suddenly allergic to prawns?

ACK! Why am I suddenly allergic to prawns?

 April 27, 2022   Return


Can adults develop allergies? A little while ago, the smarties at HealthToday were discussing about allergies and the topic of adult onset allergies came up. A few of us were afflicted by allergies that developed in adulthood and post pregnancy. That got us intrigued and we went snooping around for further information. Beyond searching for literature on adult onset allergies, we also spoke to Dr Kent Woo, a prominent allergist and immunologist at Gleneagles KL.

We tend to think of allergies as something that develops during childhood and stays with us for life. It is rare to hear someone growing out of their allergies without any medical interference. These allergies include asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis, hay fever and food allergies.

According to Dr Woo, adult onset allergy technically means a newly developed allergy during adulthood as opposed to childhood. He said: “Allergy can develop during all stages in life. However, it is more common to develop food allergies as a child and medication allergies as an adult.” Dr Woo notes an interesting observation in his practice—an increase in allergic contact dermatitis towards cosmetics in menopausal women. He postulates it could be caused by hormonal changes causing the allergen sensitization to previously tolerated cosmetics.

Regarding treatment, Dr Woo said treatment towards all forms of allergy is primarily avoidance. Medication allergy is a little different and one can opt for desensitization therapy. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI), drug desensitization or induction of drug tolerance, is “a method of safely administering a medication to a patient who is allergic to it.” The procedure is done by administering an extremely small dose of the medication to the patient. This dose is increased slowly at regular intervals until the full dose is achieved. Once the drug is discontinued, the patient returns to his or her previous allergic state.

In the case of aeroallergens such as dust, pollen or spores, a treatment called allergen specific immunotherapy can be done. The treatment is a disease-modifying therapy which is useful in treating allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, allergic asthma and insect hypersensitivity.

It is very important that any treatment involving allergies be carried out by a doctor or specialist, specifically an allergist, as there is a risk of developing anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction to the medication or treatment.  An allergist will be able to tailor a plan specific to your allergies.

How common is adult onset allergy?

While we like to believe that allergies often afflict the young, the truth is allergies can develop during all stages in life. A rather recent research looking at adult-onset food allergy claims that 5% of adults and 8% of children are affected by food allergies.

A separate survey carried out in the US comes up with an even more alarming figure—almost one quarter of adults reported developing adult onset food allergy while about 55% noted they had childhood onset food allergies. The study, which was carried out on over 40,000 adults revealed that the most common allergies reported by adults were shellfish, milk, wheat, tree nut and soy, in that order. The researchers were taken aback by the number of shellfish allergies and it was noted that a substantial number of them ended up in the emergency department due to anaphylactic reactions.

Nobody really knows why someone can be perfectly fine with a type of food and suddenly develop allergy to it later in life.

Does ethnicity affect my risk?

Apparently, one’s ethnicity determines the risk of developing certain types of allergies. Asians, Hispanics and persons of African descent are at higher risk of developing shellfish and peanut allergy than Caucasians.

Another observation from the survey was that being female and getting older puts one at increased risk of developing adult onset food allergy.

Some people may not recognize they have a food allergy and believe they are merely intolerant to it, thus not seeking help. We all know someone who avoids certain foods because it makes them queasy or it gives them tummy aches.

If consuming a type of food always seems to bring you discomfort or trigger other symptoms, perhaps you might want to consider the possibility of it being a food allergy. So, with that in mind, what foods do you avoid? What foods make you feel unwell? Could it be food allergy? We’ll leave you with that thought, but at least now you know better and can look for treatment if necessary. HT

1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. What is drug desensitization? Retrieved from

2. Warren C., et al. (2018). Prevalence, severity, and distribution of adult-onset food allergy. J Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol;121:S1–S17.

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Fancy a Date? Heck, Why Not 10?

Fancy a Date? Heck, Why Not 10?

 April 27, 2022   Return


Who could forget the famous sultry whisper of “Yusuf Taiyoob” come every fasting month. The name is synonymous with dates and is a testament to its marketing success. Dates (Phoenix dactylifera) are very much part of Southeast Asian culture and was probably introduced into the region by the spread of trade. We did some digging around and found that dates are as potent as figs and perhaps that’s the reason our forefathers took such a liking to them.

The date palm

Yes, dates grow on palms. some of our favourite food ingredients come from palm trees. These include attap chee, palm sugar (gula melaka), and sago. When chopped down, the young buds of coconut trees can be eaten raw in a salad. The leaves can also function as material for crates and furniture, and packing material. Our traditional rooftops are made from attap leaves, which is a type of palm.

Similar to the fig (which was covered in the April issue of HealthToday), the date palm is one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history having been grown in Saudi Arabia from 600 BC. It is believed to have originated in the area between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Today, most of our dates come from Iraq, Iran, Arabia and Morocco. Interestingly, dates are also cultivated in the US in states with hot tropical climates such as Florida and California, and also in Australia, Mexico and South America. Each date palm can produce between 40 and 80 kg of fruit in each fruiting season.

Why dates?

Well, dates are nutritious and filling. It could be related to the fact that they grow in very extreme regions, and thus the animals that feed on the fruits need to be well nourished to carry the seeds far away. Or it could be ability of the plant to send roots deep into the soil to extract water and nutrients. Whichever the reason, dates contain high amounts of complex sugars and decent amounts of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, it has fibre, which means it’s really good for your bowel movement.

Take for example the medjool date, which is one of the most widely grown dates—there are over 200 varieties—each 100-gram serving has 75 g of carbohydrates, seven grams of fibre, two grams of protein, and healthy levels of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and iron.

Dates have health benefits

Beyond dietary benefits, dates can be good for health, too. Dried dates have the highest concentration of total polyphenols (these are the compounds that give good health benefits) among all dried fruits due to the greater exposure to sunlight and extreme temperature at which it is processed. Polyphenols include our familiar flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants with various additional health effects. Date palm extracts have been shown to have anti- inflammatory, antifungal, as well as antitumour properties. Recent rat studies show that dried date consumption helped to reduce the rate of mammary cancer, cancer size, and could prevent the spread of cancer in rats which already had cancer. Most rat studies can be safely inferred onto humans.

Date fruit extracts are also liver protective and has been shown to repair damaged liver cells. Interestingly, components of date fruit extract known as diosmetin glycosides have been shown to increase insulin and stimulate an enzyme in the body which regulates blood glucose levels.

In addition to blood sugar modulating effects, the extracts of date palm can also lower cholesterol levels in the blood.

Fancy growing your own date tree?

If you have the space for it, why not? Bear in mind though, the tree takes 3 to 5 years to mature and start bearing fruits. The fruit harvest in the initial years can be small and disappointing. Also, date trees are dioecious, meaning they have male and female plants, you’ll need to plant more than one for the tree to bear fruit successfully.

Just like the common fig plant, we brought in an insect pest while importing date palms from our neighbour, Thailand. One of the most dangerous in terms of economic impact is the red palm weevil, which eats up the trunk of the palm tree and kills it slowly. It can attack any palm type of tree meaning it has the potential to decimate our oil palm and coconut plantations.

Just a reminder to all our readers—just because something is good, doesn’t mean you can go all out and gorge on it. Most things are good in moderation and again, the beneficial effects of fruits should never be used to replace medication especially if you are already clinically diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease. HT

The Demons in My Mind

The Demons in My Mind

 April 25, 2022   Return

INTERVIEW HANNAH WONG MAY-LEE WORDS LIM TECK CHOON cathie-wu Cathie Wu MA Coun Psy (CAN, USA) Director and Counselling Psychologist   “Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.”− From Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia Nobody’s perfect. We all have our own insecurities, jealousies, disappointments, and regrets. Sometimes, they manifest outward, turning us into the type of people that we don’t wish to be. In the first of a special two-part feature, psychologist Cathie Wu shares with us her thoughts on the inner demons that can lurk in our minds, and how we can cast off these inner demons to become someone less fractured— someone that we will be proud to be.


Marissa has problems forming long-lasting relationships. She claims that it’s because no one understands her; she’s a very giving person who is always being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. Her issue becomes evident when one knows her better. Marissa always has a major life crisis, which becomes the focus of every conversation with her. She also shares her insecurities, fears, and concerns with the people around her, all the while brushing aside suggestions from others on how to improve her situation. Her friends quickly distance themselves from her because her company leaves them feeling emotionally drained. People like Marissa are known as emotional vampires—those who feed off attention and emotions (both good and bad) from the people around them. Some will call them drama queens, while others may use the term ‘narcissists’ and ‘professional victims’.
“Are you an emotional vampire? Here’s how to drive a stake into the issue. ”
Be mindful of boundaries. “It’s your right to share and want to be heard,” says Cathie Wu, “but others also have a right to not have their personal space constantly be invaded.” Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. Empathy is a virtue when it comes to forming and nurturing emotionally fulfilling relationships. Cathie Wu shares that empathy can be cultivated when you take a moment to imagine how it may be like if you were in the other person’s position. With empathy, you will be able to become more aware and responsive to how the people around you perceive you. It also helps you to connect with these people’s feelings. Learn to suspend judgment. Don’t be so quick to assume the best or the worst of a person or a situation. Instead, listen and pay more attention; avoid making impulsive sweeping generalizations and coming up with drastic solutions. Realize that it is never okay to diminish another person for your own gain. Many, although not all, emotional vampires suffer from self-esteem issues, hence the continual craving for validation and attention as well as the frequent need to be right. To overcome this, it is important to also consider the needs and interests of the other person. It will take some time to make the above mentioned tips into a regular habit, and there will be some lapses along the way, but with empathy and a determination to improve your relationships with other people (as well as some assistance from a therapist if necessary), you will eventually arrive at a more emotionally rewarding place in life. shutterstock_4886189...

THE INVISIBLE PERSON                   

Maryam thought she was happy. Her life was perfect. One day, however, she notices that she spends her time during mealtimes in the kitchen getting the food ready, while her family chat happily among themselves. When she joins them, everyone eats and drinks, giving short dismissive responses to her efforts to start a conversation when they are not messing with their phones. Maryam starts tallying up the various little instances when she is treated more like the efficient domestic helper by the rest of the family. Resentment mounts as the tally grows day by day. She has become invisible to her family—they only recall her existence when they want her to cook, clean or fix something. If you believe that you have become an invisible person, here’s some tips from Cathie Wu to be heard and seen again. Acknowledge your own inherent value. It is human nature to tie the perception of success and happiness to external achievements such as financial success or acclaim from other people. When these external markers are not present,resentment and a sense of inadequacy may arise. Instead of relying on these external markers, you should realize that you always have value as a human being. You are worthy to be appreciated and loved, regardless of how successful or beautiful you are. It is important to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you will be able to feel good about your accomplishments even should they go unrecognized by other people. By doing this, you will be able to maintain a more balanced, realistic measure of your own happiness and success. It will be easier to manage the negative emotions that can come with the perception that you are being underappreciated or overlooked. This doesn’t mean you should stay silent and let things be, though! See the next two points. Voice your needs and desires. Waiting in silence to be heard or be invited to speak only bring more feelings of powerlessness and/or helplessness. To break this unhealthy pattern, find the strength and courage inside you to speak up and make your feelings heard. Who knows, maybe your loved ones have no idea that you are feeling this way, and when you speak out about your feelings, they may be more willing to be more considerate to your needs. Set up a more balanced structure. If you choose to do everything for everyone, you will be associated to that role over time. This may lead to you being taken for granted by everyone! To prevent yourself from ending up in this situation, delegate responsibilities so that everyone has a reasonable share of the duties involved.


Created with the mind of a simple, loving child, Frankenstein’s monster quickly discovers the fear people have of his large, hideous appearance, and how this fear quickly turns into violence. Eventually, he snaps… with tragic consequences for both himself and the ones he cares for.
“Much of the ‘lashing out’ is often due to prolonged suppression and denial of one’s own needs,” Cathie Wu explains. “Negative feelings build up like gas in a bottle. When we force ourselves to swallow these feelings down for too long, we are basically screwing on a tight cap on the bottle. It’s bound to explode.”
Reflect on the issues that are bothering you. Then evaluate how you can speak up and be heard. Things can only improve when you have the space and opportunity to openly discuss your emotions and circumstances. Realize the power of forgiveness. Lashing out can be cathartic—it feels good to be finally standing up for yourself— but this pattern of suppression and explosion is ultimately destructive, because your resentment will build over a prolonged period.
Some mental health experts believe that the best thing you can do for yourself is to learn to move forward from these negative emotions. Forgiveness is a powerful force. Only by being able to forgive will it be easier to find inner peace, and with inner peace comes the ability to move past the festering darkness in your soul, to a happier and healthier place in life. Hence, you should begin to forgive those who have hurt you, as well as yourself for any perceived sense of failure or weakness on your part. After then, you will find the resolve and the strength inside you to move forward and do better.

“Perhaps you identify with Frankenstein’s monster. Maybe you believe that the world has abused you so much that it is only right that you retaliate in kind. Cathie Wu believes that there are other, more fulfilling ways to manage your emotions and find contentment in your life.”

It won’t always be easy to forgive, but a combination of some or all of the following options may help: having a confidante, anger management, meditation, spiritual or religious beliefs, and support from a qualified mental healthcare professional. HT

“Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power  of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.” − from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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A Porky Problem? African Swine Fever and You

A Porky Problem? African Swine Fever and You

 April 25, 2022   Return

WORDS Rachel Soon

With the approach of the 2020 Lunar New Year, Chinese  families everywhere are gearing up for a time of feasting and reunion. For many, a key ingredient featured each year on the dinner table is none other than the humble bit (or generous slab) of pork. However, with news headlines highlighting an alarming new disease called African Swine Fever, and the government banning the import of pork products from numerous countries, one might ask: is our pork safe? Should we worry about eating it? Here are some facts to help clear up the issues.

What is African swine fever (ASF)?

ASF is a fast-spreading and usually fatal disease in wild and domestic pigs caused by the African swine fever virus. Depending on how severe the infection is and the type/ species of pig infected, ASF symptoms range from weight loss, intermittent fevers, respiratory issues, and skin ulcers (chronic/ subacute ASF) to high fever, loss of appetite, internal bleeding, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and death within 6–20 days (acute ASF).1

With mortality rates ranging from 30% to 100%, ASF epidemics have devastated whole populations of domestic pigs across the world. The first known outbreak was described in Kenya in 1921 while the first European case was detected in Portugal in 1957.

Since then the virus has gradually spread to other European countries. Although the first cases in Asia only emerged in 2018, it has spread rapidly to more than 10% of pigs in China, Vietnam and Mongolia, with over 5 million culled to try and stop its advance.2

Sounds terrible! Can ASF hurt me?

The good news is: Not at all! Humans can’t catch ASF, and handling and eating pork from infected pigs has no effect on the human body. According to the World Health Organization, the ASF virus is non-zoonotic, meaning it can’t jump from animals to humans.3

But isn’t ASF the same as swine flu?

ASF is not the same as swine flu! Swine flu is a different disease with a different cause and different risks (see table below for a brief comparison).

African swine fever versus swine flu

African swine fever1Swine flu4
Caused by a unique virus family, Asfarviridae, with no similar “relatives” that affect humans.Caused by strains of influenza viruses (eg, H1N1, H3N2) very similar to strains that cause flu in humans and birds.
Has not infected humans since discovery in 1921.Original pig-specific strains rarely infect humans, but can crossover with human/ bird strains to create human-infectious strains; involved in some human flu pandemics between 1918 and 2009.
High death rate in animals (30%-100%).Low death rate in animals (1%-4%).
Can be transmitted through pork products.Can’t be transmitted through pork products.


If it doesn’t affect us, why fuss about infected pork?

Because while the virus can’t infect us, it can hurt our local pigs if it becomes a resident of our country. Malaysia’s farms and forests are currently ASF-virus-free places, but like many countries that used to be free of the virus, that could easily change.

The ASF virus can infect wild pigs and blood-feeding insects (eg, ticks, mosquitoes) without causing any symptoms, making them act as disease reservoirs. This means that once the virus has spread among a country’s wildlife, it can be difficult to drive it out.1

The ASF virus is also a tough cookie. Not only can it remain infectious for up to 1,000 days in frozen raw meat and between 30 to 400 days in dry-cured pork, it can survive heat up to 56°C for over an hour.5

Many dried, frozen and cured pork products are not prepared at extreme enough temperatures to destroy every trace of the virus from the meat; ASF virus traces have been found in imported suckling pigs, frozen pork dumplings, frozen meatballs, and canned luncheon meat.6-8


Migrating wild pigs can carry the ASF virus across borders.

But surely it’s okay if I’m eating it and not the pigs?

Waste human food—kitchen scraps, uneaten leftovers—is one route the virus has been known to spread, as some small farms use it in pig feed, while in some places wild animals have access to the waste we throw out. While you may not personally live anywhere near any pigs, wild or domestic, a blanket ban on potentially infected pork products is the safest measure that can be taken, as there’s no telling where in the country a single can of infected meat can end up.5

What should I do about all this?

As of mid-December 2019, the Malaysian government has placed an embargo on pork products from China, Poland, Belgium, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Laos, and South Korea. Indonesia was recently added given with recent reports of over 30,000 pigs affected in North Sumatra.9,10,11 However, despite this, it’s possible to still find banned pork in local stores and restaurants.12

As responsible consumers, what we can do is look out for and avoid buying or consuming pork products from embargoed countries. Check the labels of pork products for their country of origin and ask retailers where the pork you’re buying comes from. Avoid bringing back pork products from affected countries on your holidays.

On the plus side, Malaysian pork is still very much ASF-free, according to the Department of Veterinary Services, so feel free to enjoy local pork this Chinese New Year with peace of mind!

Found some questionable pork products? You can report them to the Department of Veterinary Services (Jabatan Perkhidmatan Veterinar) via phone at 03-8870 2000 or email at


References: 1. World Organisation for Animal Health. Information on aquatic and terrestrial animal diseases: African Swine Fever. Retrieved from 2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. One year on, close to 5 million pigs lost to Asia’s swine fever outbreak. Retrieved from 3. World Health Organization. Global Early Warning System for Major Animal Diseases, including Zoonoses (GLEWS). Retrieved from 4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Information on Swine/Variant Influenza. Retrieved from 5. Mazur-Panasiuk, N., et al. (2019). African Swine Fever Virus – Persistence in Different Environmental Conditions and the Possibility of its Indirect Transmission. J Vet Res;63(3):303–310. 6. South China Morning Post. African swine fever found in Chinese frozen pork dumplings, but you can still buy them. Retrieved from 7. The Star Online. Sarawak bans all pork products from China. Retrieved from 8. The Sun Daily. Restaurants found serving African swine fever-hit pork products. Retrieved from 9. The Star Online. Task force to tackle imported pork product issue from AFS-infected countries. Retrieved from 10. The Star Online. Govt bans pork products from Indonesia. Retrieved from 11. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). African swine fever: Fears rise as virus spreads to Indonesia. 12. World of Buzz. Report: Shops in Malaysia Still Selling Imported Pork Products Banned for African Swine Fever. Retrieved from

Care To Tango, My Dear Mango?

Luscious Lips For The Holidays

 April 25, 2022   Return


So, how did you like my rhyme in the title? Was it as funny for me as it was for you? Guess not. Well, this month we’ll be looking at a common, but well-loved fruit—the mango. The delicious and fragrant fruit has been incorporated into our daily diet and can be found in lassi (a blend of yoghurt, water, and spices), glutinous rice dessert, ice cream, cake, jelly, pickle, salad, curry, and various other food items.


Mango or its scientific name Mangifera indica, is one fruit which has made its way across the globe and is universally known. The ubiquitous mango originates from South Asia, India and Burma (modern day Myanmar), and spread from there. Early European explorers to India anglicized the local name mangay, and it evolved to become mango.1

As it originates from India, the country considers mango to be its national fruit. There, it is known as their King of Fruits (I think it is because those poor, unfortunate souls don’t have access to durian). Buddhist monks are thought to have brought the fruit along when they spread Buddhism to China and the Southeast Asian region at around 400 B.C. As they’ve had a head start in mango cultivation, it comes as no surprise that India is the world’s largest producer of mangoes, accounting for 50% of all the mangoes produced in the world.3


Here’s a little trivia for you. It’s easy to tell the age of a housing area by looking at the presence and height of mango trees. Back when Petaling Jaya was being established as the new satellite town for Kuala Lumpur, mango trees were all the rage and many homes had one planted. In fact, one can tell the age of a housing area from the number and height of its mango trees. These tend to be grown from seed and the quality of the fruits are usually decent, with the trees bearing less tasty fruits having been chopped off earlier.

In recent times, newer homes with smaller lawns and people moving into high rise housing has meant a reduction of big fruit trees being planted in new housing estates. Instead, ornamental palms and smaller shrubs have taken the space of our once common mango and other fruit trees. With these developments, the ubiquitous mango tree may soon be a thing of the past.


Mangoes are nutritious. A serving (about 165 g) contains 10% of your daily recommended fibre intake. The same serving will give you 100% of your daily recommended Vitamin C and 35% of the daily vitamin A intake. It will further contribute to 20% of your daily folate and 10% of the recommended daily vitamin B6 intake. For a fruit, it has a decent amount of trace copper, contributing 10% of the daily recommended intake.


The yellow colour of mango stems from zeaxanthin, which is the pigment also found in corn. This pigment is a natural antioxidant and collects in the retina of the eye. It helps in filtering out blue light emitted from our electronic devices and the sun, thus helping to delay or reduce age-related eyesight degeneration.4


Mangoes have anywhere from 33% to 103% of the recommended daily intake of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is also known as pro-vitamin A and is converted in the body to vitamin A. Mango has one of the highest beta-carotene content in fruit but the amount is also dependent on the variety of mango. 5


Sounds like a spell phrase but these are phenolic compounds which function as antioxidants. Plant phenolic compounds are molecules produced by plants for various functions but in the human body, they can have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiageing properties.7 Again, depending on the variety, mangoes can have moderate phenolic content compared to blackberries. The mango with the highest phenolic content is Ataulfo, which hails from Mexico. Each kilogram of Ataulfo mango has about 1100 mg of phenolic content compared to blackberries, where each kg contains between 5,000 and 8,000 mg of phenolic content. This isn’t bad considering one doesn’t always think of mangoes being rich in antioxidants.5



Mango is related to poison ivy. The sap of the plant contains a chemical known as urushiol. This compound causes dermatitis or skin inflammation, and is easily absorbed by the skin or mucosal lining (the mouth) and causes your immune system to react, thus resulting in blisters and itch. Urushiol is a compound that can be found in some jungle plants such as Rengas, and it is also found in the skin of the cashew seed.



In Malaysia, the most famous variety is known as the Harumanis, which grows well in the state of Perlis. True to its namesake, the Harumanis is both fragrant and sweet. The fruit is deep yellow when cut but is already ripe even before the skin turns yellow. The aroma is strong when eaten. Traditionally, Harumanis is only available between April and May as it coincides with flowering months of December to February. This period of dryness triggers flowering of the mango trees. It is thought that the stress induces the plant to produce flowers, and thus fruits as they are afraid of dying.2

The price of Harumanis is quite high as far as mangoes go. The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) has a recommended selling price and this year it is RM15 per kg as base price for the premium grade. However, the price is only a recommendation and independent farmers may sell at a higher or lower price depending on market demand. The demand for this fruit has been going up over the years, resulting in more farmers planting this lucrative fruit. However, a Perlis farmer suggested the fruits planted in other regions of the country lack the fragrance of those grown in Perlis. She surmises it could be the climate in Perlis which makes it perfect for the Harumanis to achieve its full potential. Thus, Harumanis from Perlis usually goes for the highest prices among all Harumanis.

Beyond the Harumanis, we have the golden, rather large Alphonso varieties grown predominantly in India and Pakistan. This variety is known as the ‘King of Mangoes’ but it may just be a marketing gimmick rather than fact. Alphonso is characterized by its light orange skin and fibreless pulp and smooth, creamy taste.

Some other varieties we often encounter are the Golden Lily, Red Irwin, Apple, MahaGolek, and more. With more than 200 varieties registered in the country and many more overseas, there are plenty to choose from.6


Irwin mango


Alphonso mango


Apple mango   


As usual, we always encourage our readers to try their hands on greening their house and improving the health of the earth. Planting mangoes is easy enough. It isn’t recommended for you to plant the seeds of mangoes you have eaten because the resulting tree will rarely have the same kind of fruit. It’s simply because the offspring plant has different genetic material than the parent.

What you need to do is identify your favourite variety and check out the plant nurseries or online shops. If they don’t have the variety of mango plant you want, you can always place an order and get them to call you once it arrives.

Mangoes need well-draining soil so if your soil is always waterlogged, then it’s not a suitable plant for your area. According to a farmer, the mango tree puts out new shoots and leaves twice a month. The new shoots and leaves are delicious to pests, so it is best to spray some pest repellent during this time to reduce the risk of damage to the tree.

With proper fertilization and watering, a grafted plant will start producing fruit anywhere from 3 to 5 years after you put it into the ground. The quality and taste of fruits improve with age so don’t be disappointed if the first harvest is poor tasting.

Mangoes need a lot of care as they need to be wrapped by the time they are 1–2 cm in diameter, or fruit flies will lay their eggs in the fruit and destroy the fruits from within as they mature. HT

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References: 1. American Academy of Dermatology. 7 Dermatologists’ Tips For Healing Dry, Chapped Lips. Retrieved from: 2. Stylecraze. Care for Your Lips. Retrieved from: