Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or 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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wheat- and Gluten-Free Baking

Add to the many stories I've posted about dairy allergic teenagers creating their own cookbooks from the recipes they developed themselves a gluten-free variation, with a twist.

The twist is a big one. A boy rather than a girl did the baking. And the boy is the younger brother of the celiac sibling.

That's the story Bonnie S. Benwick gave in the Washington Post. The boy in question is now 17-year-old Michael H. Perlman. His sister, Jordan, didn't get the cooking gene. He did.

The cookbook is professionally designed, with notes on ingredients and, unexpectedly, food-related quotes from Don Quixote and Shakespeare. Mike calls it "Cookies for Breakfast: A Teen's Not So Bad Guide to Wheat and Gluten-Free Baking," just because it sounds appealing. Proofing recipes turns out to be tedious, difficult work.

Proofing anything is, kid. Believe me.

You can check out his website at

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Plentiful Probiotics

10,000,000,000. 5,280. 93,280,000.

Which one of those numbers is wrong? You can't tell, of course. Without context, there is no possible way to know if a number is wrong or right, whether it's big or small, whether it's meaningful or totally out to lunch.

You can tele rihgt awaay wenn wordsd our missspellled, but numbers require knowledge and analysis. That's makes them perfect for scamming people.

Probiotic numbers work this scam every day. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, meant to colonize your intestines and work their magic on your systems. Just the concept of that allows the pushers enough leeway to back trucks up to the bank though because nobody really knows enough about any specific bacteria and your specific system to know which varieties are truly the best. All of them are, if you read their claims.

And the looseness of their numbers gives them even more wriggle room. For most people a million is as big a number as they can comprehend. A billion is something the government talks about but is too big to wrap a brain around. So any product that claims to have a billion of anything sounds like a huge enormous lot of something.

It isn't. Not when we're talking about something as small as bacteria. Estimates are that you have 10,000-100,000 billion in your intestines right now. (See The microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract, by William Shaw Ph.D.)

How big is 100,000 billion? There are just about 100,000 billion inches between you and Uranus. Really. (The universe makes this stuff up, folks. I just write it down.)

Now it's true that you don't need to swallow 100,000 billion bacteria at once to make a difference in your system. You couldn't if you wanted to. But you do need a sizable quantity to make it worthwhile for you to spend your money on a probiotic capsule. The bacteria should grow in number once they're in your colon, but if they don't have a sufficient number to start out with, they'll get overwhelmed.

How much is enough? A billion in a capsule is the minimum recommended. In fact, did a rating of two dozen probiotic products and simply eliminated any that contained fewer than a billion per capsule (or, technically, in the Maximum Suggested Daily Serving, which may have been more than one capsule).

The results of that rating is hidden behind their subscription wall. Fortunately, gave three of the best scorers.

Culturelle with Lactobacillus GG ($16.99)
Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls ($29.96)
Kal Acidophilus ProBiotic-5 ($7.85)

This is not an endorsement of any of these products. Just a reminder: whenever a product is advertising itself by its numbers, check and doublecheck what those numbers really mean. Don't get fooled by size alone.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

New Food Labeling Requirements Proposed in Canada

Health Canada, the governmental department that is similar to the Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. had put new food labeling requirements up for public comment for the next 90 days.

Food Allergies - New Labelling Requirements for Foods: Regulations to Enhance the Labelling of Food Allergens, Gluten Sources and Added Sulphites.

Although the Food and Drug Regulations (the Regulations) require that a complete and accurate list of ingredients appear on the label of most prepackaged foods, they currently exempt certain ingredients from component declaration. For example, when flavours, flour, seasoning and margarine are used as ingredients in other foods, their components do not have to be included in the list of ingredients. In addition, the name used to declare an ingredient’s presence in a food may make it difficult to determine if the food should be avoided (e.g. ovalbumin for egg derivatives, casein for milk ingredients...). As a result, food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites can be “hidden” from consumers trying to identify them in the list of ingredients.

The proposed new regulations correct this by requiring that any source of a potential allergen must be declared.
The new Food and Drug Regulations will require that the following foods be declared on food labels whenever they or their protein derivatives are added to prepackaged foods having a list of ingredients, whether they are added as ingredients, or as components of ingredients.

1) Food allergens, meaning any protein from any of the following foods or any modified protein, including any protein fraction, that is derived from any of the following foods:

a) almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts;
b) peanuts;
c) sesame seeds;
d) wheat, kamut, spelt or triticale;
e) eggs;
f) milk;
g) soybeans;
h) crustaceans;
i) shellfish; or
j) fish.

2) The gluten source when the food contains any gluten protein from the grain of any of the following cereals or the grain of a hybridized strain produced from at least one of the following cereals: barley, oats, rye, triticale or wheat, including kamut or spelt.

3) Sulphites, when either directly added to a food or when the total amount of sulphites present in the food is 10 parts per million or more.

The proposed regulations will also require that the list of ingredients identify the specific sources of hydrolysed plant proteins, starches and modified starches, and lecithins.

Manufacturers will have to declare food allergens and gluten sources by name either in the list of ingredients or at the end of the list of ingredients in a statement called "Allergy and Intolerance Information - Contains: ...". It will be mandatory to use this statement to declare added sulphites when the concentration in the final product is equal or higher than 10 ppm.

When the statement: "Allergy and Intolerance Information - Contains: ...", it will also need to list the food allergen, gluten sources and added sulphites (at 10 ppm and above) in the food, whether allergens and gluten sources have already been declared in the ingredients list or not.

Manufacturers and importers will have one year from the time the final regulations are published to comply. If there are significant objections to the regulations, this period may be quite far in the future. If all goes well, consumers will see all products conforming to them by the end of next year.

Health Canada has a Q&A, Questions and Answers About the New Regulations to Enhance the Labelling of Food Allergens, Gluten and Added Sulphites, for consumers.

The Canada Gazette has a long, if technical, examination of the issues behind the proposal and what they mean for industry and consumers.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dairy-Free Fertility?

It's no secret that the average age of motherhood has been rising for decades, since the baby boom mothers of the 1950s. With women waiting longer to get married in the first place, and then postponing motherhood to get a good start on their careers, the incidence of women worrying about their impending loss of fertility has created a boom of its own - books preying on their hopes and fears.

And that brings up to Sarah Dobyns, author of The Fertility Diet: What to Eat to Maximise Your Chances of Having a Baby and to Enhance Libido at Any Age. That shouldn't be confused with The Fertility Diet, a wholly different book by by Jorge Chavarro, Walter C. Willett, and Patrick J. Skerrett. Or, for that matter, with The Infertility Diet: Get Pregnant and Prevent Miscarriage, by Fern Reiss. Or about fifty other books with variations on these titles.

Dobyns' advice must be followed by both halves of the couple, and is mostly a long list of what not to eat, with oddly specific timing on when not to eat it, according to an article by Fiona Macrae on the Daily Mail Online.

The most comprehensive guide of its kind, it advises cutting out smoking, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine and soya in the first month. Peas and rhubarb are also banned, following studies linking them to infertility.

By month two, couples should have given up all meat and cut out sugar and dairy products.

Come the third month, consumption of eggs and fruit juices should be reduced.

What do doctors say about this? Pretty much exactly what you would expect.
Professor Bill Ledger, a fertility expert from Sheffield University, said lifestyle did not have a major effect on fertility and he was unaware of any evidence that vegans go through menopause at a different time to other women.

He added: 'We tend to create a lot of guilt in people these days.

'The worry is that some gullible young woman will read this book and start living that life and miss out on a lot of fun and normality.'

The authors of that other Fertility Diet book, who are doctors, by the way, offer the following as a way to increase your chances of fertility:
Having a glass of whole milk or other full-fat dairy product every day (a small bowl of ice cream every now and then counts, too!)

But it worked for Dobyns, right? She's doing this from experience, isn't she?

The 43-year-old former barrister ... is engaged and plans to start trying for a family soon

If you want children, I wish you luck. But don't think you're going to get pregnant by giving up all dairy. Or by having your husband give up dairy with you. You'll have better luck with the stork and the cabbage patch.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Cats And Milk Don't Mix

Cats and milk don't mix is the title of this week's Pet Chat column by Nanette Pearl.

I've tackled this issue before as well, though not for a while. So it's good to have this reminder once again that cats are as lactose intolerant as any adult mammal.

Many people believe that cats should and need to be fed milk when in fact, feeding milk will often cause your cat more harm than good.

Many cats are lactose intolerant. This means that they are missing the natural enzyme needed to properly digest lactose, a sugar present in milk.

Drinking milk may often cause your cat to suffer from diarrhea, which in turn may quickly lead to dehydration. This can become a serious health concern.

There are far better products formulated specifically for your cat's health, and you and your cat will lead longer, happier lives if you stick to them.

However, if you lack the will to keep you cat dairy free:
If your cat enjoys milk, and you would like to give them a treat once in a while, there are specially formulated milk products on the market that have been made especially for cats. As with any treats, give in moderation.

I've written about these treats before, too. See my Catsip for Cats post.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Chemicals" In Breastmilk: A Primer

Lactoferrin. Lysozyme. Endocannabinoids. The next time you read a scare article about the "chemicals" we're putting into our babies, think of this: somebody near where you live, probably right down your street, is pouring these particular chemicals into the bodies of the most vulnerable humans. Infants. Newborn babies.

Who's doing this horrible thing?

Nursing mothers. All those chemicals are important components of human breastmilk. (Lactoferrin binds to iron, boosting iron uptake and taking it away from invading bacteria and fungi who require it. Lysosyme works with lactoferrin to attack the cell walls of some bacteria. Endocannabinoids stimulate suckling and appetite.)

Here's another myth you can throw out, the perfectness of breastmilk. It can be deadly. "For every six months that an HIV-positive women breastfeeds, there is about a 4 per cent chance of the infant becoming infected. Despite this low infection rate, it's estimated that breastfeeding is responsible for up to half of the 640,000 HIV infections in infants each year."

Of course, only those who believe in every silly and ignorant internet article on milk, written by people who not only have no knowledge of science, but fear what they don't understand, subscribe to myths like those. Intelligent people, like my readers, know that when you see an article decrying "chemicals" in food, you can stop reading immediately without any worries that you might be missing some useful information. And they know that despite the risks, exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months is still the greatest single gift a mother can give her infant.

Too few mothers, even in the western world, breastfeed exclusively for six months, however. "[I]n the US, just 11 per cent of babies are exclusively breastfed up to the age of six months. In the UK, the figure is just 3 per cent." Mothers in developing nations face widespread beliefs that formulas are somehow better than breastmilk for infants, even though contaminated water supplies mean that formula-fed babies can be six times more likely to die in the first two months.

All these quotes and statistics come from an important article in New Scientist magazine, Making formula milk more like mum's, by Jo Whelan, from the July 14, 2008 issue.

Whelan's overall point is that while persuading mothers to breastfeed is crucial, the worldwide lack of consistent breastfeeding means that improving baby formulas so that they more closely resemble breastmilk will also save many lives and produce far healthier infants and adults in the long term.

Yet even that is subject to the very fears about science that produce the idiot myths that already infest the internet. Better formula will depend on duplicating the kind of human proteins that include the "chemicals" I mentioned in the first paragraph and many others. Today this is such a difficult and expensive bit of technology that nobody in the third world could expect to see any of them. Few wealthy Americans could even afford this enhanced formula.

There is one possible source:

The only way to mass-produce human proteins is to genetically engineer other organisms to make them, and plants are emerging as the most practical option. At least seven human milk proteins have already been produced in modified food crops, mainly potatoes and rice, with more in the pipeline. The leading company in this area is Ventria Biosciences of Sacramento, California. It is growing rice in Kansas which contains human milk proteins which, it hopes, can be added to infant formula and oral rehydration salts.

Rice is particularly attractive, as it rarely causes allergies in humans and is often used as a weaning food. However, several giant agribusiness and food companies have protested at Ventria's plans. The fear is that these transgenic crops could end up in our food chain.

Yep, it's the "dread" genetic engineering raising its head again, threatening to give babies healthier food. Because of the fearmongering that already exists, it's unlikely that any of these proteins will be created this way in any foreseeable future.

I certainly can't guarantee that these proteins, these techniques, these innovations are the absolute right way to proceed. Nobody can say that about any advance, made by any means. In a world in which tomatoes, er, I mean jalapeños, may be dangerous, or thought to be dangerous, or may at some time in the future prove to be dangerous, people are suspicious of everything even while demanding and devouring new and unfamiliar foods every day.

In a world with food shortages leading to riots, with crops being taken out of the food supply to turn into fuel, with obesity at an epidemic in westernized countries, with people being gulled and duped by flagrantly ignorant advice about diet, nutrition, and food, we need more understanding, innovation, and productivity and far less fear and nonsense.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Hope for School Lunches

The annual School Nutrition Association national conference is taking place this week at the Philadelphia Convention Center. So naturally, a local paper, the Bucks County Courier Times sent a reporter to cover it.

The article by Jo Ciavaglia contains some hopeful news for parents of kids with special diet needs.

But healthy snacks, side dishes, entrées and beverages commanded the most attention. Gluten-free, 100-percent natural, dairy-free, reduced fat, no-added sugar, organic, preservative-free and vitamin-fortified were among the buzz words that product displays and sales reps emphasized.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GERD Could Be Real Colic Cause

Colic, the scourge of new parents, doesn't have a definite cause or even a definite diagnosis. "At least three hours of crying at least three days a week for at least three weeks" is about as concrete as it gets.

I've written several times about colic, in Colic and Dairy Allergy and Colic From Dairy Allergies? (If you don't want to click over, the answer to the question is "maybe."

In today's Wall Street Journal Melinda Beck wrote that pediatricians are now thinking that half or more of colic cases may really be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

I've written about GERD before too, in Dairy-Free Diet Can Help GERD but Beck's article suggests that direct treatment for GERD with proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), the strongest acid-blocking drugs, may eliminate the symptoms without need for a dairy-free diet.

But first let's go back and define GERD.

Even the terminology is confusing. Most babies have reflux -- spitting up some liquid, since the valve separating the stomach from the esophagus isn't fully closed. It usually doesn't hurt. Experts like to say these "happy spitters" are a laundry problem, not a medical problem, and no treatment is needed. Most babies outgrow this simple gastroesophageal reflux (or GER) by the time they're about 7 months old.

GER becomes more-serious GERD if the infant won't eat and stops gaining weight, vomits blood and is extremely irritable. He may be highly sensitive to stomach acid -- "just like some adults get heartburn and call 911," says Beth Anderson, founder of the Pediatric/Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (Pager), an information group for parents. GERD babies may also choke or aspirate liquid. Acid-reducing drugs -- which run the gamut from over-the-counter antacids to H2 acid suppressors to PPIs -- won't stop the reflux but can cut the acidity, and thus the irritability, if acid is causing the problem.

Does this always work? Of course not.
What's tricky is that colic and reflux can occur together. "Those babies are sometimes put on acid-reducing medications, but they don't get better," says Jeffrey S. Hyams, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, and Olivia Manganello's doctor. "There's no medicine for colic except time and Mother Nature."

The problem is that PPIs are not specifically approved for children. There are a few possible side effects and no studies have been done to see if longer-term effects will emerge from their use.

Still, a possible cure for suffering and a way to help babies grow is a tempting procedure.
Bryan Vartabedian, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children's Hospital, had an epiphany when his own irritable baby improved dramatically when she was treated for reflux. He thinks about half of what's considered colic may actually be undiagnosed GERD. "We should be looking for signs of treatable conditions so babies aren't suffering needlessly," he says.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Enlightened Gourmet

Another entry in the lactose-free ice cream industry is The Enlightened Gourmet.

The Enlightened Gourmet, Inc., is the
creator of Absolutely Free® Gourmet Ice Cream; an ice cream novelty with the taste and texture of Premium Ice Cream and Free of Fat, Cholesterol, Lactose and with No Added Sugar. Unlike other products marketed as "healthy" alternatives that trade fat for calories, calories for taste, and taste for texture, Absolutely Free® Gourmet Ice Cream is presently the only frozen ice cream novelty that has great taste and texture, and is free of fat, cholesterol, and has no added sugar. Absolutely Free® is also free of lactose and the Company calculated it to be only "1 Point" based on information published by Weight Watchers International.

Although they badly need to hire a copywriter with basic proficiently in English (hey, guys, I'm available), apparently the company is thriving. Yes, they've put out a press release.
The Enlightened Gourmet, Inc.
(OTC Bulletin Board: ENLG) ... is pleased to announce the successful implementation of its program to increase the public's awareness and sales of its flagship products in the New York City market, as a result of a distribution agreement that the Company entered into earlier this year with one of the largest ice cream distributors in the New York Metro market. This distributor presently distributes various national and regional ice cream brands to over 6,000 retail locations throughout the New York Metro area.

They make ice cream sandwiches, bars, and cups in single-serve and in supermarket packs.

The products contain both skim milk and whey so they are absolutely not dairy-free. They are aimed at the lactose-intolerant market, although I didn't see anywhere on the web site exactly how they remove the lactose from their products.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Preliminary Study on Cooked Proteins Cutting Allergies

I often get asked whether cooking food will reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. The answer to that is a flat "no." Cooked lactose is still lactose.

For the most part cooked proteins are still cooked proteins and are just as allergenic. However, a new study out has some very preliminary evidence that some children with allergies can outgrow their allergies by exposure to cooked foods with milk. This is so preliminary that the study authors are warning parents "not to try this at home" until more research is done.

"My first impulse is that I don't think this information is ready for prime time," said Donald Perlman, a West Orange allergist affiliated with Saint Barnabas Medical Center. "Food allergies can be a fatal problem. It's a serious business, so if people try to do this on their own, it could spell disaster."

Angela Stewart has an article in the Newark Star-Ledger:
In the milk study, conducted at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers hypothesized that some children with milk allergy would be able to tolerate extensively heated (baked) milk products, such as muffins or waffles.

Of the 100 children studied -- the average age was 7 -- about 75 percent were able to tolerate heated milk and were still free of allergic reactions when re-evaluated three months later. But because a quarter of the children in the study had some reaction, the study's authors stressed that avoidance should remain the accepted standard.

"The bottom line is that currently, the only way to find out if a child can tolerate baked milk is to do a feeding test," said Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, the assistant professor of pediatrics who led the study.

A second study found similar results with children who had egg allergies.

Both studies will appear in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Non-BST Milk Same as Any Other Milk

Last year, I posted Another Victory for Ignorance, which started:

Is there any actual evidence that the growth hormone rBST (recombinant Bovine SomatoTropin -- also known as rBGH: recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) causes harm to anyone? No.

Can milk be made that is hormone free? No. All milk, including mother's milk, has natural hormones. All cow's milk naturally includes BST. (rBST is a synthetic hormone that is added to increase milk production.)

I tried to break the creepy spell that fear - aided and abetted by the anti-milk forces - has put on America.

More evidence has emerged for the anti-fear, anti-ignorance forces. It comes from science, of course, which itself is a target of the fearmongers, but which is also our only real avenue for improving our understanding of our world.

Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D., Director of Nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health (,, wrote Milk Is Milk Is Milk on the site.
In the July 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetics Association (Vol. 108, p. 1198), Dr. J. Vicini and colleagues from Monsanto and the Pennsylvania State University present the results of analyses they performed on conventional milk, organic milk (which by definition may not come from rBST-treated cows), and non-organic milk labeled as coming from cows "not treated with rBST."

The researchers analyzed samples of each type of milk (all were pasteurized) purchased from stores in the forty-eight contiguous United States. In brief, they found that none of the milks contained antibiotic residue and that there were slightly fewer bacteria in the conventional milk than in either of the other two types (the difference was not great enough to have an impact on human health).

All three types had similar levels of BST, and the conventional and "rBST-free" milk had higher levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) than the organic milk --but again the differences were so small as to make no practical difference to humans consuming the milk. Indeed, as the authors pointed out, IGF is a protein that would be broken down in the course of digestion by humans and therefore could not affect humans' metabolism. Further, the differences they observed would be only 0.003% of the amount of IGF produced by humans each day.

In the real world, the differences between "organic" milk and regular milk are too slight to be noticed by the body. They're not too slight to be noticed by your pocketbooks, though. Organic milk is usually far more expensive than regular milk.

"All milk is wholesome," the study authors say. Of course it is.

Beware the propagandists. They're not looking out for your interests, but their own.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Seriously Now, Is Lactose a Problem in Medications?

Yesterday I mentioned that seemingly every pill you can put in your mouth, even karaoke pills (no, not pills to cure karaoke, but pills to make you sing better for karaoke) contains lactose as a filler.

A frivolous frippery, to be sure, but a fun way to approach a serious subject. Just how much of a risk does someone with lactose intolerance face when taking pills containing lactose?

A bunch of serious-sounding doctors, Joseph P. Nathan, M.S., Pharm.D.; Sara Schilit, Pharm.D.; and Jack M. Rosenberg, Pharm.D., Ph.D. Drug Topics, of the International Drug Information Center of the Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Long Island University, Brooklyn, N.Y., took a look at the medical literature on this subject.

They reported back to a physician audience on Drug Topics.

Case reports describing lactose-intolerant patients experiencing adverse reactions to the lactose content of medications have been published over the past 30 years. The symptoms experienced were ameliorated to some degree with supplemental lactase enzymes and resolved when the patients discontinued the offending medications. Notably, the majority of patients in these cases were extremely sensitive to lactose-containing products.

While it has been reported that the amount of ingested lactose necessary to produce adverse effects varies, it generally ranges between 12 and 18 gm of lactose (approximately 8 to 12 oz of milk). Considering the fact that most oral medications contain quantities of lactose that are far less than 12 to 18 gm, one would theoretically not expect such small quantities to result in gastrointestinal symptoms. Nonetheless, the cases reported in the literature suggest that certain individuals may react to very small quantities of lactose.

In summary, it appears that most patients who are lactose intolerant can probably tolerate the quantities of lactose that are incorporated into oral drug products. However, one must keep in mind that certain highly sensitive patients may present with gastrointestinal complaints even after ingesting the small quantities of lactose found in oral medications. Furthermore, patients ingesting multiple lactose-containing medications may experience symptoms of lactose intolerance due to the cumulative lactose intake from these medications. Patients who experience adverse gastrointestinal effects after ingesting lactose-containing drug products may opt to use lactase enzyme supplementation.

I feel good in that this is exactly what I've been saying on the subject.

If taking lactase with the pills doesn't alleviate the symptoms, then the choices are fewer. You can try requesting an alternate medication or form of the original medication that does not contain lactose. This isn't always possible, though. Some medications don't have good alternatives, or the alternatives might be considerably more expensive.

Or you could try finding a Compounding Pharmacy that will make up personalized versions of the medications just for you. That link will give you contact information to help you find a compounding pharmacist in a location near you.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lactose in Karaoke Pills. Karaoke Pills?

Lactose is a slightly sweet sugar. It's imparts just a hint of pleasant taste to counteract the bitterness of most medications. And it's cheap because it's a waste product of cheesemaking. It's inert in most ways as well. It can be packed down and retain a shape or heated to form a smooth outer coating. All in all, lactose is close to the best and most versatile filler that can be used for pills.

It's not even that big a deal for the vast majority of us who are lactose intolerant, because there's just too little lactose in any one pill to create symptoms. Medical grade lactose should be completely free of contamination by whey or casein proteins, so it would have very low reactivity for those with dairy allergies who are not anaphylactic to dairy. Those of you who are should avoid any lactose, in pill form or in foods.

So I wasn't terribly surprised to see lactose as an "inactive" ingredient in a pill. I was terribly surprised to see the pill.

The karaoke pill.

Serkan Toto, on, found The Fushigi na Karaoke Taburetto (Mysterious Karaoke Pills) at the Japanese site Rakuten.

According to the manufacturer, they treat bad breath, expand your singing range by softening the vocal cords and relieve stress. As a result, you are supposed to sing better. They promise your next performance at Karaoke will be brilliant if you take 3 pills 10 minutes before.

Take them just before you sing. Isn't that the equivalent of taking lactase pills just before you eat?

They come in packs of five pills. Since you need three at a time, one pack doesn't get you two karaokes. You only come out even if you buy three packs. Devious marketing indeed. Of course, any mind that could dream up karaoke pills has as high a level of deviousness as Donald Trump on Deal or No Deal. Why expect the ordinary?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Make Dole Whip At Home

Dole Whip is a lactose-free soft serve ice cream substitute that many people associate with vacations. Although it is available at a few other outlets, for years the main outlets on the mainland were at Disneyland and Disney World. Or you could make the trek all the way to Hawaii to find it, Hawaii being the home of Dole Foods and their pineapple-y ingenuity.

Photo by Lucky 6.9 from Wikipedia.

Today Dole Whip comes in Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Raspberry, Mango, and Orange flavors in addition to Pineapple. But it's still hard to find.

Unless you make it at home.

Unifed Enterprises Corporation in now selling 4.4 lb bags of Dole Whip soft serve dry mix for $21.95. You can get them in only four of the flavors, though: Pineapple, Raspberry, Chocolate and Vanilla. Shipping is via USPS Priority Mail only, and so adds a good deal to the final price.

The soft serve requires the use of an ice cream maker, and can be finicky. A video on that page gives a simple 20-step process, although since some of the steps include "turn the machine off" it's nowhere near as hard as 20 steps makes it sound.

Additional contact info:
Unified Enterprises Corporation
45-550 Koolau View Drive
Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744

Note: The soft serve mix is lactose free but not dairy free. It contains sodium caseinate.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Allergies Ban You From UK Army

How seriously is Britain taking the rise in food allergies? In Britain, as James Kirkup and Lucy Pawle reported on The Telegraph website, the Ministry of Defence has let slip the news that:

anyone with allergies to nuts, wheat, eggs and other foods is at too great a risk of coming to harm and is therefore "automatically graded as unfit for service".

Bob Ainsworth, a defence minister, said that because of the possibility of a medical emergency, it would be "highly irresponsible" of the Army to employ someone with a food allergy.

He said: "All Army personnel, regardless of their chosen trade, must be fit to serve anywhere in the world, in all environments and in all locations, where medical care may be limited or remote and medical re-supply uncertain or impossible."

He added:
"Any recruit with a past history of food allergy is automatically graded as unfit for service unless there is irrefutable evidence that they are no longer sensitive."

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Lactose Intolerance Sabotages Olympics!

Or at least it did for Becky Lyne.

Becky was competing for the Olympics for Britain's track team in the 800 meter event. She came in last.


According to South Yorkshire's The Star:

"The race did not go to plan," said the former Tapton School student. "I am not happy with my performance; it was not good.

"I have struggled all season with lactose intolerance and it affected my performance - I am not sure what to do next."

Don't you just hate it when lactose intolerance keeps you out of the Olympics?

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Detox Your Brain, Not Your Diet

Detox diets are the latest food fad quackery, mystic nonsense that play on consumers' fears and ignorance. Oprah is partly to blame, as she so often is. She embarked on a much-publicized 21-day vegan detox diet. Then she ate her way through Italy, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Now has given ultra-huckster Mark Hyman, author of the UltraMetabolism series of cookbooks, space to spread his detox mishmash.

The bottom line is that quality is MUCH more important than quantity. Eating only whole, fresh, real food completely eliminates the need for calorie counting, or measuring fat grams or counting carbs.

This works for one simple reason — you eat not only calories but also information. Eat the wrong information and you give your genes instructions to make you fat. Eat the right information and you give your genes instructions to lose weight. This is based on an exciting new understanding of how food talks to your genes called nutrigenomics.

And it doesn’t work slowly over years, but literally in minutes.

Most doctors who aren't trying to huckster their books think that detox diets are phony. They say that the body simply doesn't work like this.

The BBC did a non-scientific test of a detox diet:
We took ten party animals to a country cottage retreat for ten days to see if a detox diet could recharge their internal batteries. The group was split into two and half the girls were put on a balanced diet, including red meat, alcohol, coffee and tea, pasta, bread, chocolate and crisps (in moderation), with the remainder following a strict vice-free diet.

Can a short, sharp shock really change the levels of toxicity in your body in just a week?

After testing the kidney and liver functions and measuring the antioxidant and aluminium levels in their blood we found there were no differences between the groups.

Of course, such a stunt test has no scientific value. But it is just as sound as the non-science that's used by the detox gurus to plug their books.

One thing most of the detox diets have in common is the magnification of dairy allergy as a problem. Very few adults have dairy allergies without knowing it, but claiming that it's a common problem that the detox diet can fix will cause the unaware to assume that any improvement they feel is the result of the elimination of that allergy.

Now it's certainly true that whole fresh food is usually good for you. And it's certainly true that most Americans eat too much of the wrong foods, dine at restaurants that pile too much fat and sugar onto plates, and snack unhealthily. You don't have to give up all food with a label to improve your diet over this. Most people who aren't food faddists can't afford to spend multiple times the money they spend today for exclusively fresh and unprocessed food, or spend the hours needed to cook these foods immediately before they spoil. Hyman and his ilk appeal to the idiot affluent, rather than the people with the documented health problems.

Don't fall for detoxing. Don't - and I know this is heresy - listen to Oprah for food advice. (You guessed it, her pet doctor Mehmet Oz is another food faddist.) Buy good foods that you can afford. Eat less, and exercise more. Don't expect your food to talk to your genes. Let your brain do its work.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Sometimes More Epinephrine Needed

Most parents of children who have truly serious, anaphylactic, food allergy reactions know to either have an epinephrine injector on them or to teach their children to always carry one when they're old enough to go off on their own.

The news service Reuters is reporting that an upcoming journal article warns that in almost 20% of cases, a single shot isn't enough. Two or even three injections are necessary.

As reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dr. Kirsi M. Järvinen, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and colleagues evaluated epinephrine use in children with food allergies by surveying the families of 413 patients.

Overall, 78 children, who were an average of 4.5 years old, were given epinephrine to treat a total of 95 reactions, the report indicates. Over 75 percent of these reactions involved peanut, tree nut, or cow's milk allergies.

Twelve (13 percent) of the reactions required two doses of epinephrine and an additional 6 (6 percent) required three doses, the researchers found.

Children who also had asthma were more likely to need multiple doses of epinephrine, whereas the amount of food eaten and delay of epinephrine treatment seemed to have no effect.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 122, Issue 1, Pages 133-138 (July 2008), "Use of multiple doses of epinephrine in food-induced anaphylaxis in children," Kirsi M. Järvinen, MD, PhD, Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Hugh A. Sampson, MD, Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, MD

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Government Still Wants Your Vegan Recipes!

I still don't know whether it's a warning or a sign of progressive thinking, because the link gave me no information, but seeing "The Government still wants your Vegan Recipes!" on a site sure opens my eyes.

The UK's Vegan Society has a big, active, and recently redesigned website. I guess they're still getting the kinks out because some of the front page links don't do much of anything useful.

Some of the content looks good, though.

For example, the Vegan Catering for All link takes you to a 36-page color .pdf brochure that gives guidance for the beginning vegan and those who want to prepare vegan foods.

If you don' have a color printer, you can order copies from the Society via the contact information on their fron page.

They're also doing a Vegan Catering Challenge 2008, though you wouldn't know it by the website, which has no information on it.

A work in progress.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How Lactose Free Is Lactose-Free Milk?

I'm not absolutely sure why New York's website needs a "Seattle Parenting Examiner" but Kristy (2buzy) is filling that role for them.

She needs to examine her posts a bit more.

In Why Soy Milk Is Healthier Than Cows Milk she wrote:

Many people are lactose intolerant and will switch over to lactose-free cows milk. Trouble is it really isn't lactose-free. It actually contains an ingredient which breaks down the natural sugar leaving the milk (depending on the brand) only 70 to 99% lactose free. Soy milk on the other hand is 100% lactose free.

Soy milk is certainly 100% lactose free. But what about lactose free milk? Is it really only "70 to 99% lactose free"?

No. It really is 100% lactose free.

In the early days, we used to see lactose reduced milk, and this was indeed only 70 to 99% lactose free. Those days are long gone. I haven't seen lactose-reduced milk on the market for years.

Besides, the government has some rules companies must obey. One of them is that if a product advertises itself as lactose free, it must indeed be lactose free (within the limitations of the sensitivity of their measuring devices).

Major companies like Lactaid and Dairy Ease sell 100% lactose free milk. It really is lactose free. Kristy is wrong.

[Update. I posted this information as a comment on her page. The false information is no longer given, so apparently Kristy actually made the correction. She is the first person of all the ones that I've asked for corrections to acknowledge the error and make the change. That's admirable and much appreciated.]

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

More Coconut "Ice Cream"

When I did my roundup of local lactose-free foods, I mentioned Sig Wiggy's Coconut Creations.

Now I have even better news. Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss, which their website proclaims "can now be shipped direct to your door anywhere in the United States!"

As rich and creamy as premium ice cream, Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss is a satisfying, delicious, and healthy alternative to dairy and soy-based frozen desserts. Made from a base of naturally rich coconut milk and sweetened with agave syrup, Coconut Bliss is certified organic and 100% vegan.

Coconut Bliss is available in a wide variety of exciting flavors and is available in pints throughout the West and by mail order anywhere in the United States.

Coconut Bliss is dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Grab Your Own Frozen Kefir Boutique Franchise

Back in April, I posted a press release from Lifeway Foods about, of all things, a frozen kefir boutique.

Lifeway Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq: LWAY), the country's leading manufacturer of kefir and a provider of other natural and organic dairy products, is opening its first "kefir boutique" café with the April launch of Starfruit in Chicago. The shop will offer several flavors of frozen kefir with over 20 toppings as well as customized kefir parfaits, and smoothie-style kefir drinks.

Amazingly, it must have gone over big. Lifeway announced today that it would be franchising the boutiques in response to overwhelming demand.
"Since announcing the initial opening of Starfruit, we have been bombarded with requests for franchise opportunities from all over the country," said Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO of Lifeway Foods, Inc. "Starfruit will capitalize on the renewed popularity of frozen yogurt shops while offering a healthier alternative with all the probiotic benefits of kefir and franchising the concept can help us grow the brand quickly."

If running your very own frozen kefir boutique franchise has always been your life's dream, email or call 847-967-1010.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lactose On Labels - And Not

Here's an email I just received.

I read labels carefully since I am very sensitive to lactose. Is it possible that contents may be changed before the label is changed? Several times I've had the typical symptoms of L.I. in products that do not indicate the presence of any lactose-containing substances.

A whole pile of issues are compressed into this short email. Let me try to sort them out.

First, to answer the direct question about change: over the years I've seen documented reports of recipes being changed but the labels lagging behind. It happens but so seldom and sporadically that it's unlikely you've encountered it personally several times.

What does happen more frequently is that a batch of food accidentally gets cross-contaminated by exposure to potential allergens during processing or that a label is incorrectly rendered. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) compile these notices and make them available to the public. Their format is not the easiest, and I'd recommend that you look at the Kids with Food Allergies Alert page for an up-to-date and readable compilation.

Of course, those notices cover all eight of the most serious allergens: milk, peanuts, nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Milk alerts occur only about once a month. Again, it would be rare for any one individual to consume a number of these very random products.

So that brings up the final issue. Digestive upsets have numerous causes. Even if you're lactose intolerant, other foods may cause problems for any number of reasons. If you notice a pattern in foods that normally don't contain lactose, try to determine what other food or ingredient or circumstance may be the real cause of your distress.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

MetaHIT Promises Answers for the Gut

The Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) project comes from the European Commission. It's goals are almost as lofty of that of the human genome project.

A detailed understanding of human biology will require not only knowledge of the human genome but also of the human metagenome, defined here as the ensemble of the genomes of human-associated microorganisms. Our proposal focuses on the microorganisms of the gut, which are particularly abundant and complex and have an important role for human health and well-being.

A page on their currently ongoing work by Julia Karow of shows a multi-million dollar effort with involvement from more than a dozen countries, including the U.S.

A shorter and easier to read article from The Economist summarizes some of the work, including that on Inflammatory Bowel Disease, always a concern to those of us with known intestinal issues.
Meanwhile, a $30m European Union project—the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT)—is concentrating on the links between gut bacteria and obesity and inflammation. Research has already found a big difference between the bacteria population in the guts of fat and thin people. Moreover, when obese people went on a diet and lost up to a quarter of their body weight, their gut flora changed too, becoming more like those of the lean group. So, could giving more of the lean type of gut bacteria to fat people help them lose weight? That is one of the questions the project hopes to answer. There is evidence it may. Certain probiotics can affect the production of bile acids, which in turn affect how much fat people absorb.

MetaHIT is also looking at how metabolites in the gut influence the efficacy of drugs in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Certainly gut bacteria and inflammation are intimately entwined. Marika Kullberg of the University of York described last month how a molecule produced by one type of bacteria can calm the inflamed guts of mice.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Milk in Meats. More Than Just Non-Kosher

Recently I received this email.

I have a question. My daughter is lactose intolerant, and it seems like it is getting worse. Any little bit of something with milk products will cause abdominal bloating /diarrhea around an hour or 2 after eating.

The other day she had a hot dog (Zwiegles brand) and she had severe abdominal pain and diarrhea after that we looked at the label and were shocked to see that it contained nonfat milk in it! Have you ever heard of this? Milk in meats? How much is in there? Do you have any insight into this?

I've been writing about this problem for a long time. It gets a page of its own in my book Milk Is Not for Every Body: Living with Lactose Intolerance.

Hot dogs and many cold cuts are not made directly from hunks of beef. Butchers save end products and scraps, grind them up, pack them into cylinders, and then mix in fillers to add extra protein, texture, or taste or just to make sure that the whole mass sticks together properly. You can take these fat cylinders and slice them piece by piece to make cold cuts for sandwiches. You can take the thin cylinders, add a casing of some sort, and package them as hot dogs or wurst.

The question that concerns us is what the fillers consist of. The answer is complicated, because each brand probably uses a slightly different recipe and a slightly different set of fillers.

Milk, especially non-fat dry milk, makes an excellent filler. It's full of protein and nutrients. It's low-fat. The powder becomes sticky when wet and helps to bind the scraps together.

Any commercial cold cut might contain dry milk powder or any of a number of milk products, dry or liquid, to fill specialized needs. Turkey, pork, ham-based cold cuts suffer the same fate. The amount of milk powder needed is probably not high. The flip side is that any dry milk product contain large percentages of lactose. All dry milk consists of is protein and lactose. So even small amounts can create reactions in some extremely sensitive individuals.

This practice was much more common twenty years ago than it is today, with knowledge of lactose intolerance and dairy allergies at an all-time high. Manufacturers have been removing milk from meat for years. Apparently they still haven't gone far enough.

The answer, where practical, is to use kosher meats, hot dogs, wursts, and cold cuts. Meals that contain milk and meat don't follow the Kosher dietary laws. You can be almost completely assured that any kosher equivalent will be as completely milk-free as they can possibly guarantee. (In the real world, mistakes are occasionally made, and cross-contamination occurs because manufacturing plants may not have adequate separation between different lines of food. These happen rarely.) You just need to look for a kosher symbol or the word kosher on the package, not for the word parve. Parve foods are neutral. They can contain neither milk nor meat. Obviously cold cuts and hot dogs can't be parve. Parve's a useful guarantor of non-milk status in other kosher foods though.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Kefir Contains Lactose. Somebody Tell the Pentagon

Without going into political territory, it's no secret that the military excursions into Afghanistan and Iraq have been plagued with countless errors, of judgment, application, intelligence, and logistics.

But saying kefir doesn't contain lactose? C'mon, people, get a grip.

This isn't some politically-connected fatcat under a no-bid contract bilking our soldiers, either. It's the lofty Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), who darn well should know better.

I suppose I could blame it on their publicists. You're ahead of me: you knew a press release was behind all this.

The goal is lofty as well: giving healthier foods to soldiers in the Middle East, who have been overwhelmed with stomach ailments.

With today’s scientific advancements in nutrition, soldiers will soon be plied with candy, cookies and cakes, except these will contain probiotics, the beneficial bacteria already found in the human gut. Because they suffer from high incidences of diarrhea, U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon receive ice cream sandwiches, peanut butter bars and vanilla pudding desserts filled with probiotics, with the hope that good bacteria will help curb intestinal illness.

The U.S. Army Research Development Engineering Command (REDCOM) a military research and development center in Natick, MA, is developing these miracle foods. Mainly because - and this is another snafu that will boggle your mind - the military is barred from giving out vitamin pills.

Going from bad to worse, the release then descends into the bizarro world of lactose-free kefir.
They've also been experimenting with Kefir granules, the cultures used to make Kefir, a fermented dairy drink that also promotes intestinal health as well as longevity. The granules, which consist of probiotic bacteria and yeast, are shaped like a shell, making them a good delivery vehicle for nutritional supplements. Kefir is also a good source of dairy and is lactose-free.

Kefir, like yogurt, is low in lactose. The probiotic bacteria it contains should help to make it well-tolerated, even by the lactose intolerant. But kefir is simply not lactose-free, any more than yogurt is.

And the release contains a line even more depressing than what came before. None of these probiotics foods are going to the troops. They haven't even begun human trials yet. Only then - if the foods pass - will they be given to soldiers.

I can think of a better way of supporting our troops. Home cooking.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

When Is a Billion Not So Many?

Ellen Kanner of the McClatchy Newspapers writes a column called The Edgy Veggie. This week's is about foods with added probiotics.

There's even a probiotic cereal, Kashi Vive ($4.49, 12 ounces). It's whole grain (wheat, rye, triticale, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, oats plus freeze-dried broccoli sprouts) with a masterly 12 fiber grams per 1-\ cup serving.

Vive's probiotics come from cultured nonfat dry milk and yogurt, appearing as little white puffballs among the flakes. It's crunchy-munchy and mildly sweet, with 170 calories, 2.5 fat grams and a billion probiotics.

A billion's nothing, babe. Lifeway, your kefir king, has developed SoyTreat ($3.40, 32 ounces), an organic soy kefir with up to 10 billion probiotics per 8-ounce serving.

Kanner is clearly impressed by big numbers, and at first glance 10 billion sounds like a mighty big number.

It isn't. It's probably nowhere big enough.

The bacteria in cultures are incredibly tiny. Ten billion of them is less than a pinpoint. Spreading those ten billion out over eight ounces means that the number per gram - the more usual scientific measure - gives you a number too small to be impressive. I'll do the math. One ounce equals 28.375 grams. Eight ounces is 227 grams. That puts the count at about 44 million per gram.

For comparison I looked up some random yogurts and probiotic capsules to see what their counts were.

Dr. Thomas E. Radecki gave the results of tests on his Modern Psychiatry site:

Astro BioBest yogurt - 794 million live bacterial cultures per gram (175 grams per container or 139 billion per container

Organic Meadow yogurt - 100 million per gram

Danone yogurt 180 million per gram or 32 billion per container

These counts were for the freshest possible yogurt. You can assume that a minimum of two-thirds of the cultures will die off by the end of the shelf life printed on the carton.

Probiotics capsules have far higher concentrations. Of course they have to: you're only going to take one capsule, not eat a whole container.

A site called Custom Probiotics came up first in a Google search. These are merely their claims on their site, which I am using for comparison, not as an endorsement in any way.

1. L. Acidophilus, 150 billion per gram.
2. L. Rhamnosus 200 billion per gram.
3. L. Salivarius, 100 billion per gram.
4. L. Plantarum, 400 billion per gram.
5. B. Lactis, B. Bifidum or B. Infantis, 400 billion per gram.

44 million a gram? Piffle. These contain almost a thousand times as many.

So don't get taken in by mere large numbers. If you're not getting your probiotics by the multiple billions, you're probably not getting enough to do you any good.

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A Quiz About Eating Dairy Products

Gwen Schoen of the McClatchy Newspapers has a quiz on dairy products, taken from the site of the American Dietetic Association.

It's too short to excerpt and too long to copy in full, so I'm just going to point you to the original and let you take the quiz there.

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