Science-fuelled innovations and technology are playing a surging role in our quest for healthier, happier lives. We look into the power of micronutrition to understand how it can track the imbalance in our health and give us lifestyle recommendations.
Most of us have been there: cutting down sugar this month, avoiding red meat the next, and constantly oscillating between the latest diets making the rounds in the media that are claimed to be good for us.
“You and I are different. We aren’t the same age or sex, nor do we assimilate and digest nutrients the same way. We don’t get the same amount of sleep and physical activity. So why do we – and everyone – have to eat the same way?” asks Dr Samuel Kung, a French-born, Swiss-raised doctor and the city’s first specialised micronutritionist. “The best diet is a personalised diet.”
Kung’s philosophy is driven by harnessing the power of technology to take our health into our own hands. He developed a passion for micronutrition after his mother’s cancer diagnosis a decade ago. “It was very important after her chemotherapy to detox the body and optimise her functions,” he recalls. “In Switzerland, I started to discover a new approach that could help her. I was amazed by the potential of this new concept.”
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Earlier this year, Kung co-founded Symbionat Health (the name is a portmanteau meaning “the symbiosis between human biology and nature”), Hong Kong’s first micronutrition health centre, which offers the non-invasive IntraCell scanning system. In barely a minute, it gives a 360-degree diagnosis of a client’s micronutritional parameters by analysing the bio-impedance, galvanic skin response, heart rate and digital pulse wave data; this is followed by an in-depth consultation and customised lifestyle recommendations.
Micronutrition is a relatively new life science. Originating in France some 30 years ago, it studies the balance of the microcosm in the human body. According to Kung, that spans everything from the nutrition and functional level of cells to hormones, neurons, immune reactions and the holistic synergy within the body. While it has gained widespread popularity across Europe, micronutrition has been slow to catch on in this part of the world. “Most micronutritionists are still using traditional ways of diagnosis like blood tests and saliva tests,” explains Kung. “We have found this very innovative approach to help us understand where the health disbalance is coming from. It’s changing the way I work as a micronutritionist."
After just a minute of standing on the sleek scanner with my hands and feet placed on the attached metal sensors, the screen in front of me lights up with pages of data about my health, captured in surprisingly scrupulous detail. It covers a variety of things: body composition; microcirculation, cardio, vertebral, and stress scores; and dietary and micronutritional recommendations – all of which are easily revisited and tracked on Symbionat Health’s dedicated app.
For example, my report recommends less beetroot (a fixture in my daily salads) and a greater intake of celery, onions, and tomatoes – items I typically steer clear of. I’m also suggested supplements to combat certain micronutritional deficits. The ease of diagnosis and accuracy of information is eye-opening, and could certainly be critically helpful for some.
“Our philosophy encompasses two paths; one is the medically certified clinical path and the other is the wellness path,” adds Yongyan Liu, CEO and co-founder of Symbionat Health. “Through the report, we can instantly spot certain indexes that are at risk or in the danger zone. We can then transfer you, if necessary, to a clinical consultation or recommend you to a specific test in the hospital as well.”
Kung asserts that Hong Kong is at the perfect point in time to spread the word about micronutrition – not only because of the city’s aptitude for time-saving, tech-driven solutions but also our pressing need for better health. “The four pillars of health are nutrition, sleep, physical activity, and management of stress,” he says. “That’s why there are a lot of health issues in Hong Kong that are easily avoidable if we know how. For this, we need to educate and bring them the knowledge.”
As a way to do this, Symbionat Health regularly hosts workshops and provides co-certification programmes to train up future micronutritionists, who will also be able to operate the smart diagnosis system. Yet despite the rapid-paced advancement of life science technology, both Kung and Liu, who spent years in Sweden, believe that good health is inseparable from Mother Nature. “Licking the sun is a typical Swedish expression for their love of nature,” says Liu. “This is my philosophy, too – how close humans should be to nature.”
Kung, who also specialises in traditional Swiss natural therapy, adds, “In our philosophy, technology is a very interesting tool for us, but it stays a tool. The concept we want to express is a balanced lifestyle and close synergy with nature. Yes, we’re using technology, but the philosophy behind it is simplicity.”