Editor’s Note: As of Thursday, 25 April 2019, Biorna Quantics, whose product was reviewed in this article, has ceased operations.
Everybody who lives in a modern city, at one time or another, has complained about a short supply of time. We’re always looking for ways to optimise our wellbeing with the most efficient means possible. So when it comes to prioritising health, it’s no wonder time-saving services such as healthy meal plans and personalised workouts have become so popular — no, indispensable to our hectic urban lifestyles.
One such Hong Kong company offering a comprehensive health programme, from meal planning to health tests to workout advice, is Biorna Quantics. Celebrating its fourth anniversary this year, the brand is perhaps best known for its nutrition arm, which offers tailor-made, mainly organic meal plans that are designed to fit each client’s dietary requirements and macronutrient needs. BQ particularly is one to watch for the growing number of health-conscious Hongkongers training on a mostly plant-based or vegan diet — the Quantics Kitchen is one of few meal plan companies that has developed its own vegan proteins, such as Bactrian (below), made from hemp, and Midas, Gaea and Surya, all based on pea protein isolate.
What Biorna Quantics prizes most is customisability, and founder Dr. Justin Gregory has made it a point to offer a tailored infrastructure, making it easy and accessible for everybody to achieve their ideal level of health, whether through diet, exercise, or health monitoring to create healthy lifestyle changes. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach simply doesn’t work when everyone’s biology is unique,” says Dr. Gregory. “Our integrated system provides not only the most accurate and clinically-validated results, but also provides the clarity and guidance to help each person understand the data and empower them to take action to improving and optimising their health.”
It starts with BQ’s iAppraisal system, which is a handy online health consultation that helps guide customers to the right kind of meal plan and any health tests they may be more inclined to take — ranging from food sensitivity tests to DNA tests that help you determine your needs in terms of diet and physical exercise.
Biorna Quantics is soon launching the BQ Engine smartphone app, which aims to provide customised day-to-day health checklists, recipes, as well as all the detailed insights obtained from health tests for each client. To accompany this, they have also been working on a Heart-Rate Variability tracker, a band that for the chest area which helps clients track their vitals, identify sources of stress, sleep quality, and recovery and how to improve athletic performance.
Ahead of the launch, I was able to experience a full wellness appraisal with the BQ team, trying out its personalised wellness services from start to finish. Here’s what went down:
My own journey with wellness has been complicated: I have been generally dedicated to exercise in the past two years, using apps such as GuavaPass and now Classpass to attend group workout sessions. I try to make it to two to three classes a week in an effort to lose stubborn flab, gain energy and strength, as well as hopefully regulate a lingering bloating issue mainly in my lower legs — to little to no avail on the scale as well as on the measuring tape.
For a while, I was in a toxic love-hate relationship with carbs, a misinformed battle that I’m sure is all too familiar with many: abstaining from bowls of rice or noodles and piling on veggies, even though I’m still feasting on Korean barbecue or indulgent steak dinners and roasts. Secretly, I’d be dying for a bowl of silky carbonara, and all the restricting during the workweek meant I’d be more keen to “treat myself” at the end of the week.
Frustrated with not going anywhere with my fitness and not knowing what I was doing wrong, I was incredibly interested to see what lifestyle changes I needed to commit to make progress. I met with Biorna Quantics’ Dr. Ken Chu, resident programs director and naturopathic doctor, for a face-to-face consultation, where he guided me through the iAppraisal form and also asked me details about my lifestyle and my health concerns. Nowadays, all clients can sign up on the website and complete the free consultation conveniently online, and more in depth meetings can be arranged at BQ’s partner clinics around town or through the phone.
He dove in comprehensively, asking questions about my bowel movements and menstrual cycle, my sleep quality and any athletic habits, dispersing any of my embarrassment with a kind, professional demeanour.
Taking note of my concerns of a lack of progress in weight control, my perceived low metabolism, as well as any potential digestive disorders that might be related to food sensitivity, Dr. Chu advised me to take three health tests: The Complete Metabolic Energy Profile (CMEP; above) urine test (HK$3,495), which would give me an overview of how my cells use energy; The Nutri-Vita DNA cheek swab (HK$995), which would show me the ideal food intake and exercise strategies for my genes; and the Food-Sen Complex 22 blood test (HK$995), which looks at my reaction to 22 of the most common food sensitivities.
The health kits were passed on to me in person, but they are typically collected at the Biorna Quantics HQ in Wong Chuk Hang. Tests can also be purchased from partner clinics or online, but in most cases must be delivered back by hand, as the samples have to remain fresh. Of the three tests, only Food-Sen Complex 22 gave me anxiety, as I was required to prick my own finger with a needle, and fingerprint drops of blood onto a sample card. Luckily, I had a member of BQ staff to help me with this test (it did pinch for a second when she pricked my left ring finger) otherwise I don’t think I’d have the courage to do it myself!
After a couple of weeks, the results were uploaded onto my personal profile online — I was also able to speak on the phone with Dr. Ken Chu who carefully explained all of my results and what they implied.
The online report I received on my BQ profile was a consolidated, categorised list of all the biomarkers or antigens I’ve been tested for, rather than tests organised by date. The platform itself will always show your latest results, so that clients can consistently test and see improvement in their health every few months to half a year.
The CMEP looked at metabolites, or waste products of basic metabolic function. Found in my urine, these by-products showed how sufficient or how well my body was processing neurotransmitters, vitamins and nutrients; whether there was a presence of environmental toxins and pathogenic bacteria; as well as gave an overview on my overall energy production and gut function. This gave me the most valuable insights in terms of why my metabolism seemed to be letting me down.
Dr. Chu first went through each by-product listed, then began to connect the dots to form an overall picture of how my body was functioning. It appeared that I was just on the cusp of being at a high level of the bacteria candida in my gut, often an indicator of bloating, fogginess and feeling hungry despite fullness. Makes sense.
He pointed out that I had a low levels of lactic acid and pyruvate build-up — indicating my average exercise rate of twice a week was not enough. Lactic acid is a result of anaerobic exercise, and pyruvate is created from aerobic exercise, and apparently my body was capable of more. Dr. Chu recommended me to increase my duration or frequency of exercise to 3 to 4 times a week at least.
The test also showed that both food and oxygen were not being used by the cell efficiently enough. Instead, it showed that I was burning from existing protein stores in my body rather than food. It wasn’t burning any fat, either (it also turns out I was eating too much fat), and instead I was creating ketones to use as fuel. Due to my own carb restrictions, I was, in a way, naturally on a “ketogenic diet,” yet minus any fat loss as the diet traditionally claims. If I was on an efficient, true ketogenic diet, the byproduct of fatty acids should be sky-high.
“Whatever you’re doing now is just making you more tired,” Dr. Chu said. “You’re just burning protein, and the fat that you have is not burning efficiently, meaning that maybe, the ketogenic diet doesn’t work for you. It can be a genetic thing.” I was recommended to take CoQ10 supplements, which would help with oxygenation in cells, helping to drive the sustenance into the system.
My figures looked like I was detoxing well enough, as well as handling organic (hormonal) stress just fine, although it looked like I wasn’t creating enough serotonin, which could potentially lead to anxiety and depression. Combined with an observed vitamin B deficiency, it meant my metabolism was a lot lower than expected, which would also affect my mood negatively. I was recommended to take a 5HTP supplement, a serotonin precursor, and an activated B complex to support both mood and metabolism.
In terms of helping to regulate and boost my metabolism, Dr. Chu was able to tell that I often skipped meals or ate irregular amounts and different times. He recommended that I maintain a regular meal frequency and quantity, try to eat healthier snacks, as well as take fish oil and probiotics, which would aid in my nutrient absorption.
Next, the Nutri-Vita DNA test gave insight on my foundational DNA, and how my genes determined the way my body stores fat, manages blood sugar, handles different foods, and reacts to exercise. It revealed that my body is predisposed to work at its optimum with a 90/10 split of stead aerobic exercise and high intensity work — meaning I don’t need to bombard my schedule with blasts of HIIT in order to lose weight. Instead, steady aerobic work such as biking or jogging works great as it is. Dr. Chu also suggested that if I enjoyed activities such as weight training (I do), rather than rapid circuits, I should focus on more rest time in between, and that is also considered steady aerobic exercise.
The DNA test also gave me my optimum macro ratio: 35% Protein, 25% Fat, 40% Carbohydrates. A low carb sensitivity meant I was allowed to eat carbs! Of course, Dr. Chu assured me that these should be mostly sensible choices such as vegetables and beans. This is particularly important because as it turns out, I had a high propensity to absorb fat, meaning I’m cut out to eat indulgent bowls of pasta anyway, unfortunately.
The final portion of the DNA test indicated the supplements that I should take according to my genetics. Once again, I was recommended CoQ10, Omega-3s and a B-complex, showing that I had difficulty metabolising my food as indicated in the CMEP test. It also suggested L-carnitine, which helps with metabolism, and BCAA powder, an amino acid chain that helps build muscle and supports the immune system.
Lastly, the Food-Sen Complex 22 gave results on 22 of the most common food sensitivities. Nothing was out of the ordinary, but to my absolute dismay, it revealed that egg yolks and egg whites were highly inflammatory for my system. I had been eating eggs my entire life and always loved it in any dish, and never noticed any negative symptoms after eating eggs. Dr. Chu remarked that I could be sensitive to it without feeling any pronounced side effects, perhaps at most a feeling of bloatedness, but according to the findings, I should cut it out of my diet. (I haven’t put away my love for carbonara or runny scrambled eggs on toast quite yet, but I’m trying, okay. I’m only human).
Depending on your goals, Dr. Chu also helps you monitor your progress — for me, he encouraged me to use MyFitnessPal for the next few weeks to log my food, water and bowel movements, and to make sure I keep myself accountable for my macro ratios each day.
When it comes to your personal wellness journey, unguided individuals can be running around in the dark for years and not see any results — I certainly felt that way before trying these health test kits for myself. Getting a clear, detailed picture of my state of health is perhaps the strongest motivation you need to set yourself up on a clear path towards successful results. Of course, the rest is up to you and your discipline.
Soon, with the launch of the BQ Engine and the Heart-Rate Variability tracker, Hongkongers can get even better and more instantaneous feedback on how to reduce stress, improve athletic performance, eat healthier for their body, and overall, improve their way of life. For a city like Hong Kong that prizes efficient payoff, I’m sure all the health obsessives out there can’t wait to have a complete suite of tools at their fingertips.
Learn more at Biorna Quantics.