The Lactose Intolerance Clearinghouse Has Moved.

My old website can be found at www.stevecarper.com/li I am no longer updating the site, so there will be dead links. The static information provided by me is still sound.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on Smashwords.com or Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com or a whole lot of other places that Smashwords is suppose to distribute the book to. Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

I suffer the universal malady of spam and adbots, so I moderate comments here. That may mean you'll see a long lag before I remember to check the site and approve them. Despite the gap, you'll always get your say. I read every single one, and every legitimate one gets posted.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Ethical Nondairy

A British magazine called Ethical Consumer has firm ideas on what makes for good products.

At their web site, the company says:

Ethical Consumer magazine publishes buyer's guides designed to help you find the products which best fit with your own values.

  • Read the truth about the social and environmental records of the companies behind the brands you buy

  • Learn about alternative products and support smaller, more ethical companies


I've never seen the magazine, but apparently its September-October 2006 issue includes their special "Ethiscore ethical rating tables for non-dairy milk." The Utne Reader magazine reports that the list includes familiar U.S. brands.

If any British readers find the magazine, let me know what the ratings are. And what an Ethiscore is.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Trick-or-Treat for Food Allergy Coin Collection Campaign

Trick-or-treating is more trick than treat for kids with a food allergy.

Bah. What a way to trivialize a serious subject. But you just know that you'll be seeing that lead on a zillion newspaper articles between now and Halloween. And the publishers wonder why people have stopped reading newspapers.

Stop it with the cutesy leads and the punning headlines and burying the national news on page three. And CBS, you want to save the Evening News? Take out all the fluff and make it solid hard news every single minute of the broadcast. Nothing can save Katie Couric but stop insulting us with the notion that news doesn't mean news.

Here's some news, plain and simple. FAAN, The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, is doing its fourth annual Trick-or-Treat for Food Allergy Coin Collection Campaign. The Campaign provides an alternative to the possibly dangerous or even lethal trick-or-treating for kids with food allergies. Instead, the kids collect coins and compete nationally for prizes.

According to the FAAN press release:

Prizes will be awarded to children who raise a certain level of funds. Incentives for participation include a multi voice changer mega phone, MP3 player, X-Style Kaleidoscope, and an Icebar Radio with headphones. Proceeds will go toward food allergy education and research programs.

Participants from the past two years will receive their boxes in the mail by the beginning of October. Others interested in participating should contact FAAN at 1-800-929-4040 or visit their Web site at
http://www.foodallergy.org.

Parents can also organize special parties with allergen-safe foods for kids for dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, or other food issues. Let's break the candy/sugar/fat/calorie debacle that Halloween has become and find new ways to let our kids play dress-up and party.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Food Labels Not Understood by the Sick

We've all heard that the poor get sicker than the more well-off, and we've heard that too many people in the country don't understand what good nutrition means.

Now a study done at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center shows that the sicker are also the less-educated.

The study, "Patient Understanding of Food Labels: The Role of Literacy and Numeracy" by Russell L. Rothman, MD MPP, Ryan Housam, BS, Hilary Weiss, BS, Dianne Davis, RD CDE, Rebecca Gregory, MS RD CDE, Tebeb Gebretsadik MPH, Ayumi Shintani, PHD MPH, and Tom A. Elasy, MD MPH, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 31, Issue 5 (November 2006), and reported at Newswise.com, looked at 200 primary care patients from a "wide socioeconomic range."

Even so, 63% had less than 9th-grade numeracy skills and 23% had less than 9th-grade literacy skills. This was bound to be a problem, since 40% of the study patients "had a chronic illness for which specific dietary intervention is important (e.g., hypertension, diabetes), and 23% reported being on a specific diet plan."

They asked those in the study basic questions about interpreting and understanding nutrition labels, and to do the basic math required to convert a serving size to a whole package.

One part of the NLS [Nutrition Label Survey] asked subjects to interpret food labels, such as determining carbohydrate or caloric content of an amount of food consumed. The other part asked patients to choose which of two foods had more or less of a certain nutrient, giving patients a 50/50 chance to guess the correct food item. Also, half of the survey questions involved products that were clearly labeled on their package as "reduced carb," "low carb," or designed for "a low-carb diet."



Overall, patients correctly answered 69% (SD 21%) of the NLS questions. For example, only 32% of patients could correctly calculate the amount of carbohydrates consumed in a 20-ounce bottle of soda that had 2.5 servings in the bottle. Only 60% of patients could calculate the number of carbohydrates consumed if they ate half a bagel, when the serving size was a whole bagel. Only 22% of patients could determine the amount of net carbohydrates in 2 slices of low-carb bread, and only 23% could determine the amount of net carbohydrates in a serving of low-carb spaghetti. Common reasons for incorrect responses included misapplication of the serving size, confusion by extraneous material on the food label, and incorrect calculations.

The optimists would say there's good news in the finding that "Most patients reported using food labels and found labels easy to understand."

As a pessimist, I say that most is nowhere good enough. The nutrition labels are designed to be as simple as straightforward as possible while still retaining all the important information. They were tested for years before getting the government's OK. If more than three-quarters of a patient population can flunk understanding them, even for one question, then the labels aren't doing their job.

I don't blame the government for this. Schools are the one who are failing. Or have failed, since presumably all of the patients in the study were adults. Basic literacy and basic numeracy are absolute musts for health, for nutrition, for management of disease, and for every other aspect of life.

People have to be able to understand what they eat as well as the medicines they take and the advice doctors give them. If even a small percentage of the population can't do this, we're facing a health crisis. If large numbers of the population, especially the sicker part, can't do this, the crisis is already here.

Bad, bad news, indeed.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kid Source Online Covers Food Recalls

Spinach has been in the news more than since Popeye was a midshipman. The Food and Drug Administration issued the current warning and product recall, but there are dozens of others which get less publicity.

One site that you can visit to check on a variety of product recall notices, along with huge amounts of other issues concerning children's health and safety, is Kid Source Online.

Of course, the source of all sources is the FDA itself. It maintains a Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts page that lists every action taken within the past 60 days.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Go Dairy Free Newsletter

I've mentioned the great Go Dairy Free site before. They're doing a fine job in collecting general dairy free information as well as dairy free products and recipes for those with lactose intolerance, dairy allergy, vegans, or anybody else who wants to avoid or limit dairy in their diets.

The September Go Dairy Free Newsletter is up on the site now. It includes reviews of individual dairy free products, recipes for Basil Chicken, Light Pasta Alfredo, Ma Po Tofu, and Paella, and discounts and coupons for dairy free items.

Alisa and her team are doing all the heavy lifting I had to give up on my web site, which lightens a lot of the guilt I felt. Think of Go Dairy Free as regular CNN and Planet Lactose as Headline News. Tune in either one for your dairyfree news fix.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Amazing Dairy-Free Desserts


Thanks to Penny Eisenberg, who sent me an email about her new book, Amazing Dairy-Free Desserts.

It contains recipes for such goodies as Chocolate Ice Creem, made with soy creamer and RichWhip whipping liquid.

All the recipes in the book are suited for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.

And they are also pareve - neutral - so that they can be eaten with either meat or milk dishes to keep Kosher.

Eisenberg has written two previous dessert cookbooks: Light Jewish Holiday Desserts and Passover Desserts. Both books feature pareve recipes; of half of each book is nondairy.

The older books are available from Amazon.com, but not Amazing Dairy-Free Desserts. A PayPal link is given on her web site page about the book so that you can order it directly from her.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Nondairy Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cake

Rosh Hashanah begins on Friday night this year and marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days.

It's not quite as totally festive a holiday as Hanukah, but food and family gatherings traditionally play a huge part in the observation, as Linda Morel writes in the Jewish Advocate.

In fact:

"This is prime eating season," says Azriela Jaffe, author of After the Diet: Delicious Kosher Recipes With Less Fat, Calories and Carbohydrates (Hakoras Hatov Publishing, 2005). "By the time the holidays are over, you can gain 10 pounds without even thinking."

You can check of many of Jaffe's recipes at her web site, www.azriela.com.

She uses, of course, nondairy items in her meat dishes to stay in keeping with the Kosher laws. Her neo-classic Beef Stroganoff is made with nondairy sour cream. (Tofutti and other firms make this. See my Products section of my web site for brands and contact information.)

And she even has a recipe for the nondairy Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cake of the title. It's pareve, a word that means neutral so that it can be served with either meat or milk dishes. Pareve foods are also good for vegans or those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cake
[Pareve]

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Splenda
1 tsp. instant coffee, microwaved in 3/4 cup water for one minute
1 egg
1/4 cup Egg Beaters
3/4 cup pareve chocolate chips
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup pareve cocoa
1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix until thoroughly blended.

Spray a Bundt pan with oil. Pour batter into pan.

Bake about 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 16 servings.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Smoochies Lite & Creamy

Thank you, anonymous emailer, for telling me about Smoochies.

Smoochies Lite & Creamy, according to their web site, is a low-fat, protein-enhanced line of what most of us would call real ice cream, although technically and legally it's soft serve frozen dessert. And here's the beauty part, as New Yorkers used to say: Smoochies is lactose-free.

Let me repeat that. Smoochies Lite & Creamy is a franchised line of stores selling a real-milk soft serve frozen dessert that is lactose-free. They sell four flavors every day: vanilla, chocolate, and two specialty flavors that might range from Cinnamon Toast to Mint Cookies and Cream to Raspberry Truffle to Snow. They also make Smoochies Smoothiers out of fresh (or flash frozen) fruit and Smoochies.

Smoochies isn't new. The first store started in 2002 and the web site makes a big deal about other stores opening on schedule in 2003.

One slight problem: the Locations page on their web site lists exactly one location. Oops.

If you want to try it out, that location is at 60 W. 23rd St., near 6th Ave. Phone is 212-206-3501 so you can call for hours.

Such a good idea for those of us with lactose intolerance. Let's hope that they can make it work in the long run.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Stone Age Diet

I hadn't heard anybody talk about the Stone Age diet in years until I just ran across an article by someone who didn't quite get the point. The diet has a fascinating history, though: an almost perfect example of how cautious scientific advice gets perverted by hustlers and media manipulators into something as nutty as a filbert tree.

There are two schools of thought about diet and anatomy in the human body. Mainstream scientists say flatly that humans are omnivores. They are designed so that they can eat anything - plants, fruits, vegetables, insects, meat, poultry – and do. If you look at all the cultures in the world the omnivorists say, every single edible bit of protein, carbohydrate and fat is eaten by somebody at some time. The western diet is puny and restricted when compared to the richness of food on the earth. There are whole books on this. Try Unmentionable Cuisine, by Calvin W. Schwabe or Extreme Cuisine: The Weird & Wonderful Foods That People Eat, by Jerry Hopkins.

A few decades ago, however, some anthropologists said 'hold on a minute.' Sure, we can eat everything, but what are we optimized to eat? For all those millions of years of the evolution of the genus Homo, our ancestors had access to only meats, plants, and fruits. No dairy products, no ground grains, no coffee or tea, no processed oils. Sweets were extremely rare and sought after. Honey, fruits, and a few naturally sweet vegetables were the only choices. Fats, with the highest calorie density of any food, were also prized but hard to come by. Nuts were a major food source, along with some legumes. Fatty meat was also a delicacy, as it remained for Eskimos, but most tribes had little access to fatty animals so concentrated on eating whatever fatty parts they could find on lean, heavily muscled runners or fatty seafoods. Other food sources, from insects to mushrooms, were also consumed.

Obviously, therefore, our entire digestive systems – from the type, style, and relative lengths of the intestines to the enzymes we manufacture – must have evolved through natural selection to be best suited for these foods. Whenever possible we would want to get most of our calories through animal meats but supplement that with a huge and ever-changing (because of the seasons) number of plant foods.

Obvious, right? Well, it turns out it's a bit harder than that to try to figure out the diet of people who left no solid clues to their food. Contemporary tribal peoples vary. Vary a lot. Two schools of thought developed.

One, led by Dr. Walter L Voegtlin in his 1975 book, The Stone Age Diet, insisted that fats were key, and that ancient Homo ate high fat animal meats whenever possible and our digestive systems were not well suited to plants, or at least grains. The other, promulgated by Dr. S. Boyd Eaton and his colleagues in a 1988 book called The Paleolithic Prescription, took the opposite route, insisting that animal meat was far leaner than pampered farm-bred animals of today have, and that a rich high-fiber variety of plants supplemented the protein. His suggested diet still has about 20% of its calories from fats. Voegtlin's recommendations are closer to the Atkins Diet; Eaton's to the American Heart Association diet.

Both diets are well–suited to those of us, whether lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, who want to remove dairy from our diets. Neither should do any harm to those who stick with them, either, as so many fad diets will. Eaton's diet has had better long-term acceptance from both anthropologists and nutritionists, though. It's the one I would suggest.

But it's hard to make money from being sensible. Anyone can give good sound middle-of-the road advice. People who buy diet books are like serial monogamists; they're faithful to a long series of partners but they need the variety.

So today you can find all sorts of pseudo-early man diet books. I won't name them. Each exploits a niche and beats it into the ground. No beans! No citrus! Raw foods! One thing they have in common: none of them were written by a doctor or anthropologist. The add-ons are all their own, little money-makers each and every one.

Don't give them your money. Middle-of-the-road it. That's a lot healthier than landing in the ditch.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Why Lactose Tolerance?

Why? Why, indeed?

That should be all I need to say, but this is the Internet and so there's never a good time to stop talking. You need to seem to be a real person. Be folksy. Talk with a voice. Voice is a literary term. Hemingway had a voice. Raymond Chandler had a voice. Vonnegut has a voice. You know immediately how they sound, even if you run across something of theirs you haven't see before. Voice has been defined as the spaces between the words. That's not a very good definition, but then again most bloggers don't have a very good voice. There are 50,000,000 blogs out there. Can you tell any of them apart?

What about this one? Here's a sample:

Our work will be done once society is free of every last ounce of negativity. The following are projects we are currently working on:

-Removing the entries for "mean," "bad," and "no" from Wikipedia
-Adding the word "please" to every stop sign
-Legally changing the term "antacid" to "pro-base"
-Eliminating the letter grades B, C, D, and F from schools
-And, of course, promoting lactose tolerance worldwide


If that doesn't scream "viral marketing" to you then you're just their audience.

And what's that about lactose tolerance? I write about lactose intolerance all the time. So that must be the opposite, right? Not getting symptoms from milk? As in, drink more milk?

No, it's not our friends over at the California Milk Marketing Board, the Got Milk? people. Close, though.

The Lactose Tolerance blog is being brought to you by the same people behind lactosetolerance.org. That .org is cute. You might even think that it's a real organization, for about half a nanosecond. Hey look, it even has a campaign headquarters with the kind of cheap plastic banner one gets printed up at Kinko's.

It ain't cheap, none of it. The truth? It's all a promotion for Nesquik flavored milks. And there are five flavors, yet you only get to vote for two. Is that a satiric commentary on the difficulty smaller parties have when trying to wedge their way in between the hegemony of Republicans and Democrats in our two-party system? Nah. They just don't think their viewers can handle five options all at once. We've gone from Puff Daddy's Vote or Die to chocolate v. strawberry on a website too lame for lamers.

And over at craigslist, we find this gem. [Name of recipient deleted]
Reply to: X
Date: 2006-09-13, 12:06PM EDT

Do you want to support a cause? Do you root for the underdog? Do you have a quarter I can borrow? Then join the cause at lactosetolerance.org.

· no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

The irony! It burns!

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

GA2LEN - European Allergy Database

The number and percentage of people with allergies continue to soar, worldwide. Scientists and others have many hypotheses concerning why this might be happening now, but the variety of allergies and symptoms are so great that it's next to impossible to make a coherent whole of the mishmosh of info.

A project funded by the European Union hopes to pound some sense into the shapeless mass of data with GA2LEN – The Global Asthma and Asthmas European Network. (Galen was the name of a renowned 2nd century Greek physician whose major work was the seventeen-volume On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Human Body.)

GA2LEN will fund a study to track the 50 factors that may cause allergies in children. According to an article on Cordis:

The global allergy and asthmas European network (GA2LEN) was set up to address aspects and possible causes of allergy, with the aim of reducing the allergy and asthma burden throughout Europe. GA2LEN received €14.4 million under the 'food quality and safety' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), and brings together 30 researchers and their teams from across Europe. They standardised a series of child 20 cohorts, looking at allergies such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.

From these cohorts, the consortium was able to put together information on some of the 50 known factors influencing allergies for analysis. According to Dr Susanne Lau, responsible for the cohort project, the database opens up new possibilities for greater accuracy in assessing not only the risks associated with the development of allergy but also the factors that may play a role in prevention. 'This large, standardised data base, plus the harmonisation of follow up procedures and study design, can increase the quality of the studies and therefore contribute to worldwide understanding of the factors influencing allergy diseases.'

Some of the variables recorded in the database include pet exposure, tobacco smoke exposure, number of siblings, atopic family history, housing conditions, delivery, medications, infections, and the results of allergen testing, such as IgE (Immunoglobulin E - the antibody implicated in immune reactions) both in the child's blood and in umbilical cord blood as the child was born.

One sub-sample lists the results of skin prick IgE tests for of 1,000 children during the first six years of life. Each child was tested for grass, tree pollen, mite, cat, dog, cow's milk and hen's egg allergens. These results, the consortium says. can be correlated with assessments of the symptoms associated with asthma (wheezing) and allergic rhinitis in the same sub-group.

The Australians are already asking permission to use GA2LEN to develop a similar database on Asian-Pacific allergies. Perhaps the U.S. and Canada will be next. They should be. This would be an issue that might be speeded up if you were to write you representatives in Congress.

More information can be found on the public page on the GA2LEN website.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Too Many Parents Are Scared of Milk

It used to be that the U.S. and the U.K. were two countries separated by a common language. Today the joke is less funny: they are two countries joined by the fear that danger is lurking in every bite of food. In both countries, surveys reveal that as much as one-third of the population believes that they have some kind of food allergy. The real number is probably closer to four percent and may be much less.

The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), yes, the Got Milk? people, sponsored a poll about attitudes toward dairy. Apparently, they're right to worry. Dairy has become such a scare word to parents that they yank milk away from their children at the first round of symptoms.

In a press release the CMPB wrote:

From August 14th to 22nd, Market Tools surveyed 551 California parents online to gauge food-allergy and lactose-intolerance awareness and milk allergies as a health concern for their children.

Key Findings:

-- Sixty-three percent (63%) of California parents eliminate milk from their child's diet at the first sign of a food-related health issue.

-- Forty percent (40%) of parents do not consult a doctor before eliminating foods from their child's diet.


You don't have to support Dairy trade organizations to believe that these attitudes are widespread among parents or that they are wrongheaded.

Parents shouldn't try to self-diagnose what may be a simple intestinal reaction. And they especially shouldn't remove a food based on fear. The release also said:
"Medical self-diagnosis is risky business," says Dr. Stuart Epstein, Beverly Hills Allergist, Associate Clinical Professor David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Attending Allergist. "Without professional advice, suffering is almost always extended and important foods eliminated unnecessarily."

"Parents are sometimes quick to point the finger at cow's milk when their child comes down with unexplained symptoms like intestinal problems or allergic reactions," stresses Dr. Epstein. "Eliminating milk from your diet, especially a child's diet, without talking to your doctor first, is not a smart idea."

They point to the recent guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatricians supporting the continuing use of dairy products among children with lactose intolerance.

True dairy allergies are a different and more serious issue and they are something that the CMPB ducks almost entirely. Although many parents tell me they have had a hard time getting their pediatricians to recognize dairy allergies in their children, that tells me more that they have the wrong doctor than that allergies are omnipresent. Although it's perfectly possible to raise healthy children without milk, the right doctor should be found and talked to somewhere along the way, preferably early in the process. Too many other problems share symptoms with lactose intolerance and dairy allergies in children. Parents should get the answers – the right answers – before taking action. Don't give in to fear. Fear can be conquered with good information. And there's plenty of it out there.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Weirdness from the Bottom of the Pile

Weird things happen when I clean up my office, which I do regularly every three or four years. I find stuff at the bottom of piles. Stuff that never should have been anywhere in that pile at all, let alone at the bottom.

Life offers all too many situations like that. Especially when we start talking about medications. A test of 100, 1,000, even 10,000 people can't find all the symptoms and reactions that may only occur in one person out of a million. If the reaction is deadly the results are tragic.

If the reaction is just a reaction, the results can be, well, weird.

And that leads me back to what I found at the bottom of that pile.

The good thing about lactose intolerance is that there's a pill for it. You can take, in handy pill form, the lactase your body doesn't make. Simple as that. Since I remember what life was like before the pills were available I can tell you that the pills are a scientific breakthrough of the first magnitude.

Here's another bit of great news. Lactase is about the safest thing you can put in your body. There are no known side effects from lactase, at any level ever tested on humans or animals. None. You can't overdose from it, you can't even get sick from it. All it does is digest any lactose you happen to have lying around in your intestines. If there is no lactose (and even if there is), the lactase eventually gets swept out of the body through normal digestive processes. Lactase is absolutely perfectly safe as far as anyone knows.

Here comes the but. But you don't take pure lactase. Lactase normally comes in pill form, which means that it arrives bound with fillers and sweeteners and the other inactive ingredients that are used to bulk out substances to pill size, make them palatable to swallow, and ensure that they break up at the right time in the gut. These inactive substances are about as inactive as anything you can put into your body, so they're safe as well.

Could one person in a million react to an "inactive" substance? Sure. I can't cite any studies offhand, and each and every manufacturer uses different inactive ingredients so a reaction to one brand or type doesn't guarantee a reaction to any other brand or type, but it is not impossible.

And yet, even that slim and virtually unknown reaction to an inactive ingredient would be more likely than something that actually popped up in a medical journal. In that very paper I've been looking for over these past many years, the one I found at the bottom of that pile. It's about a one in a million case. Maybe a one in a billion case.

The paper is: "Allergy to supplemental lactase enzyme," by Karen E. Binkley, from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology June 1996 (Vol. 97, Issue 6, Pages 1414-1416).

And I'm going to flag it with an immediate warning - that title is misleading.

No one has ever been found to be allergic to lactase. No one. Not even one person in a billion. As I said, lactase itself is perfectly safe.

But. But you have to get lactase from somewhere. And the easiest way to make lactase is to harvest it from a fungus that naturally makes its own lactase. One that is regularly used is called Aspergillus oryzae. Can you be allergic to a fungus? Sure you can. And Dr. Binkley reported a case – one single case, the only one in the literature – of a person who experienced burning and swelling of his throat when he took Lactaid pills because he was allergic to Aspergillus.

It's possible that weird cases like these explain some of the otherwise inexplicable symptoms that people report. If you're the only person in the world to react in a certain way, you can't expect that even the medical community will have seen it before.

On the other hand, you can't get lactose intolerance from eating chicken. Or eggs. Doesn't matter which one comes first. (Yes, I have had questions about lactose symptoms concerning both of these.)

So educate yourself to the best of your ability. You can probably eliminate most of the weirder possibilities 99% of the time. Or 99.9999% of the time. If you're one in a million, or ten million, or a billion, though, you're on your own. Good luck with the world.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cure for Allergies? Don't Hold Your Breath

All the UK news sites have been breathless the past few days because of an announcement made at the British Association Festival of Science.

Dr. Ronald van Ree, of Amsterdam University, said that claims of a vaccine against allergic reactions are "realistic." An article by Anne Roberts at earthtimes.org said that:

According to [Ree], scientists are scrutinizing the possibility of using genetic engineering to render the proteins that cause allergic reactions ineffective. The drugs developed through these techniques will work on the immune system to make it stronger to fight allergies. It is also possible that scientists will modify the protein in the allergenic foods to develop other variants of foods that do not cause allergies.


They are also using weaker variants of the allergenic proteins to develop anti-allergy medicines. “This allows scientists to develop hypo-allergenic variants of these molecules for application in safer immunotherapy that will induce little or no side effects,” Dr Ree said. Some of the foods that are known to cause severe allergies are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, wheat, and nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashew and others.


While this research is good news for those with dairy allergies, reality is always harder to pin down. Even the optimistic Dr. Ree doesn't expect any of these products to hit the market for seven to ten years. As a reality rule of thumb, I'd recommend doubling those numbers. And that's assuming that the research actually pans out. Far too many promising lines of inquiry fail to make it out of the lab.

In the meantime, avoidance is still the best medicine.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Functional Nondairy Makes Europe Healthier

You'd think that milk was already plenty darn functional, what with all those vitamins and minerals it contains. But sales of liquid milk have been falling for years, both in the U.S. and the U.K.

So dairies are looking for ways to make milk more functional. In fact, today "functional" drinks have a whole new definition: they are drinks that have had sterols added that supposedly actively lower cholesterol counts. A long article at nutraingredinets.com details the growing U.K. market for such products.

Tesco for example has launched functional milk under its private label whilst Pepsico has added a novel functional juice to its Tropicana range. Like soy drinks, the new functional drinks contain sterols that actively lower cholesterol levels.

Soy drinks were originally bought by consumers suffering from lactose intolerance. But scientific evidence linking soy consumption to lower incidence of heart disease has allowed manufacturers to market soy drinks as functional beverages.

These beverages are very popular in the UK where up to two-thirds of the population have high cholesterol levels. Chilled soymilk is the fastest growing segment with sales expanding by over 20 per cent a year.

The popularity of soymilk led Unilever to launch a competing functional milk product in 2004. Fortified with plant sterols, Flora Pro Activ also actively lowers cholesterol.

It is positioned alongside chilled soymilk in supermarkets and is targeted at consumers who are health-conscious but do not like the taste of soy.

Tesco's new functional milk drink is targeted at the same consumer segment. Its cholesterol-lowering milk is fortified with Reducol, a plant sterol.

The functional ingredient is derived from forestry by-products and is guaranteed GM-free. The new milk is part of a cholesterol-lowering dairy product range marketed under the Tesco brand.

Pepsico is also looking to capitalise on growing demand for functional beverages by launching a fortified juice drink under the Tropicana brand. The orange juice is fortified with Benecol, a stanol-ester ingredient that actively lowers cholesterol.

The novel orange juice is also targeted at health-conscious consumers.

Alpro's Soya & Fruity is believed to have influenced the launch of the new Tropicana functional juice. Alpro launched Soya & Fruity as a fortified blend of soymilk and fruit juices in June 2005. It has been, until now, the only cholesterol-lowering juice drink in the UK.

With increased investment in the dairy alternatives industry, consumers are likely to see more soy functional beverages. The latest new entrant is Danone, which could launch soy products in the UK if its Senji yoghurts are successful in France.

ABN Amro's investment in Nutrition & Soja could lead to some new soy drinks to be launched in the UK. In February, the company extended its soy drink flavours to include chai and mocha.

Organic Monitor therefore concludes that functional beverages may be the way forward.


Haven't heard of Reducol? Neither had I. A quick search, though, showqs that Reducol, from Forbes Medi-Tech, Inc., is "a unique ingredient containing plant sterols and stanols, commonly known as phytosterols, or 'sterols'."

Kesko, Finland's largest grocery chain, has launched a line of yogurts containing Reducol, called Pirkka, and a new lactose-free margarine.

Functional margarines already exist, from brands like Benecol, which also came out of Finland, and Flora Pro-Activ.

Reducol dairy products don't appear to have hit the U.S. market yet, but the success of Benecol – which is now is 30 countries, including the U.S. – means that they probably can't be far off.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pediatricians Agree That LI Kids Can Have Milk

Hey, it looks like pediatricians are finally catching up with our reality.

Just two days ago, I posted an item, Kids and Lactose Intolerance, in which I said that kids who are lactose intolerant don't need to avoid dairy entirely.

And guess what: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just put out guidelines in its journal Pediatrics concerning Lactose Intolerance in Infants, Children, and Adolescents, written by Melvin B. Heyman, MD, MPH for the AAP Committee on Nutrition. And it does not recommend eliminating dairy products to treat lactose intolerance.

An article on Forbes.com summarizes the new guidelines.

New guidelines say the academy "supports use of dairy foods as an important source of calcium for bone mineral health and of other nutrients that facilitate growth in children and adolescents." Specifically, it does not recommend eliminating dairy products to treat lactose intolerance.

In practical terms, said Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, a member of the committee that wrote the guidelines, the new advice is for parents of children with lactose intolerance, in collaboration with pediatricians, to "test the system and see how much milk, cheese and ice cream they can tolerate."

One reason for the new advice, said Heyman, who is a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, is that "we have more information about what people will tolerate. We know that children who have lactose intolerance have a tendency to tolerate some dairy products."

At least an equally important factor is the need for the calcium in dairy products, he said. "Young people have to get as much calcium as they can to lower the risk of problems with bones as they get older," Heyman said.

There's hope for doctors yet. Maybe eventually they'll even learn the difference between dairy allergies and LI.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

More Calcium for Teens

Scientists have found calcium on the moon. Maybe it is really made of cheese.

You don't need to go quite that far to get calcium into your diet, though I'm sure the walk would do you good. As everybody should know, considering that the American Dairy Council keeps telling us, few Americans get enough calcium from their diets. And teens are especially at risk.

So as Marlia Braun, a University of California at Davis Sports Medicine staff member told a 17-year-old girl who wrote to the Sacramento Bee:

Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes youth the best time to invest in bone health.

The recommended amount of calcium for ages 9 to 18 is 1,300 milligrams (mg) per day. Some of the foods that contain calcium are: 1 cup milk, 300 mg; 1 cup yogurt, 250 mg.; 4 ounces tofu, 250 mg.; 1 ounce slice cheese, 200 mg.; 1 cup raw spinach, 25 mg. The most concentrated sources of calcium are dairy products; other foods contain calcium but in smaller amounts relative to the portion.

Calcium intake at your age is important. I suggest reconsidering some of your beverages and snacks, and choosing a replacement with calcium to reach your goal of 1,300 mg per day.


Lowfat milk, liquid yogurts, and other dairy products are sources of drinkable calcium. If you're lactose intolerant and dairy allergic and avoiding milk, then orange juice fortified with calcium is easy to find. Always use 100% juice juices, not ades or punches or cocktails. Although fruit juices are mostly sugar, they are better for you than sodas, but nutritionists still prefer that you find something with less sugar. (No, not diet pop.)

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Kids and Lactose Intolerance

I've been writing a lot about kids and dairy allergies, because that can be a scary topic for parents in a new school year.

But what about those children with lactose intolerance?

That's actually a harder subject in some ways, because the vast majority of kids who are lactose intolerant do not have to give up dairy entirely. Yes, despite all the scare stories you may have read, a small amount of lactose, especially in cookies or cake or other desserts, probably won't result in any symptoms at all. Most kids just need to be careful not to have too much at once. The problem is that sensitivity is totally individual. Allergic kids can simply be told not to touch dairy. Ever. Once lactose intolerant kids get old enough to understand the problem, though, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for them. Trial and error is the only approach.

One thing you as parents can do is make sure that your children always have a supply of lactase pills with them just in case. A number of companies make chewable, flavored pills that are easier for kids to use. You can see them on my lactase pills page.

Digestive Advantage also makes a version of its probiotic plus lactase pills for children. They say that the advantage is that the pills need only be taken once a day so children don't have to remember taking them with food or even bothering to question what's in food. That would be enormously helpful, since most kids won't want to interrupt the process of getting something tasty for questions or pills.

I can't say if the pills work, although many people have sent me emails that they have had good experience with other Digestive Advantage products. If you do try them, please let me know how they work, one way or the other.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Breastfeeding Babies with Dairy Allergies

Apparently, breastfeeding is a subject that causes confusion on everyone's part, including pediatricians and other professionals.

Today everybody agrees that breastfeeding is the best policy as a general rule.

There are exceptions, though. A major one concerns babies with food allergies. It's known that proteins from the mother's diet can enter breastmilk and cause reactions in the baby. The cure is simple in concept, but not so simple in practice: remove all trace of the allergen from the mother's diet.

Yet, as Yamiche LĂ©one Alcindor reports in the Seattle Times:

"It isn't uncommon to have a pediatrician write food allergies off," said Jennifer Truluck, whose daughter, Savannah, now 6, is allergic to all eight of the top food allergens. When Savannah was an infant, Truluck said, doctors did not readily consider food allergies as a diagnosis.

"My first pediatrician was really dismissive. ... It wasn't until I bypassed him that I found out how serious her condition was."


Several studies have put the extent of food allergies in children as high as six percent, so there is really no excuse for medical professionals not to be aware of the problem or of its scope.

Local groups are trying to provide their own information for parents. The Food Education Allergy Support Team (FEAST) has several local chapters (including Dayton and Seattle) but its national version is so new that the website isn't even working properly yet.

In the meantime, Anne Munoz-Furlong, Founder and CEO of FAAN, has several suggestions for websites that are operating and provide excellent information:



Remember that this is an entirely different problem from lactose intolerance. Breast milk is seven percent lactose, so any baby who is lactose intolerant will have symptoms from breast milk.

Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence naturally, and only becomes an issue for babies who have temporary lactose intolerance from an illness to the intestines. As the name suggests, the symptoms will go away when the intestines heal in a few weeks. A nondairy formula can be substituted in the meantime.

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