Eyeing health

  • Health
  • Sunday, 25 Sep 2011

Next week, Fit4life introduces a new column on eye health called You & Eye. Here, we introduce the writers to you.

HE is an eye specialist with a bright red personality (decisive, goal-oriented, achievement-driven). She is a consultant dietitian with a green personality (compassionate, intuitive, orderly). Both returned to Malaysia from the UK two years ago, having studied and worked there, with two young children in tow.

They’re now thriving in their respective fields, and rediscovering their love for all things Malaysian. The husband and wife team of Dr Fong Choong Sian and Goo Chui Hoong are now embarking on a new career path – writing and publishing a recipe book, with a difference.

“I’ve noticed since my return that food is an integral part of the lives of Asians,” observes Dr Fong. “In my practice, I’ve often been asked questions like, ‘I’ve got this eye condition, so should there be foods that I should abstain from?’ or ‘What foods should I take to improve my cataracts?’.

“So one day, I returned from work and asked my wife whether food can help with various eye conditions ... what food should be taken, what food shouldn’t be.”

Food for thought

It was through such conversations that =husband and wife hit on the idea of a recipe book for healthy eyes.

“There are certainly some foods that can be taken to help with certain eye conditions, especially macular degeneration. There’s research that has indicated that high-dose antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD),” explains Dr Fong.

AMD is an eye condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye called the macula.

It causes problems with central vision, especially when you’re looking directly at something, for example, when you’re reading, looking at photos or watching television. AMD may make central vision distorted or blurry and, over a period of time, it may cause a blank patch in the centre of your vision.

The research that Dr Fong referred to is the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), sponsored by the US government’s National Eye Institute. This major clinical trial closely followed about 3,600 participants with varying stages of AMD. The results showed that the AREDS formulation (a combination of antioxidants and minerals), while not a cure for AMD, may play a key role in helping people at high risk for developing advanced AMD keep their remaining vision.

The specific daily amounts of antioxidants and zinc used by the study researchers were 500mg of vitamin C; 400 International Units of vitamin E; 15mg of beta-carotene (often labeled as equivalent to 25,000 International Units of vitamin A); 80mg of zinc as zinc oxide; and 2mg of copper as cupric oxide. Copper was added to the AREDS formulations containing zinc to prevent copper deficiency anaemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake.

“The column will also help us address some issues related to health in general. For example, supplements is big business, not only in Malaysia, but all over the world.

“We can help dispel some of the myths associated with supplements through this column,” says Dr Fong.


Dr Fong studied and worked in the UK, while Goo, after completing her dietetics degree in Univesiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, proceeded to do her Masters in the UK and subsequently worked there.

The story of how Dr Fong and Goo met might as well have come from the fertile mind of a Hollywood script writer, only in this instance, it’s all true.

“We first met through The Star’s Quiz Quest contest in 1991,” recalls Goo. “We were in different teams. I was with Convent, Seremban, while Choong Sian was with Bukit Bintang Boy’s School. Our respective teams advanced to the semis, where my team beat his, and we advanced to the finals.”

“Yes, I was actually captain of my team,” says Dr Fong. “And it just so happened that my future wife and I were sitting alongside each other!”

They have now been married for 11 years, and have two girls, aged six and three years. The happy couple is expecting a third child next year.

The couple came back primarily because of their families.

“We’ve adjusted to the pace of life in Malaysia, and are enjoying our time back home,” they note.

Dr Fong is now busy with his practice, while Goo also teaches cooking in her spare time.

Occasionally, Goo tries out her cooking creations on her family.

The verdict? “It’s good,” says Dr Fong, with a smile.

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