Coding using VBA (Excel)

1. Background

In a long hiatus from this blog since early 2016, this would mark a brief return in 2017 to conduct some self-learning. The blog was temporarily halted as upon reflection from previous articles, it would be best to stop until further research and analysis is done.

Instead, I have taken the liberty to reuse the blog to learn other digital skill-sets that may come in handy in the future – with the first being digital coding. Technology is rapidly advancing and will be a key-focus as automation take holds, thus it pays to be digitally literate.

Starting posts on coding that pushed me here were: Reddit’s Beginner’s Intro to Coding:, ‘What I want to code?’ , ‘Please don’t learn how to code’ and the main-tutorials were, Excel-VBA Coding. Other useful links include: Code Academy and Programming Resources.

Final words: The remnants of the blog would be dedicated to starting up on the VBA and basic introductory codes to get started.

2. Setting up Microsoft Visual Basic (Application and Editor)
Notes from: (7/1/2017),

Pressing ‘Alt+F11‘ will open the VBA software for excel coding.

Project Windows – [View] > Project Explorer
Properties Window [View] > Properties Window
Coding Window > Default (on Sheets)

Worksheets under the properties window correspond to the sheets tab in the excel document. The properties window indicates the features of a worksheet including: Visibility  (tab may be visible/invisible when shared). Project Windows showcase each worksheet ready for coding, and a set of code is referred to as a Macro (automated codes).

2.1 Setting up the Developer Bar

The Developer Bar is essential to hot-key macros, record any operations for automation and check for errors – but is not a default tab. To set it up, go under [Add or Remove Programs] > [Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013] > (Right-Click) Change > Add/Remove Features > Office Shared Features > Click Visual Basic for Applications. Head back to Excel > File > Options > Customise Ribbon > Tick ‘Developer’ [left].

3. [Macros] Keying Basic Codes

To run a Macro, you may do the following:
‘Press F5’ in the VBA software (Run > Run/Sub UserForm)
‘Press F8’ in the VBA software – debug step-by-step (Debug > Step Into)
‘Right click on any cell/text-box/image > Assign Macro’ > Select Sheet’ in Excel
‘Developer > Macros > Options > Shortcut Key’ – Excel hotkeying

3.1 [Macro] Security

To create password access to a macro files, ‘Alt+F11’ > Tools > VBA Project Properties > Projection > Lock Project for viewing > Assign password (do not forget). To access the specific worksheet again, a password requirement is needed. (The security may be breached easily with the right software in place).

To lower security for access to Macros in other PC: Under Developer Tab > ‘Macro Security’ > ‘Disable all macros with notification’. When receiving an excel file with macros ‘xlsm’, be cautious as the specific codes may be malware or disablers. Macros can’t be saved under regular excel files ‘xlsx’, hence saving in them will remove all macro codes.

3.2 [Macro] Basic Coding

Firstly, do not type in capital letters unless naming as excel can spot for errors by underlining in red or via not capitalizing certain words. Sub Profirst() and End Sub, starts the code and end it respectively – all code lies inbetween. ‘Profirst‘ indicate sheet 1, so ‘Prosecond‘, ‘Prothird‘ will be respective for subsequent sheets.

Using space bar followed by ‘_’, will text break a line of code for better viewing.

Range Statements

1. Range(“A1”).Value =                     (Numerical or Text – Text being in “Orange”)
2. Range(“A1”).Formula = “”         (Mathematical: +, -, *, /, *)
3. Range(“A1”).Select                       (Selects specific cell)
4. Range(“A1”).Copy                         (Copies specific cell)
5. Range(“A1”).PasteSpecial           (Pastes specific cell)

1. Range(“A1:E1”).Select                  (Selects collectively from cells A1 to E1)
2. Range(“A1, B1, E1”).Select         (Selects individually of cells, A1, B1 and E1)

1. Sheets(“Sheet2”).Select             (Will reselect a sheet to Sheet2)
2.Sheets(“Sheet1”).Name = “”     (Will name the Sheet within “”)

[This may be combined with the codes specific to range, for additional utilities]
e.g. Range(“A3”).Formula = “=A1+A2”, will sum the A1+A2 values into A3 output
e.g. Range(“A1:E1”).Copy       (Copies the entire range of data from A1 to E1)
e.g. Range(“C1″).Value = Application.WorksheetFormula.Sum(Range”A1:D5”)
Using Formula (sum, stdev, average, max, min) values are available for use.

Selection Statements:

Selection.Offset(“1,0”).Select       ( indicates to move down a row by 1 )
Selection.Offset(“-1,0”).Select    ( indicates to move up a row by 1 )
Selection.Offset(“0,1”).Select       ( indicates to move right a column by 1 )
Selection.Offset(“0,-1”).Select     ( indicates to move left a column by 1 )
ActiveCell.Offset(“1,0”).Select     ( selected cell move down a row by 1 )

Loop Statements

Requires 4 basic statements: 1) Selection, 2) Do Until, 3) Loop Operations, 4) Loop

Range(“A1:A4″).Select
Do Until Selection. Row =
Selection Value = ” ”
Selection Offset (“1, 0”).Select
Loop

Range selects the cell data, that may be followed up by the ‘Selection‘ operation. Do Until gives an instruction for when the loop will terminate while the code between Do Until and Loop will indicate the operations that is to be done. In the above.. Key ” “, and move down row by 1. Indicate ” ” parenthesis only for text functions.

Message Statements

MsgBox operation is a key way to inform users operating the macro of when the procedure may be done or where may the results be specifically found.
MsgBox “The Macro is finshed”
MsgBox “The result is” & Range(“A1”).Value
& is crucial to link “” and Range(“A1”).Value

Application Statements

Application.Quit will terminate the program after it runs
ActiveWorkbook.Saved = True will auto-save when used prior to Application.Quit

Application.ScreenUpdating = True shows macro changes to the spreadsheet as it runs
(Must be keyed in at the end of the codes and before the End Sub).
Application.ScreenUpdating = False will do the opposite and not showcase the changes

(Do Feedback if there are any errors or rooms for improvement as this post will be a work-in-progress).

‘If’ Statements
Exceptionally useful when creating an event scenario with some level of autonomy.

If [Specific trigger is True] Then
[Condition 1 executes]
Else
[Condition 2 executes]
End If

*The statement Else is important, as it says if Condition 1 is not true then Condition 2 must be true. This can further chain newer ‘If’ statements with ‘Else’ to improve a macro.

Input statements:If LCase(Selection.Value) = “yes” Then‘ will fix any ‘yes’ text to be lowercase irregardless if its Yes/YES. Ucase will be fixed to uppercase.

Dir Statements
Allows for a macro to identify a file in a specific location
Dir (pathname, attributes)
*Note: Mynah refers to my specific Username on the interface

File = Dir(“C:\Users\Mynah\Desktop\Test1.docx”)
MsgBox File

(Reasoning: Assigning the Dir function to File (need not be specific) allows for detection to be seen in the MsgBox. ‘C:\Users\Mynah\Desktop\Test1.docx’ is the pathname.

1. File = Dir(“C:\Users\Mynah\Desktop\T*.docx”)
2. File = Dir(“C:\Users\Mynah\Desktop\Test?.docx”)

(1) will look for any docx. file that starts with a letter T while (2) may be used if the last character of the file name is unknown.

Combining If and Dir Statements 
Doing so will permit the user to create a program that checks if a file is present or not
Scenario 1: Run a macro to detect if a FILE name Report.docx is present on Desktop

File = Dir(“C:\Users\Mynah\Desktop\Report.docx”)
If Len(File) > O then
Msgbox “Report File is found on Desktop”
Else
Msgbox “Report File is found on Desktop”
End If

Lenindicates the number of char(characters), Report.docx (has 10 char). So if the file exist, then the Len value must be >0.

Scenario 2: Run a macro to detect if a DIRECTORY is present and if not, create one on the Disk Space (C:\)

MyFolder = “C:\Help”
File = Dir (MyFolder, vbDirectory)

If Len(File) > 0, Then
MsgBox (“File & Exists in the Disk Space”)
Else
MkDir MyFolder
MsgBox (“Help File has been created”)
End If

(Check This PC> OS(C:) to affirm that the Help Folder has been created)
Running the macro once (if ‘Help’ file is not present) will indicate that Help File is created using MkDir. Re-running the macro will indicate that it exists in the Disk Space. vbDirectory is crucial to specify the Directory and relocate the newly created file.

MkDir path name or MkDir “C:\Users\Mynah\Desktop\Folder”
Will create a designated folder in the specific path name keyed

Sorting Statement
Sorting allows for a better categorisation of information that may be done manually.

This may be done alphabetically, numerically, a customised order which are based on a selected column (e.g. names, email, numbers etc.)

Range(“A1″), Sort Key1:=”B2”, Order1:=xlAscending, Header:=xlyes
Range(“A1″), Sort Key1:=”B2”, Order1:=xlDescending, Header:=xlyes

Do not forget that there is a spacing after the comma and ‘Sort’.

Range(“A1”) indicates all data in the spreadsheet
Range(“A1:D5”) selectively indicates data from A1 to D5
Sort begins the function and must contain Key1 and Order1
Key1:= “B1”
specifies column B to be sorted
Order1:= Ascending indicates to be sorted by increment
(numerically/ alphabetically, numerical has priority if sharing column)
Header:=xlyes allows the macro to exclude the first row

Note: ‘:=’ indicates text data while ‘=’ represents numerical data.

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Junk Food Advertisements

So I was walking by the cereal aisle of my local supermarket and had stopped to look at the classic KoKo Krunch and Honey Stars. A thought then struck as I looked at the cartoony characters, what makes junk food appealing to children and how are they marketed in Singapore?

In the opening video above from the documentary SuperSize Me, I had a feeling of concern as it highlights a situation in America where junk food ads are highly present in children TV channels (e.g. cartoons) and a more developed coverage for these issues can be seen in a separate documentary, Fast Food Babies.

Some of the concerns shared by the health authorities in Singapore involves the development of dietary habits from young that may involve a preference for processed foods and that these habits may be harder to change once enforced. In combination with the rising obesity trends, a 2015 guideline for the food industry was set via the efforts of the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board and the Advertising Standards of Singapore [1].

The protection these guidelines served are worthy of praise for it enables parents to have a better role in guiding their children’s dietary choices. This is in stark contrast of the food marketers having a stronger influence than parents in what is known as the ‘nag factor‘, when parents have to comply with their child’s request [2]. This occurs mainly due to neglect or oversight about the programs or commercial in children TV shows.

Cereal Commercials

From my personal experience growing up watching television, I really thought that cereal was needed in a healthy breakfast. The advertisement above was really catching I can recall, partly due the short story and the ending phrase “A great chocolaty taste!“.  Speaking of cereals, I would like to take this opportunity to showcase the different types of commercials I watched while growing up.

Cookie Crisp was another cereal brand that I perceive was this fun and enjoyable product – based on the commercial..  I mean the idea of eating a bowl of cookies with milk for breakfast was a like a dream come true. Interestingly however, it was rather unappealing in its taste, it seem rather hard and mild and I had expected something more of a Chips More cookie.

But if we are talking about cereals, Oreo O‘s was definitely one that had kept me wanting for more. It mixes the crunchy cereal and soft marshmallows with an ecstasy of sweetness while the thick, creamy and cold HL milk had made it one of the best then, in my opinion.

Cereal companies were by far more consistent with their advertisements and they understand how best in appealing to the younger audiences – They definitely had me convinced.

Confectionery

But cereal companies don’t deserve the spotlight alone, the confectionery companies had done a great job as well. Most noticeably in their packaging and the costs as well. Yupi Gummy Candy, M&Ms and Smarties are great prime examples for their utilisation of bright colours to make it more interesting.

Yupi Gummy Candy however, had taken it further to customise many of its products in the form of pizzas, hamburgers, hot dogs, dinosaurs, worms, cola bottles and bears. The shapes and the exquisite use of different flavourings really added a sense of fun and excitement to these delights. They were also a favourite to be used in gifts or awards for children, likely adding an association of positivity or happiness.

Cadbury had done a splendid job in its marketing as well. Taking the two videos below as reference, the first was done as a clay-animation. The main catch of the theme was the bubbly tune, the fantasy of a chocolate world and the ever important …”Wouldn’t it be nice?” as the ending phrase. In all honestly, I was a Cadbury fan a few years back, it was definitely creative of them to get the idea out.

Considering the quirky nature of the next video, its oddity had made it quite popular back in 2009. I can even recall a classmate mimicking the ‘eyebrow dance‘. To be frank, the ad that has nothing to do with chocolates and I believe it to be a marketing strategy by not placing an emphasis on the product, consumers would more or less focus on the message or the idea behind it. It could also be an unsuspecting factor as well, though these are just speculations.

Oreo’s “Twist Dip Dunk

Kraft’s Oreo! Delicious as it was, the idea of the product was its prime selling factor. Taking the commercial as reference, one similarity is apparent among other ads we have seen and it is the association of positivity with said product.

The video’s appeal lies in the joyous tune, the key sound effects being the crunch and laughter, but above all else is the children factor. It contributes to that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you look at something adorable and one that you wouldn’t mind re-watching again. These feelings associate itself with the product that could influence how you look at Oreos.

In addition, the “Twist Dip Dunk” instructions on the back of the product’s packaging instills a sense of simplicity that makes it memorable. Upon which, consumers may make their own variations to how they consume Oreos – either by eating the cream first or biscuits later, eating it whole or dipping in milk. Yet all of these are just my experiences alone, but it tells a convincing story of how junk food ads are perceive by the children who grew up watching them.

The Mentality Impact

According to the American Psychology Association (APA), the amount of time that a children spends watching television can be associated to a likelihood in being obese. This is due to a shift in preference concerning diets and requests – for foods high in calories, but low in nutrients, when exposed at such an early age. Other concerns may include a dissatisfaction in body image and eating disorders [3].

In an international study of 11 countries done between 2007 to 2008 by a collaboration between 13 independent research groups, they had analysed the rate of non-core (high in fat, sugar or salt) food advertising during peak hours of children viewing times in 3 main television channels. The study had also excluded any holiday periods to only showcase the average broadcasting period.

The results gathered from the analysis had showed that, an average of 5 ads can be observed at any given hour, fast food and confectionery advertisements were particularly dominating and that more than 50% of food advertisements are based on non-core products in all the countries analysed [4]. Understanding that when a child is bombarded with these types of commercials, and then lack the awareness of the ad’s persuasive intents, it can become a very exploitative process.

Conclusion

So referring back to the 2015 guideline set by the health authorities in Singapore in the regulation of these types of ads, it was a good move to stop the onset of obesity in this country. However, this but one factor, the study cited above had shown that children may not necessarily watch the TV channels targeted for them and thus, proper parental guidance is required for fast food ads do permeate through other channels.

In the day and age of technology where screen time is so prominent, more youths that are growing today will only get more familiar with technology. With advertisements present not just via televisions but on online platforms, there needs a better awareness and education on this situation. Alternatively, we can better market core food products that possess a higher nutrient density or promote better lifestyle choices in utilizing the age of technology towards the benefits of health. In either way, we can all play a better role in society in guiding one another and to stop selling garbage to our children.

Making Choices – Healthy Living Every Day

#9

 

References
  1. Singapore Ministry of Heath. 2015. Fact Sheet: Food Advertising Guidelines [online]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/dam/moh_web/PressRoom/Highlights/2014/COS%202014/Food%20Advertising%20Update%20Highlights.pdf [Accessed 7 May 2016].
  2. John Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. 2011. The Nag factor: How do children convince their parents to buy unhealthy foods? [online]. Available from: http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2011/borzekowski-nag-factor.html [Accessed 7 May 2016].
  3. American Psychological Association. 2016. The impact of food advertising on childhood obesity [online]. Available from: http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx [Accessed 7 May 2016].
  4. Bridget. K., Halford. C.G. J., Boyland. J.E., Chapman K., Castano B.I., Berg. C., Caroli. M., Cook. B., Coutinho G.J., Effertz T., Grammatikaki. E., Keller. K., Leung R., Manios Y., Monteiro R., Pedley C., Prell H., Raine K., Recine E., Majem S.L., Singh S., Summerbell C. 2010. Television Food Advertising to Children: A Global Perspective. NCBI [online]. September 2010. 100(9). 1730 – 1736. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920955/ [Accessed 7 May 2016].

 

FBT: Approving Food Additives (FDA)

So in this week’s installment of the Food Basket Topics, I was doing a little project for a school based assignment about the Additive Approval Process. Upon which, I stumbled into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website for further details. In their Q&A page for industries, the process can be summarised into companies filing for a petition with an extensive assessment of the additive’s safety via the company, FDA’s scientists and external bodies [1].

The entire process can average out to 2 years depending on the additive and two questions that occurred was to me was, would companies wait 2 years for an additive to be approved for use? Could there be anyway this process might be exploited? A quick intro to the topic can be seen in WebMD’s video below.

WebMD mentioned in the video above about the Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS) status that allows companies to conduct their own research and if approved, they can bypass the stringent default process for additives.

In an article by Martha Rosenburg, an investigative reporter from the HuffingtonPost, she had mentioned that at times food companies or additive makers can bypass both the GRAS and additive approval process of the FDA by making self-declaration if its safety – even more so if the additives are imported overseas [2]. This poses a concern, if the FDA is unaware, these additives can appear in food products with or without labeling, much less warnings and can cause unreported reactions in consumers.

The GRAS Status

The creation of the GRAS status can be traced back to the 1958 Food Additives Amendment act which was formed when the realisation occurred that not all additives required strict safety assessments. This was to better utilise the FDA’s resources than having common ingredients such as a salt or vinegar to be approved. The notion of was also brought out how can a food additive be defined, the first was any substance that affects the characteristic of a food product either directly or indirectly and the other as a substance generally recognised by scientific experts as safe or with long experience with their common usage [3].

But what is the GRAS approval process like? In 1962, the FDA has contracted with the Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO) to select qualified scientists in reviewing the information of the GRAS ingredients. The scientists’ evaluations are kept independent from FDA and other bodies that are involved in conducting safety reviews for these substances. The FDA then uses this data and comments from the public about its proposal and approve the substance as GRAS if its strongly supported [ibid].

The few concerns over this process lies that not all the substance in the GRAS list may have had went through the procedure above if the manufacturer’s independent conclusion had claim if it was GRAS. Secondly, the petition of a GRAS status need not necessarily go through the reviews of the FDA’s agency with the LSRO’s scientists and can be done with the FDA itself. Lastly, the FDA had proposed for the process to be a notification procedure rather than a affirmation petition, this means companies would voluntarily report to the FDA for a final conclusion of the GRAS status [ibid].

In a 2014 report by the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC), they had criticised the FDA’s handling of the GRAS status that despite their strict assessment for the procedure, the fact that it is voluntary for manufacturers had resulted in a deterioration of the quality of risk and safety reviews. Made worse when despite the FDA’s rejection of a GRAS status, it does not mean that it is not allowed to be marketed. This can be evident from their study with 56 companies pertaining to undisclosed GRAS safety assessments for 275 chemicals. Upon which, were unable to provide the GRAS safety studies with 21 not responding at all [4].

The report’s concerns can be summarised in this video as well.

Voluntary Notification

I had brought up a question earlier in this article, “Would companies wait 2 years for its approved used?” This creates difficulties for the manufacturers for, in that time, the potential profits of the product would be on hold, as with investments and additional costs incurred for its assessments. A concern evident in the report by the NDRC when the companies mentioned why they would forgo the FDA’s review. Others include an additional dietary review included or a misinterpretation of the status – needing both efficacy and a toxicology study [ibid].

In addition, some bias may hold if the companies are held responsible for providing their own safety/ risks assessments. It lacks the independent body present when the FDA is reviewing it or via its initial petition as a food additive [ibid].

Another criticism was made in Kimberly Kindy’s article in the Washington Post of the evaluation of safety studies such as Marlows Food for mycoprotein, a protein-rich fungus. Not all studies had to be cited completely and its approval had resulted in severe allergic reactions to the protein. The FDA had mentioned that the continued responsibility was on Marlows and not theirs [5].

A different case was a company Kemin, based in Iowa and its green tea powder containing Epigalocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which had bypass the FDA as a GRAS status despite Kao Coporations’s rejection of EGCG from the FDA’s toxicologist scientists indicating its toxicity in various organs like the kidneys and liver [ibid].

Conclusion

The takeaway message is that despite the FDA’s rigorous studies and procedures readied in its petition application or GRAS reviews, the organisation needed a larger body of manpower and resources to take on the growing influx of food additives into the market.

I argue that a very large problem lies with transparency of additives not known and recorded by the FDA than the weak or potentially bias claims made by the food manufacturers themselves. This is because if an adverse reaction to happen, to however small the inflicted maybe (in the case of allergies), product recalls would be harder if these ingredients aren’t steadily tracked down.

#8

 

References
  •  FDA. 2011. Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers About the Petition Process [online]. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/ucm253328.htm#answerA [Accessed 23 April 2016].
  • Rosenburg. M. 2016. FDA Loophole Allows Potential Dangerous Chemicals In Food [online]. Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martha-rosenberg/fda-loophole-allows-possi_b_9182800.html [Accessed 23 April 2016].
  • FDA. 2015. History of the GRAS List and SCOGS Reviews [online]. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/SCOGS/ucm084142.htm [Accessed 23 April 2016].
  • NRDC. 2014. Generally Recognised as Secret : Chemicals Added to Food in the United States [online]. Available from: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/safety-loophole-for-chemicals-in-food-report.pdf [Accessed 23 April 2016].
  • Kindy. K. 2014. Food additive on the rise as FDA scrutiny wanes [online]. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/food-additives-on-the-rise-as-fda-scrutiny-wanes/2014/08/17/828e9bf8-1cb2-11e4-ab7b-696c295ddfd1_story.html [Accessed 23 April 2016].
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    FBT: Soylent

    Welcome to the first installment of “Food Basket Topics“, with this week’s topic being Soylent. Have you ever wondered what if an ‘all-rounder’ food could exist, containing all the nutrients and energy you need, transportable and maintained at an affordable cost? Wouldn’t it be a solution to the world’s food security and hunger problems? Rob Rhinehart, creator of a powdered drink called Soylent, have been taking a brave venture into that idea.

    Continue reading FBT: Soylent

    Flour(ishing) Gluten

    The topic of wheat flour has been a keen interest that I have had for quite some time, being a key ingredient in many types of foods with bread being the most valued. (Others include, biscuits, pizzas, pastries, noodles etc.)

    Bread (particularly whole-grain) is promoted as an essential food needed for an adequate well-being [1] and has been a long staple in many western cultures as well. Wheat contains a long history of agriculture and consumption with different specialties to create newer wheat-based products. (e.g. baking)

    Yet, lets talk about the gluey protein in wheat – gluten, that enables the key role it plays in many food products. What is gluten and how does it function? Is it beneficial or harmful? Why is there a large boom in ‘Gluten-free’ markets? Should I be concern?

    Continue reading Flour(ishing) Gluten

    A Lost Beverage – Raw Milk

    Many years ago, I had stumbled upon the Raw Milk Debate whereby local farmers in America were defending raw milk and its quality as a nutritious beverage to be sold. Yet these small scale farms were losing out to the large commercial dairies that were pumping out more gallons of milk due to the advent of pasteurisation. Several policies had made the sale of raw milk complex and even illegal in some states [1].

    Continue reading A Lost Beverage – Raw Milk

    Easter Hunting Healthier Treats

    Happy Easter Day! The coming of Easter Day on the 27th March this year allows Christians far and abroad to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from his crucifixion which was honoured and remembered by on Good Friday. [1] But what goes on in the commercial side of this holiday? From bright coloured eggs and marshmallow chicks to a rich supply of sweet and flavourful jelly beans, we all know that these treats should be consumed in moderation but why should we do so?

    Continue reading Easter Hunting Healthier Treats

    The Poor Man’s Alcohol – Fructose

    The video above entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” represents a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and a professor of clinical pediatrics, in the harmful effects of fructose sharing metabolic similarities with ethanol, while at the same time differing completely from glucose.

    In this week’s article, I would like to highlight some key points of the video and share out my points of view as well. Lastly, I strongly urge anyone to watch the video before reading this article head-on.

    The hour and 30 minutes long video can be summarised into 6 main parts; The Obesity Epidemic and increasing caloric intake, Origins of the high sugar diet (with High Fructose Corn Syrup), Reasons for Prevalence, Biochemistry of Fructose, Health Implications, and Resolution.

    The Obesity Epidemic

    Let us begin firstly with the Obesity Epidemic, in many developed countries around the world, the rates of obesity and diabetes have been increasing. In a 2010, National Health Survey done in Singapore, the rates of obesity have been increasing since 1992 across Singaporeans of all ethnic, gender and age groups. [1]

    Many of the strategies suggested to prevent obesity revolves around the ‘calorie in and calorie out’ model (Eat less and exercise more), yet as mentioned in the video, a calorie is not a calorie. The pathway that a certain calorie is metabolised will then determine its impact in weight gain. So in other words, not all carbohydrates, fats and proteins are metabolised in the same way.

    In referencing back to the video lecture at ‘minute 9:00’, it was shown that the caloric intake had increased by comparing children ages 2 – 17 in (1989 – 1991) vs (1994 – 95), in a study done by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

    This had led to a suggestion that leptin (The satiety hormone) is out of tune with the body’s systems, for why is it we are eating more to reach the same level of fullness?

    What about fat consumption? In 1982, the American Health Association, American Medical Assocation and the US Department of Agriculture had managed to have Americans reduce their fat consumption from 40% to 30% (Referring back to minute ’10:00′). So with the expectations of rates of obesity to decline, it had instead increased rapidly ever since.

    To put it into Singapore’s context, with many Singaporeans understanding that eating too much saturated fat can lead to cardiovascular problems (especially trans-fat) and health authorities advising to moderate fat consumption, [2] why is it that the rates of obesity in Singapore are still increasing? Can it likely be our sugar consumption?

    Prevalence of Sugar and Its Origins

    At the minute mark of (23:45), Dr, Lustig describes the ‘perfect storm’ scenario that has led to the high advent of sugar productions, post World War II. The first being Food Prices, Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, who was running for the 1972 elections had wanted food prices to stabilise. In doing so, methods were taken to make food cheap, leading to factor 2.

    The advent of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which had entered U.S. Markets in 1975. In my first article on Corn, corn experiences heavy subsidies and is cultivated on large acres of land. This means that there is an abundant supply of corn that can be readily processed into Corn Syrup, leading to a very cheap supply of a sweetener that is better than sugar – sucrose (in sweetness).

    The last reason is due to the reduced consumption of fat. When food manufacturers had experienced the demand of consumers and health authorities wanting more low-fat products in markets, they had to add more sugar in to substitute fat. This is because by removing fat, the palatability of the food product severely deteriorate and fat plays a crucial role in the texture, mouth-feel and taste in food.

    How did Sugar Prevail?

    The journey of sugar and HFCS to integrate itself into many products lies in affordability, availability and its technical properties (Sweetener and browning-agent). But the heart of sugar’s prevalence lies in its demand (Low-Fat food products – Reason #3), all due to the work of the “Seven-Countries Study”, done by Ancel Keys.

    In summary, the 1958 Seven-Countries Study had shown that of the 7 countries looked into, a relation was shown that increased consumption of fat was related to an increase likelihood of cardiovascular disease. However, there were some criticisms afterwards that suggested the findings of the study was flawed. [3]

    This is because of the 7 countries that Ancel Keys selected, there remains a total of 22 countries not involved, why was this the case? Certain countries such as Holland and Norway ate alot of fat but had little heart disease while in Chile, fat consumption was low and yet heart disease was high. [4] Was the data used cherry-picked?

    Moreover as mentioned in the video, in a multi-varied regression study which involves taking data, finding certain relations and factoring an outcome, Keys had mentioned only saturated fat and its relevance to coronary heart disease but ignored the sugar aspect. (Lacking a counter study to see if absence of sugar would provide the same results)

    In fact, many scientists such as John Yudkin, a British physiologist and nutritionist had argued at the time that sugar was the cause of heart disease in the study, not fat. He had written ‘Pure White and Deadly’ [PDF link below] shortly after to warn the public about the devastating effects of sugar, though I supposed the message could have been suppressed as food companies were readying for more usage out of sugar as a sweetener or that the media had gotten more interested in Key’s study instead.

    Either way, with some strong criticisms and controversy about the ‘Seven Countries study’ and the fact that many health authorities globally have taken up the study’s conclusion that consumption of saturated fat leads to heart disease, could have our attention been diverted at the wrong cause?

    “Fructose is a Poison”

    The biochemistry of fructose.. when I had watched Dr. Lustig’s lecture video several years ago, I was taken aback that fructose metabolism was more similar to ethanol (beer) than to glucose. In fact, in a book written by David Gillespie titled “Sweet Posion: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat“, it reaffirms what the video had said about the metabolic harms of fructose.

    Fructose is called a poison basically because it is only metabolised by the liver, not registered by the brain and it causes a list of chronic metabolic diseases. In a summarised version of the Dr. Lustig’s explanation on the biochemistry of fructose (57:25), fructose produces more metabolic waste than glucose.

    This leads to an excess of citrate produced during respiration that are converted into Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) which can cause dyslipidemia (abnormal amount of blood lipids), lots of phosphorylation leading to uric acid production that can cause gout and hypertension. In addition, the muscles and liver can become Insulin Resistant (IR), with free fatty acids produced interfering with insulin signaling pathways in the muscles and JNK1 (protein kinase) deactivating insulin in the liver.

    Lastly, the obesity factor is present when more energy is added into the fat cells as a result of fructose metabolism which also leads to weight gain. For the brain does not register any fructose intake and with its metabolism leading to a high amount of insulin produced for the muscles and the liver, leptin (the satiety hormone) is suppressed and the brain thinks it is starving despite having consumed calories from fructose. This can lead to an unhealthy cycle of eating that can become an addiction.

    Resolution

    In the concluding message of the video, Dr. Lustig had mentioned of 4 life-style interventions that he does in his to help type II diabetic patients recover from their illness. The 4 steps are:

    1) Remove all sugar liquids (Sodas and Juices)

    2) Eat all carbohydrates with fiber

    3) Wait 20 minutes for second portions

    4) Balance screen time with physical activity

    The reason as to why sugar liquids are so potent in causing harm to the body is by how readily it is absorbed. Sucrose (table sugar) when broken down into its constituents glucose and fructose spikes blood sugar sharply (glucose metabolism) while fructose in its own way causes a metabolic havoc similar to that of alcohol.

    Fiber is in itself as mentioned in the video, an essential nutrient. It reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption which reducing sharp insulin spikes while allowing the brain to register that it is full by allowing leptin hormones to register. This is why fruit juice is not as healthy as it is publicised to be with much of the fiber extracted and the juice is consumed in a sweetened liquid sharing sugar levels with that of a can of soda.

    Lastly, balancing screen time with physical activity is in a way to rid ourselves of our sedentary lifestyles. Exercise plays a major role in improving the metabolic illnesses in diabetics for it improves the muscles’ sensitivity to insulin while reducing stress levels. It allows the citric acid cycle to occur faster, which reduces the citrate waste responsible for the production of unhealthy lipids (VLDL). The main reason is NOT to burn calories.

    Conclusion

    Having condensed what Dr. Lustig had mentioned in his video lecture, why is sugar, (specifically fructose) still under the Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status? It is known to cause metabolic illnesses and serve no nutritive benefits only that of energy in itself. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not remove fructose of the ‘GRAS’ status for it does not function as an acute toxin, but as a chronic toxin. Requiring thousands of dosages before an illness occur, that is actually facing to reality.

    So the take-away message of this article is that a calorie is not a calorie, fructose is metabolised largely differently than glucose and to treat fructose similarly to how you would treat beer (strong moderation in consumption). The only difference is that beer is taxed and controlled by governmental bodies to reduce consumption by increasing prices, while fructose remains cheap and readily available at your nearest mini-mart for a dollar. Literally, a Poor Man’s Alcohol.

    #3

     

    John Yudkin’s book [PDF] on Pure White and Deadly

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2FsXfJXQyd2QnNWYWpHQVJfLXM/view

     

     

     

    References
    1. Goh. L.G., Pang. J., 2012. Obesity in Singapore, Prevention and Control. The Singapore Family Physician. [online]. Mar 2012. Vol 31. No. 1. Available from: http://cfps.org.sg/publications/the-singapore-family-physician/article/71 (Accessed 21/3/2016).
    2. Singapore Heart Foundation, 2012. Limiting Fat Intake [online]. Available from:
      http://www.myheart.org.sg/article/a-heart-healthy-lifestyle/diet-and-nutrition/limiting-fat-intake/215 (Accessed 21/3/2016).
    3. Rebecca, 2012. The Myth of Cholesterol and Heart Disease [online]. Available from: http://www.drrebecca.com/2012/02/myth-of-cholesterol-and-heart-disease.html (Accessed 21/3/2016).
    4. Gunnars. K., 2013. Modern Nutritional Policy is Based on Lies and Bad Science [online]. Available from: https://authoritynutrition.com/modern-nutrition-policy-lies-bad-science/ (Accessed 21/3/2016).
    5.  Chan. L.E., 2016. Will a sugar tax work in Singapore? [online]. Available from: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/will-a-sugar-tax-work-in/2612888.html (Accessed 21/3/2016).

     

     

    The Perplexing Subject of Soy

    In my preparation for today’s article on soy, I found some difficulties to approach the subject due to the controversial health issues pertaining to soy itself. Some sources have argued that soy contains certain anti-nutrients, endocrine disruptors, phytoestrogens and cancerous properties. [1] There are sources as well that rebut against some of these claims.

    Continue reading The Perplexing Subject of Soy

    All that Glitters.. is Corn

    Introduction

    Corn is a remarkable commodity in the food industry due to its high versatility and cheap costs. Available as a sweetener (High fructose corn syrup), cooking oil (Corn oil) and importantly feed for livestock. But what was Corn’s story then and today?

    Continue reading All that Glitters.. is Corn