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 However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No Intolerance While Traveling. Why?

Every once in a while I receive an email like this one from Adam:

I have many digestion problems in the UK. Have done for a while irrespective of what I eat or cut out. Just returned from Thailand where I had absolutely perfect digestion the whole time. I found I could eat anything I wanted the whole time. I went there for the 1st time last year+ found the same thing. After returning to UK, same digestive problems started again. Mystery to me+ my doctor. Just wondered if u have ever heard of anything like this. My life is miserable in the uk because of this. Hope u can offer an answer or some advice.

This is almost the ultimate fantasy for those of use with lactose intolerance and other digestive problems. A place in which we can eat anything we want and not suffer any consequences. Why does it have to be so far from home and so temporary an ideal?

I have no answer. I have no clue. I can't think of any reason why lactose intolerance should behave differently anywhere in the world.

I had only one possible grasp at a thought that I could share with Adam. We do know that the bacteria that live in our colons are responsible for many of the symptoms of lactose intolerance and many additional ills. And we know that bacteria are local. We'll meet strange bacteria whenever we travel. That's the problem behind traveler's diarrhea.

But what if it also worked the other way? What if the local bacteria that you encounter every day in your water and food are the ones making you ill? Wouldn't you then feel better when you got so far away that your exposure was to a whole new set that didn't cause the same problems?

I'm grasping at straws here, I know. But it's the only faint shred of an answer I have. If you readers have any similar tales or ideas that might solve this mystery, please share them.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Everything® Gluten-Free Cookbook

When I was checking out The Everything Lactose-Free Cookbook for yesterday's post, I discovered that the same publisher had several years earlier published a similar volume, The Everything® Gluten-Free Cookbook: 300 appetizing recipes tailored to you needs! by Rick Marx and Nancy T. Maar.

Product Description
If you're one of the millions of people affected by Celiac Disease or a gluten/wheat allergy, The Everything® Gluten-Free Cookbook is your complete resource for great-tasting, gluten-free meals. Complete with 300 recipes especially created with your needs in mind, you'll find many options for healthy, tasty eating. From pasta casseroles and creamy soups to cakes, cobblers, and vegetarian fare, The Everything® Gluten-Free Cookbook offers instructions on preparing meals perfect for family dinners and special occasions.

Features recipes for:
Yellow Squash and Apple Soup
Shrimp and Lobster Salad
Spicy Cornbread Stuffed with Chilies
Curried Lamb Grilled on Skewers
Turkey and Fruit with Wild Rice
Chocolate Mint Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Nut Crust

In addition to these mouth-watering meals, you'll also find resources for buying gluten-free ingredients, suggestions for parent-approved kids' snacks, and entertaining tips for sit-down dinners, children's birthday parties, and more. Whether you're planning everyday meals or cooking for a crowd, The Everything® Gluten-Free Cookbook is packed with a flavorful variety of foods to tantalize your taste buds and fit your dietary needs!

About the Authors
Rick Marx is the author of The Everything® Grilling Cookbook. He currently edits two monthly magazines, The Westchester County Times and The Fairfield County Times, serving audiences in New York and Connecticut, respectively. Informally known as "The Grillmaster," he was featured on CNBC and The Discovery Channel for his "everyman" attitude and facility behind the grill. He resides in Katonah, NY.

Nancy T. Maar has written about food, health and nutrition for more than twenty years. She has written for magazines and newspapers on food, events, business, and restaurants.

I didn't have a chance to check this cookbook out personally so I do know if there are similar quirks inside like those of the Everything Lactose-Free Cookbook. But I warn you to check out every cookbook carefully before you buy because each and every one has some quirks, flaws, and idiosyncrasies.

Adams Media paperback
304 pages
List price: $15.95

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Everything Lactose-Free Cookbook

I somehow missed The Everything Lactose-Free Cookbook: Easy-to-prepare, low-dairy alternatives for your favorite meals by Jan McCracken when it came out last year.

Product Description
Creamy soups, pizza, ice cream . . . if you think your lactose intolerance keeps you from enjoying your favorite foods, think again! With The Everything Lactose-Free Cookbook, you can indulge in worry-free meals and desserts any time you want. This unique cookbook is your one-stop reference for whipping up more than 300 delicious low-lactose recipes, including:
New York Style Cheesecake
Grilled Salmon with Creamy Tarragon Sauce
Passion Fruit Smoothie
Tofu Lasagna
Creamy Apricot Mousse
Veggie Omelet

These delightful new recipes offer the same textures and tastes as your old favorites. Packed with useful tips and information, this one-of-a-kind cookbook will satisfy your every craving-without upsetting your stomach!

About the Author
Jan McCracken is the author of more than forty cookbooks and recipe collections, including the Healthy Carb Cookbook for DUMMIES. Jan has researched lactose intolerance (LI) to help family members who struggle with it to create "comfortable LI lifestyles" and lactose-free recipes.

One word of warning. You would expect a cookbook titled "Everything Lactose-Free" to be lactose-free. It is not. McCracken points out that most people with lactose intolerance can have small amounts of lactose and that yogurt and cheese (and of course yogurt cheese) are often nearly lactose free and uses those freely in her recipes. However, she doesn't use butter which is probably as low or lower than lactose.

Recipes that use these products have a warning symbol (a milk bottle) displayed. However, I found the use of the symbol confusing, since it seems to be used in places I couldn't find lactose and not used in recipes (like those using margarine) that might include lactose.

The cookbook as it stands may be useful to people, but you do need to read the recipes carefully if you re trying to avoid dairy products for other purposes.

Adams Media paperback
304 pages
List price: $14.95

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Desensitization: the Hot New Word In Allergies

Desensitization. It's a big word, but you need to add it your vocabulary if you are the parents of a child allergic to dairy proteins or a number of other food proteins. Tests and trials are being conducted at a large number of the country's major medical facilities to try to reduce the sensitivity and therefore the reaction of a child to allergens. How? By exposing the child to that allergen. Carefully. With incredibly tiny and controlled dosages at first, gradually increasing in size until the day when - hopefully - the child can have the food without any worries. Some of the trials are on very young children, others on somewhat older ones.

Annie Cardi, a writer at Children's Hospital Boston, alerted me to a study they are conducting there on desensitization to milk protein. They are taping the progress of Brett, a fifth-grader and the first child to go through the program there. You can watch the video at the A cure for milk allergies? on the Children's Hospital site.

This is the first in a series of videos about Brett Nasuti, an 11-year-old Children’s Hospital Boston patient who was born allergic to 15 foods. Brett is the very first Children’s patient to go through a milk exposure desensitization trial—the first of its kind in the country—which could cure him of his severe milk allergy. In this video, you can watch Brett and his mom, Robyn, talk about what it’s been like for their family to live with his life-threatening condition and their hopes for the trial’s outcome.

Stay tuned each week to follow Brett as he goes through the study, during which he drinks more and more milk after getting injections to ward off allergic reactions. You can see him take his first-ever sip of milk and hear him talk about what it’s like to live with a life-threatening allergy. You can also watch Robyn shop for her two kids with food allergies (she cooks three different dinners each day for her family) and hear Brett’s classmates talk about what they’ve learned from him. Plus, check back to see Lynda Schneider, MD, the director of Children’s Allergy Program, discuss the shocking rise in food allergies and how this trial represents a path to a potential cure.

Also, in October, we’ll publish a story about Brett and the study in Dream, Children’s magazine for patients and families.

That first article (by Erin Graham) went up on August 25, so look for a new chapter in Brett's saga each Tuesday.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Valio's Lactose-Free Milk Is a Hit!

Valio Real Goodness Lactose Free 2% Milk. It's a Hit! Complete with exclamation point!

Who says? None other than Phil Lampert, the Supermarket Guru!

This product is a HIT! Being the grandson of a dairy farmer, I don’t want anybody to screw around with my milk. But the reality is that there are millions of people who are now lactose intolerant. Valio Real Goodness Lactose Free Milk has one of the best mouth feels, colors and tastes of lactose free milk I’ve had. On top of which it has over 1/3 less fat and 40% less sugar than regular milk. Close your eyes, take a sip and you’ll most likely not be able to tell the difference between this and your regular milk. Retails for $2.59.
Valio, Ltd

Lampert gives it a total score of 92 out of 100.

Now here's the biggest news of all, one that deserves its own exclamation point. In the past I've had to lament that Valio is a European company whose products were available seemingly everywhere except the U.S. But Valio Real Goodness Lactose Free Milk is currently being rolled out in U.S. supermarkets!

Here's the schedule:
Week of 8/10:

Week of 8/17:
Shop Rite
P&C Markets
Big M
Weis Markets
Price Chopper

Week of 8/24:
King Kullen
Roche Brothers

Week of 8/31:
Redners Markets
Bravo Markets
Big Y
Fine Fare
Olean Supplied Stores

Week of 9/7:

Week of 9/14:
Giant Markets based in Carlisle

Week of 9/21:
Stop & Shop

Week of 9/28:

Week of 10/5:
Target - Philadelphia /Southern New Jersey /Delaware areas only

Could this major rollout of a hot new product from a major new competitor in the market have anything to do with the Lactose-Free Milk Taste Test I wrote about? A test of a new milk that didn't have the extra sweetness of current lactose-free milks, just like Valio Real Goodness Lactose-Free? All I can say is, what a coincidence otherwise.

Check the Valio Real Goodness Lactose Free Milk website for coupons, recipes, and all the other good stuff that comes with the introduction of a new product. And be sure to let me know what you think of its taste.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Goat Milk. Will the Ignorance Ever Stop?

Goat milk dairy products will contain almost exactly the same amount of lactose as cow's milk dairy products. It's true that goat's milk contains a different collection of proteins, which means that a small minority of those with cow's milk protein allergies can safely drink goat's milk. But that's simply mot the case for those of us with lactose intolerance. You can have as much or as little goat's milk dairy as you have cow's milk dairy ... or sheep's milk or camel's milk or horse's milk or whatever other kind of milkable animal product you can find in a store.

Why do so many people think otherwise? I cannot imagine. I haven't a clue to where this meme started. It's everywhere and I can't kill it.

Here are this month's goat heads.

Fainting Goat Gelato's array of rich flavors will make you swoon

For the lactose-intolerant, there's goat's milk gelato

Goatherds thrive on milk of their stock
Goat’s milk is perfect for those who are lactose intolerant.

Bermuda gets its first taste of goat's milk
Also, if you are lactose intolerant, it is a much better chose [sic] than cows' milk - I'm living proof.

Goat’s yogurt cheesecake topped with fresh figs and raw honey
A delicious cheesecake made with goat’s yogurt is lactose-free, light yet decadent and indulgent, yet not regrettable.

Why do you Eat ?(2)
If you want to take milk, take goat milk as cow milk is difficult for humans to digest; which is why so many people become lactose intolerant.

Don't forget sheep, either.

Foods That Can Save Your Life
Saitta says when it comes to dairy, cheese made from the milk of goats and sheep is natural and easily digestible. With no cow’s milk protein, it doesn’t create lactose-intolerance problems.

Farmhouse cheesemaker defies the recession

Initially the milk from his herd of Friesland sheep was sold for drinking, capitalising on the fact that sheep's milk is good for people with lactose intolerance and protein allergies.

Please, Please, Please, Please, Please. Is anybody out there getting it right?

Yes. There is a ray of hope.

Go for goat milk. An article in Tampa Bay's, syndicated from the Sacramento Bee. A quiz on goat's milk.
3. Goat milk contains significantly less lactose than cow milk

True or false, readers? True or false.
ANSWERS: 3: false (cow: 4.7 percent; goat: 4.1 percent)

Yes, the author nailed it. Goat milk, at best, has on average 12% less lactose than cow's milk. Lactose is normally expressed in grams. An 8 ounce glass of milk weighs 227 grams. 4.7% of that is 10.7 grams. 4.1% is 9.3 grams. A reduction, but certainly not a serious or meaningful one. That reduction is the best you can hope for. Because both cow's milk and goat's milk are blends of the milk from different animals whose feeds change their lactose content over the course of the year, that variation is probably an extreme. Harold Eddleman, Ph. D., on Goatworld, gives the lactose content of cow's milk as 4.8% and goat's milk as 4.7%, making the difference negligible.

Goat milk is not fine or good or perfect or a better choice than cow's milk for those with lactose intolerance. It is an urban myth. Or possibly a deliberate lie introduced into the brains of goat milk enthusiasts who repeat it without understand that it is a lie. Percentages don't lie as easily as newspaper articles. They proclaim that the difference is slight to invisible. There's no use even separating the goats from the sheep. They're all in the same hole. Milk from milkable animals is all just lactose-filled milk. If you can drink one you can drink the others. If can't, avoid them all.

Science is wonderfully simple at times, isn't it?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Science Doesn't Know. And That's a Good Thing.

A major review study was just published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, Management of cow's milk protein allergy in infants and young children: An expert panel perspective by Katrina J. Allen et al.

Cow's milk protein allergy is a condition commonly managed by general practitioners and paediatricians. The diagnosis is usually made in the first 12 months of life. Management of immediate allergic reactions and anaphylaxis includes the prevention of accidental food ingestion and provision of an adrenaline autoinjector, if appropriate. By contrast, the clinical course of delayed food-allergic manifestations is characterised by chronicity, and is often associated with nutritional or behavioural sequelae. Correct diagnosis of these non-IgE-mediated conditions may be delayed due to a lack of reliable diagnostic markers. This review aims to guide clinicians in the: (i) diagnostic evaluation (skin prick testing or measurement of food-specific serum IgE levels; indications for diagnostic challenges for suspected IgE- and non-IgE-mediated food allergy), (ii) dietary treatment, (iii) assessment of response to treatment, (iv) differential diagnosis and further diagnostic work-up in non-responders, (v) follow-up assessment of tolerance development and (vi) recommendations for further referral.

In short, while true food allergies, those mediates by the IgE antibody, can be relatively easily identified by testing and managed by removing the offending food, a different and assorted set of reactions that use pathways in the body other than IgE are much harder to pin down. The symptoms come late and are hard to match up with particular foods, the tests are uncertain, removal of the food doesn't always give immediate relief.

An article on the study by Michael Woodhead also says that "is still controversy about the role of cow’s milk in infant colic and constipation."

This is part of the reality of scientific medicine. Cause and effect are hard to put together. What happens in one person is not a reliable guide to what happens in another. Large numbers of reactions are needed to put together correlations, and even when that is accomplished the problem of what is occurring in a specific individual may still not be resolvable.

Understandably, most people don't want to hear this. They want certainty. They want a doctor to tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. This anxiety multiplies when children are the ones with conditions, children who cannot properly describe their symptoms and lack any understanding about their bodies.

Often, these parents go nuts.

Like parents of autistic children. They are the current poster children, to use an unfortunate but apt metaphor, for not getting it. I wrote last month about a new study of autistic children that found that they didn't have more gastroenterological problems then other children.

I didn't begin to suggest that this study settled the issue. On the contrary, I wrote:
This is just another medical point against the need for the [GFCF] diet. Medicine is like that. One single study is not enough. Like a jigsaw puzzle, it's the cumulative picture painted by many pieces, many studies that reveals the direction medicine moves in. That picture is not yet complete.

Like every medical study of food and disease, this study had its flaws. I said every and I meant every. No study is ever large enough, representative enough, thorough enough, detailed enough. That's why a consensus must be formed from a sufficient number of studies to patch over all those holes to make a smooth road toward an answer.

Anne Dachel at Age of Autism doesn't appear to understand this. In an article Autism Experts Only Seem to Know "What Doesn't Work" she lambastes the insufficiencies of the study and the media reports that cited it.
Suddenly however, thanks to one small study in the U.S., we can forget about all this research. Rather than conclude that these new findings challenge many previous studies and more research is needed on this important issue, it seems that, in the word of Nancy Snyderman, "the findings are very conclusive."

I did find an article that mentioned the limitations of the Mayo Clinic study. In the Medpage Today story, Most GI Problems Are Not More Common in Autism (HERE), it was reported, "The study authors acknowledged some limitations of the study, including the retrospective design, use of an almost all-white population, and the failure to assess the duration, severity, and recurrence of GI symptoms."

A couple of points must be made. First and most important, new studies are found to contradict older studies all the time. That's the point of continuing the do studies. If any one study isn't sufficient and complete, more studies need to be done. And often - very, very often - the new studies show the older ones to be wrong. Your personal emotional investment in the older studies is not considered.

Second, this one new study does not end the discussion, despite what Dachel implies. Research is ongoing. Not only will other studies compare gastrointestinal problems among other groups of children, but long-term studies are taking place at this moment that will more directly look at the effectiveness of the GFCF diet.

Was this study a significant one, for all its flaws? Apparently so. Several doctors involved used it and a second study released at the same time in England to state categorically that no evidence existed that the food cures that these parents tout so heavily truly improves autistic children.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman: "The findings are very conclusive: There is no link between illness in the gut and the signs and symptoms we see in autism."

Dr. Samar H. Ibrahim: "There is actually no trial that has proven so far that a gluten-free and casein-free diet improves autism."

Dr. Alan Edmonds: "The bowel habits of young children with autistic spectrum disorder, in general, are no different from the rest of population."

Yet Dachel concludes her piece with an unthinking attack on the medical community:
There are thousands of parents who report that their kids were typical healthy children until they regressed into autism and developed gastrointestinal problems. Why wasn't there a study done looking at this particular group?

And why isn't anyone interested in looking at the kids who were severely autistic but who've make incredible gains after being on a regimen of diet and supplements?

And what about all those doctors everywhere treating autistic kids for their concomitant bowel disease? Are we to believe that they're seeing these patients for imaginary illnesses?

Thousands of anecdotal reports are not evidence. Concerned parents do not treat their children like animals in controlled laboratory conditions. They do everything in their power to help them to improve. How can they say the diet was the specific activity that helped? What about the supplements? What about the care and attention they were given? What about mere aging and development? On the flip side, what bowel disease did they have? Did the group really have an unusually high number? Were their other contributing factors? What happened in their lives, their environments, their genetics?

The best studies can barely touch on these issues because it is impossible to slice a human life into neat and non-intersecting causes. Individual cases are meaningful only to the individual. Groups often tell different stories, results that are not as certain or as favorable as the one the parent tells.

And yet, a dozen negatives may all prove to be wrong if a better positive result appears. Possibly the big studies that are awaiting completion will confirm Dasher's opinions and suspicions. Progress is certainly slower than she hopes and I emphasize with her frustration. (Remember that no studies at all on lactose intolerance are ongoing that would help explain the dozens of questions about life without lactase we still have no answers to.) I will be disappointed if those studies remain negative and her attitude does not change. At some point railing against all conventional medicine puts you in with the cranks and that route is hopeless.

The proper answer to many questions is medicine is "we don't know." Despite all the advances, the insights into genetics, the new ways to look into the body, the more delicate and sensitive tests, we still just don't know so very much. Pretending that an answer is already available but remains unseen by the legions of experts dedicating large chunks of time and effort to the problem is disheartening and dangerous. Human, though. Sad, but human.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Sugars and Carbohydrates

I've pointed you to the excellent articles on Medical News Today, especially those written by Christian Nordqvist before, in fact just a month ago with All About Diarrhea.

Here's yet another excellent summary, on carbohydrates and sugars.
Again, the article is much too long to summarize and is well worth reading. I just want to excerpt the section explaining the types of sugars themselves, something of particular interest to those of us who have problems digesting disaccharides into monosaccharides.

What are saccharides?

Saccharides, or carbohydrates, are sugars or starches. Saccharides consist of two basic compounds:

Aldehydes - composed of double-bonded carbon and oxygen atoms, plus a hydrogen atom.

Ketones - composed of double-bonded carbon and oxygen atoms, plus two additional carbon atoms.

There are various types of saccharides:

Monosaccharide - this is the smallest possible sugar unit. Examples include glucose, galactose or fructose. When we talk about blood sugar we are referring to glucose in the blood; glucose is a major source of energy for a cell. In human nutrition, galactose can be found most readily in milk and dairy products, while fructose is found mostly in vegetables and fruit.

When monosaccharides merge together in linked groups they are known as polysaccharides.

Disaccharide - two monosaccharide molecules bonded together. Disaccharides are polysaccharides - "poly…" specifies any number higher than one, while "di…" specifies exactly two. Examples of disaccharides include lactose, maltose, and sucrose. If you bond one glucose molecule with a fructose molecule you get a sucrose molecule.

Sucrose is found in table sugar, and is often formed as a result of photosynthesis (sunlight absorbed by chlorophyll reacting with other compounds in plants). If you bond one glucose molecule with a galactose molecule you get lactose, which is commonly found in milk.

Polysaccharide - a chain of two or more monosaccharides. The chain may be branched (molecule is like a tree with branches and twigs) or unbranched (molecule is a straight line with no twigs). Polysaccharide molecule chains may be made up of hundreds or thousands of monosaccharides.

Polysaccharides are polymers. A simple compound is a monomer, while a complex compound is a polymer which is made of two or more monomers. In biology, when we talk about building blocks, we are usually talking about monomers.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Best Free-From Food in England

With the huge increase in sales of free-from foods in England, a market that trebled in five years, ready to crack the £2000s barrier next year. That's brought better tasting foods into the market, although the foods are increasingly touting their own social properties rather than trying to be analogues of what they are not.

Norman Miller and Allegra McEvedy wrote a comprehensive article for the British Guardian newspaper.

Peter Langsam, a food buyer for the store, says the main ­differences between decent free-from and mainstream products are "texture and ­consistency rather than taste". Nibbling a wheat-, gluten- and dairy-free macaroon, I see his point – it's more-ish but drier and crumblier than usual.

More importantly:
Langsam argues that taste comparisons between free-from and all-in food miss the point. While some free-from products are ­indistinguishable from their all-in counterparts, others are made from something so ­different that the issue becomes almost irrelevant. ­No one splashing something like Oatly - an oat-based dairy- and soya-free alternative to milk - on their cereal is going to mistake it for milk given its grey colour and watery ­consistency. Either you like it or you don't.

So here are decriptions of the top products, many of which have like it or not quality.
Anila's Curry Sauces
At first this punchy sauce seems full-on tasty, but the flavours feel a bit separate, with a slightly dirty aftertaste. Praise-worthy, though, having no alliums, added sugar, dairy, gluten, stabilisers or emulsifiers.

Debbie & Andrew's Sausages
These posh sausages are wall-to-wall meat. Well seasoned too (with a touch of white balsamic – la di dah), and for me the only slight drawback to no wheat was that there was nothing to soak up any fat, so a tad greasy.

Genius Loaf
This bread is light, almost brioche-like in texture, and cuts easily. Eaten plain it has a slightly old ­aftertaste but it toasts exceptionally well. The best gluten-free bread I've had.

Oatly milk alternative
My first thought was "liquid porridge", but it's surprisingly good drunk cold. It's as thin as skimmed milk, and I didn't like it in my tea, but maybe if I took it weaker . . .

Dietary Specials' spaghetti
Wheat-free "pasta" is problematic. This doesn't feel or taste like pasta, but it would make a reasonable backdrop to a hearty bolognaise sauce.

The Healthy Cake Company's carrot cake
Gluten- and dairy-free! Could be more carroty, but has lovely thick pecan icing. Tastes home-made, but takes crumbly to a whole new level.

Plamil orange chocolate with cranberries
I liked the look of this with its chewy cranberries and engraved leaves. It's smooth and rich and doesn't taste free from anything. for ­vegan chocolate lovers, this is a golden bar.

Barkat organic chocolate rice crunchies
Not a bad cover of the original at all, only these don't seem as sweet. The pops themselves go a tad chewy and slimy if they've been sitting in the milk for a few minutes, and weirdly, they don't turn the milk chocolatey.

Mrs Crimble's cheese bites
You don't miss the wheat at all. 48% cheese makes them properly cheesy, and they're light and airy and vaguely reminiscent of a cheesy choux bun! I'd put these in my lunch box.

Swedish glac├ę ice-cream
I was braced for the worst but, for a lactose, cholesterol and gluten-free ice-cream, this was good. Nice scoopable, "creamy" texture, with a light, icy crunch. It tastes like Mr Whippy meets cardboard (which actually isn't unpleasant), with an agreeable nuttyiness. I'm impressed.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Yogurt and Soy Milk in Cuba

Yogurt wouldn't seem to be part of the Cuban culinary tradition. Historically, it wasn't. That began to change after the revolution, when the island cut ties with the U.S. and Soviets and Eastern Europeans became the source of influences. The unusual story is told in the Havana Times.

With the Cuban Revolution in 1959, yogurt began to be widely distributed and went from being a barely consumed product to an indispensable supplement in university cafeterias and boarding school dorms that started to spread across the island in the 1970s.

Eventually, production was carried out throughout the nation and yogurt became a regular Cuban food item offered in a wide range off flavors of domestically grown fruits such as orange, banana and mango, and even imported fruits such as strawberry, one of the most popular flavors.

Cuban’s consumption of yogurt no doubt grew as the island developed strong ties and scientific exchanges with Eastern Europe.

The large number of Eastern European technicians and consultants who arrived to Cuba brought with them their dietary habits, including a love for yogurt, and this became an important source of nutrition for Cubans and the favorite dairy product for many.

Beginning in the 1970s, yogurt became recognized as a good substitute for milk for segments of the population who were lactose intolerant and as a remedy, as the bacterium in yogurt breaks down lactose.

The 1970s also saw the creation of the Research Institute for the National Food Industry, sponsored by the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Institute took the next step for those who couldn't drink cow's milk and introduced soy milk into the culture.
The widespread introduction of soy milk first for the lactose intolerant segment of the population and then as a regular product for all Cubans was one of the important achievements of this institute.

In the 1990s, the island was sent into a full-on crisis with the disintegration of the Eastern European Socialist Camp and a hardening of the decades-long US blockade. The Cuban government responded with a series of measures during what was called the Special Period. The Ministry of Food and Health began to produce soy yogurt on an industrial scale, especially for children and teenagers, as it became harder and harder to import powdered milk.

Despite the huge cultural differences, this progression is oddly parallel to the adoption of yogurt and soy by increasingly mainstream audiences in the U.S. Solutions know no bounds when problems are universal.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Wheat No Dairy No Problem

Susie Iventosch of the El Dorado Hills Telegraph wrote a great review of Lauren Hoover's No Wheat No Dairy No Problem cookbook.

Have you ever tried a wheat-free, dairy-free recipe only to discover it tastes like a cardboard copy of real food, lacking the key attributes of flavor and texture? If so, Lauren Hoover has just the cookbook for you.

“No Wheat No Dairy No Problem” is a revolutionary cookbook filled with 150 tested recipes that, in addition to being wheat and dairy-free, use only unrefined sugars, so diabetics can enjoy them, too.

As happens so often, Hoover herself suffers from these allergies.
Hoover, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, wrote this book so people with limited diets and food issues won’t unnecessarily be deprived of the recipes and foods they’ve grown to love — like ice cream!

"I suffered stomach aches and congestion my whole life, until I was finally diagnosed with a dairy allergy at the age of 35," she said. "As a pastry chef, I was overexposed to wheat, which resulted in a wheat allergy, too."

Prior to her diagnosis, Hoover had grown weary of her daily discomfort and thought, "it can’t be normal to feel like this all the time." So she made a concerted effort to find out what was wrong with her. Her research pointed to a possible wheat allergy. Later, an internist who ordered blood work revealed a dairy allergy. Within six weeks of cutting out dairy and wheat, Hoover had a new lease on life.

"The stomach aches and congestion went away and I had more energy than ever before," she explained. "But the foods I was able to eat on my new regime often tasted like cardboard. So I started converting old favorites into new edibles for me."

Unfortunately, Hoover is one of those people who believe that a GFCF diet helps autism, although there is still no sound medical evidence for that.

No Wheat No Dairy No Problem was self-published through iUniverse. It's a 340 page paperback with a list price of $23.95. You can purchase it through Amazon.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Caesar's Gluten-Free Gnocchis

Caesar's Pasta Products announced two additional gluten-free pasta products in this press release.

Potato Gnocchi & Spinach Potato Gnocchi. Both of these new pastas are All Natural, Vegan Pastas, rich in flavor and made with the same quality that Caesar's is known for.

"We are thrilled with the success of our first four Gluten-free, wheat-free pasta meals. We receive letters from consumers who have Celiac disease and other gastrointestinal issues which prohibit many people from enjoying the timeless tradition of an Italian meal, and this positive feedback encouraged us to expand the line. We are very pleased and proud of these two Gnocchi pastas and feel they represent the same quality and taste that we strive for in all our foods. We are excited to also be opening our line of specialty pastas to those that eat only vegan foods as well as those that are lactose intolerant. The new Potato and Spinach Gnocchi have absolutely no animal products," said Ronald Lodato, Sr., Vice President at Caesar's Pasta.

You can check over at their website for more information but be warned: it seems to be totally flash animation, making finding specifics impossible. I don't know why companies do this but here's a plea to them to stop the nonsense. Give us information, not pretty pictures.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Increased Risk of Kidney Stones from Extra Calcium

I always advise people who avoid dairy products to think about calcium supplements. Sure, the militant vegans are very loud and insistent that you can get a full allowance of calcium from non-dairy sources and that's technically true. The reality is that very few people eat that diet. Check out this government listing of nondairy calcium sources at Appendix B-4. It's neither large nor varied.

Therefore a calcium pill with added vitamin D to help absorption is normally a must for the average person. The type of calcium doesn't matter, unless you have difficulties manufacturing stomach acid. Some of the elderly and people on certain medication have this problem. For them the standard calcium carbonate is not the right option. Try calcium citrate instead.

One more problem. Americans are not a people who aim for "just right". When they don't under-do they overdo. Some people will have calcium from their food (some dairy as well as nondairy) plus calcium supplements. And that raises a risk of a calcium overconsumption.

Remember, the risk is being raised only from essentially zero to a tiny bit more than zero. The kidneys will strain out any slight excess of calcium and excrete it in the urine. This raises yet another issue. Kidney stones. Kidney stones typically are calcium precipitated out in the form of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate.

Nobody wants the pain of passing a kidney stone. So do calcium supplements increase your risk of kidney stones?

Linda G. Fugate wondered about this on

The answer from the medical literature surprised me. In a study of men under the age of 60, the risk of kidney stones decreased with increasing calcium in the diet. This is backwards from what we would expect, and the authors of the paper have no explanation. For men over age 60, the amount of calcium in the diet had no effect on formation of kidney stones. I have not yet found comparable data for women. The main risk for kidney stones in women appears to be weight. See

Researchers at the University of California report that potassium and bicarbonate ions tend to keep calcium in the bones, while sodium and chloride ions tend to increase calcium in the urine and promote the formation of kidney stones. Bicarbonate ions are formed from the metabolism of organic compounds, mainly citrate, found in fruits and vegetables. Potassium is also abundant in fruits and vegetables (but not grains).

According to these researchers, both potassium and bicarbonate have a positive effect on the kidney's ability to regulate calcium excretion. Bicarbonate also prevents calcium loss from the bones by balancing the pH (a measure of acidity or alkalinity) of the blood and tissue fluids. Too much sodium, on the other hand, interferes with the kidney's regulation of calcium.

So I'm continuing the calcium supplements and eating plenty of vegetables.

Good news. Keep adding calcium to your diet. Try to avoid overconsumption, but don't worry too much if you can't keep your dosages straight. Bookmark this. That's probably the first and last time I'll say anything so radical.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World

Vegan Lunch Box was a big hit for Jennifer McCann two years ago. A sequel was inevitable.

Ta-da! Here comes Vegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!

Product Description

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World offers a delicious array of meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free lunches that will take you on an adventure across the globe. The book includes balanced international and regional American menus with 100 recipes from Ratatouille to Moroccan Tagine, New England Chowder to a Japanese Bento Box. With quick and easy recipes, fruit and veggie ideas for even the pickiest eaters, and an allergen-free index, Vegan Lunch Box Around the World is essential for every family raising healthy kids—and for anyone who packs a lunch.

McCann also posts recipes to her Vegan Lunch Box blog.

Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
List Price: $18.95

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Identifying Milk Allergy in Children

You can't know everything about everything, but medical professionals need to come close. True, they get years of training, both classroom and on-the-job. Their knowledge and skills nevertheless need to be continually refreshed, lest they miss a crucial bit of information at a critical time.

I found a quick refresher page on Advance for Nurses, "providing news and clinical and professional information for LPNs/LVNs." Kim Mudd, research nurse/program coordinator, pediatric allergy/immunology, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore [named the best hospital in America by U. S. News and World Reports, BTW], wrote a test case on Milk Allergy in Children.

Though aimed at professionals and footnoted up the wazoo, the article is far more readable than a medical journal article. Mudd compresses tons of facts on the subject into a small space, making the article an excellent reference to bookmark and come back to for the facts.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gluten Free Cooking Expo

If you're anywhere near Chicago this weekend, you should drop in to the Gluten Free Cooking Expo going on at the Wyndham Hotel, Lisle, Illinois.

The Gluten Free Expo Includes:

•Two full-days of gluten-free/dairy-free cooking demonstrations by notable chefs, cookbook authors and nutritionists

•Printed recipes so you can follow along, take notes and ask questions about successful replacement ingredients for common allergens such as soy, sugar, egg, dairy and corn

•Learning how to prepare each dish, and getting the chance to taste them as well

•Gourmet Gluten Free Dairy Free lunch will be provided

•All Expo Attendees will take home a gift bag of great gluten-free products, literature and offers

There are a bunch of events aimed at kids and families as well.

Can't make it this year? It's an annual event, so mark it on your calendar. Or just go over to the site and take a look at the recipes that are being posted there. Or share your own.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

More on the History of Lactose Intolerance

Everything old is new again, as the ancient phrase goes. (Or is it ancient? I got sidetracked to do a search on that phrase's origin and I didn't find anything earlier than the song written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager in the film All That Jazz, which came out in 1979. Then I found a 1975 song on Anne Murray's Together album. And a search of Newspaper Archive reveals absolutely nothing before that? Shouldn't the phrase be far older?)

Geneticists have been plunging deep into the DNA of humans and multiple other species to search for the historic information that is encoded there.

Dave Munger, for example, wrote about the history of lactose tolerance in his new column in Seed magazine.

The researchers say the lactase gene evolved in Europe because Europeans don’t get enough sun to produce Vitamin D, which in turn is needed for humans to take in calcium. Since lactose also assists in the uptake of calcium, adult milk drinking helped northern Europeans meet that deficiency.

Gerbault’s team developed a computer model demonstrating that, in order for the adaptation to persist, lactose-tolerant northern Europeans would need to have 1.8 percent more children. In other words, milk drinkers would need to be more successful in reproducing—and this is indeed what is observed there.

That's cool, right? A startling bit of history revealed in our genes. A new understanding of the world.

Except it isn't. That "discovery" is merely an affirmation of knowledge that is now more than 30 years old. I wrote exactly the above scenario in my 1996 book Milk Is Not for Every Body, based on academic work existing and easily findable. Everything else covered in Munger's column is in my book as well. All I did was read the literature, which nobody today seems to bother to do.

DNA evidence is a marvel. Many roads to the truth exist, though, and even the crude methods of the past managed to ferret out some relationships that hold true today.

Never forget the past when you cast your eyes toward the future.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The History of Lactose Tolerance

Evolution is the most powerful idea in science. Scientific American Editor in Chief John Rennie said that. He's right. We don't have to spend much time thinking about quantum mechanics or relativity. We are, and need to be, obsessed about our bodies, the food we eat, bugs spreading infectious diseases, all the animals in the world, the floral environment, medicine, surgery, everything we do and experience every hour of every day of our lives. The only way that life in all its ramifications can be understood is to study the basics in terms of evolutionary systems. As seminal biologist Theodore Dobzhansky once wrote, "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution."

My point of entry into the world of evolutionary history is always lactose tolerance. People who can drink milk as adults display the most recent major mutation in the human body. Scientists are fascinated by the utterly amazing fact that 30% of the world's population shares a mutation that is less than 10,000 years old.

John Rennie and Steve Mirsky devoted part of a podcast to this bit of amazing genetics.

Steve: For example, our ability of, some of us, to digest milk, the lactose in milk as adults, it's a very recent adaptation in evolutionary history.

Rennie: Well, right, because really until we started to develop agriculture, until we started to herd animals and collected milk as a good source of protein, mammals don't continue to breast-feed throughout their lives; so the young have the ability to digest breast-milk and then after they stop drinking it, they stop making that lactase enzyme that allows them to breakdown the lactose sugar in the milk. But we kept drinking milk: We raised cows and milk was a ready source of protein and other nutrients, and we would keep on drinking that throughout our lives. And so evolution started to act on the human populations and in populations that traditionally drank a lot of milk, we have this ability to keep making the lactose throughout our lives, or lactase throughout our lives.

Steve: Let's just explain a little bit mechanistically. I mean, its likely that the mutation that enabled adults to digest lactose cropped up now and again, you know, throughout the history of human evolution; but there was never any selection pressure to keep it around until we had agriculture and were starting to try to use milk as a nutritional source, as a food, as adults.

Rennie: Right.

Steve: At that point in human history, all of a sudden those individuals who happen to have this genetic mutation have a big advantage over their comrades who can't digest the lactose, and so the combination of the environment and that genetic influence makes that genetic construct get selected for and preserved in the population. And all of a sudden, you know, within a couple of thousand years, the majority of Europeans can digest lactose.

Rennie: Right. You know, that's a good point, because it's always important to remember, you know, people always have these sorts of arguments about nature versus nurture and are there genes for various traits; you know, discussions about genes for intelligence and so forth are always notorious about this sort of the thing. But the reality is, you can't really discuss a gene, the idea of a meaning of a gene outside of the environment in which it's going to be expressed. You can't really talk about the meaning that it has, what it will do, whether it has any sort of positive or negative value in that way. Ultimately, you know, we talk about genes as though they are building blocks for some sort of complicated traits, even a trait like, say, being able to drink milk. But of course, the reality is, the molecular biological reality is, that the gene is just a stretch of DNA that happens to make a protein that breaks down a sugar that is in milk. So only under a number of different circumstances in which people happen to have exposure to, they happen to have easy access to, a lot of milk that happens to contain a lot of lactose that they can't digest very easily unless they happen to still make a lot of the lactase enzyme that they all made as children. All of these circumstances come together to make something like that beneficial. Anything that breaks down that set of circumstances, it's just another little stretch of DNA that may not prove its worth and as you said, it vanishes back in as random noise again.

It's exactly this idea that DNA changes just happen, without direction or outside influence or intention or for the good of the body, that seems so threatening. If we are nothing more than a collection of random events how do we claim a purpose for ourselves?

While I understand this fear, I don't share it. Our lives, our actions, our interactions are exactly what we make of them, good or bad, helpful or hurtful, intelligent or ignorant, caring and giving or selfish and self-indulgent. I choose to help, to gain information and to share it. We can all make that choice or a similar one no matter what is happening inside our DNA. Evolution has given us that power of individual choice, a power no other animal or plant can wield. Evolution is not just the most powerful idea in science. It's the power inside all of us.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review of GoDairyFree Cookbook

I like to be sure to mention Alisa Fleming's huge website every once in a while to make sure you know about all the treasures there. And what better excuse than a glowing review of her book?

Patricia Biesen, an dairy-free food blogger, wrote:

If dairy free folks had an instruction manual this would be it. Go Dairy Free is one of the most complete and thoughtful books on the topic of dairy allergies I have ever read.

Very nice. Go Alisa.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free Ice Cream for Dogs? Bad Idea, Bad, Bad Idea.

In the "oh, good grief" corner of the news today, we find a little item on the WOWT television, Council Bluffs, Iowa website. People news is always popular. Pet news even more so. So why shouldn't a tv station help shill a local promotion?

What better way to cool off on a warm summer day than with an ice cream cone. And while you’re enjoying a cool treat, a Council Bluffs ice cream shop doesn’t want you to forget your four-legged friend. They are offering free ice cream for dogs.

Christy Creme, 2853 North Broadway in Council Bluffs, is celebrating the “Dog Days of Summer” August 11th and 12th. When a customer buys an ice cream cone, they get a free one for their pet.

“Dogs love ice cream as much as their masters do,” said Christy Creme owner Dave Christiansen. “Our rules are very simple. The pet must be leashed. The pet must be present. And the pet must not bite the hand that feeds it, especially if it’s my hand.”

Christiansen says the event has been going on for more than 30 years. He expects a large turnout both evenings. He says some owners even dress up their pets for the occasion.

What's wrong with this wonderful tradition?

Dogs are lactose intolerant. You should never feed ice creams to dogs.

Fortunately, at least half the comments on that page give the same warning. A Planet Lactose salute to those who know enough and care enough about their pets to understand that they are not miniature furry people.

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New Line of Indian Dairy-Free Cookies

India is a huge country with a billion people and seemingly a billion culinary traditions. Some Indian cuisines avoid milk, some incorporate it heavily. The British colonization also left a long history of western-style food choices and adaptations.

Sunira foods, part of the Chamaria Group, recently introduced a new line of special diet cookies. The press release, which I found on, said that Sunira:

recently launched hi-fibre, eggless, wheat free cookies. The newly launched range is available in two delicious flavours including chocofudge cookies and butter cookies under the brand, Heal‘thySelf.

Formulated with special care and nutrition, these cookies contain vitamins and minerals. In addition, the chocofudge cookies are also milk free. Other offerings from the Heal‘thySelf range include Healthy Atta, Sorghum Sooji, Dalia, Gluten free Maida (which also makes bread) and Cake Mixes.

Some of these other products are also dairy-free, according to their website.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Lactose-Free Milk Taste Test

Yesterday I wrote that Lactose-Free Milk Was Still a Work-in-Progress.

So here's somebody who's working on it.

Would you like to be the taste tester for a new type of lactose-free milk? An opportunity just fell into your lap if you live in the right test markets.

Have you forgotten the great taste of fresh-from-the dairy milk or seeking a healthier alternative? For millions, the delicious taste of milk has been muted by substitutes that taste too sweet, replaced with 'grainy' soy products or just completely eliminated from their diets.

If you had the opportunity to enjoy the real taste of milk without the unwanted side effects, wouldn't you want to give it a try?

MomSelect is recruiting male and female participants ranging between 25-54 years who are interested in experiencing the fresh taste of milk or seeking a healthier alternative. You must also reside in one of the following cities: Boston MA, New York City, Syracuse NY, Albany NY, Hartford CT or Philadelphia PA.

This healthier lactose free milk has:
· 38 percent more protein and 42 percent less sugar than the leading lactose free brand.
· 42 percent less sugar than regular milk
· 38 percent less fat than regular milk (2%)
· Calcium for strong bones and teeth
· Vitamin D to help the absorption of calcium
· Made in upstate New York from USA Grade A milk, ultra-pasteurized, homogenized and are rBST free

Please complete a short evaluation form by clicking on this link. After completion and review, we will be in contact with you via email within 3-4 weeks to confirm your participation. If you have any questions, feel free to contact

The link will be closed once the program is full. This is a limited time offer.

I'm just passing along the info, since please don't ask me any questions. I have no answers. (Though I'd love to get some as soon as they're available.) The firm is a legit one, though.

And they're supporting upstate New York, also a fine thing. I wish them luck. And soon. My curiosity is killing me.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Lactose-Free Milk Still a Work-in-Progress

It's easy to find descriptions of lactose-free milk telling you that it's exactly like regular milk except without the lactose.

That's true. With an asterisk.

The differences between lactose-free and regular milks are tiny. Lactase is used to remove the lactose, breaking it down into the simpler sugars glucose and galactose. Because of a quirk in sugar chemistry - though some would say sugar chemistry is all quirks - each of the simpler sugars individually is sweeter than lactose. As a result, lactose-free milk itself is slightly sweeter than regular milk (although it has the same number of calories). Good for getting kids to drink their milk, less good for adults and for certain recipes.

The other change is more of an issue in the U.S. than elsewhere. Regular milk doesn't sit in the dairy case for very long. Turnover is extremely high, so dairies can afford to use regular pasteurization rather than what is called UHT (Ultra High Temperature) pasteurization or just plain UP. UHT milks last much longer without going bad. They're the norm in many places of the world but not in America. Although techniques keep getting better, regular milk drinkers might notice a slight "cooked" taste to lactose-free milk.

And they do. A study, Sensory characteristics of commercial lactose-free milks manufactured in the United States, Koushik Adhikari et al. in the journal LWT - Food Science and Technology, used both a specialist and a consumer panel to check the differences.

This study determined the sensory characteristics of ultrapasteurized (UP) lactose-free milk of different fat contents, and compared them with regular milk. Nine milk samples (six UP lactose-free and three regular) containing 0, 2 or 3 g milkfat/100 mL were tested by a descriptive panel. A consumer test with three UP lactose-free milk and three regular samples was also conducted. The skim milks were found to be lacking in freshness and the dairy notes were lower compared to the higher-fat-content milks. The UP lactose-free milks were different from the regular milk because of higher intensities of cooked, processed, and sweet attributes. UP lactose-free milks tended to score higher than the regular milks at the same fat content for dairy-related attributes, but this difference was not significant for the reduced-fat milks. Although majority of the consumers in the present study were aware that UP lactose-free milks existed in the market, only few had tasted them before. The higher intensities of cooked and sweet flavor attributes in the UP lactose-free milks might be a hindrance to their consumption by the lactose-intolerant population. More efforts are needed from the dairy industry to develop better lactose-free products and to educate consumers about lactose-free dairy products.

An article by Caroline Scott-Thomas on the study in the Dairy Reporter gave more bad news.
The lactose-free varieties were also described as having more chalkiness, less freshness, more cooked flavors and higher viscosity.

Scott-Thomas says the market for lactose-free milk has increased 20% since 1997. While that may sound good, it falls far short of the explosion in other specialty foods, like gluten-free. It's not clear whether the problem is that most adults with lactose intolerance don't drink any milk at all, whether they settle for regular milk with or without lactase tablets, or whether they would buy more if lactose-free milk tasted as good as regular milk. Making it better certainly couldn't hurt. That's a goal for the food scientists to aim for.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Food Allergy? It May Be in the Air You Breath

As astounding number of different foods cause allergic reactions in at least some people, foods that seem to have little in common. Not only that but food allergies are often strangely specific and regional in nature. The deadliest allergies are not necessarily the commonest allergies and the percentage of people who react to allergens also varies. People often don't know if they have an actual allergy, but their suspicions run rampant: self-reported allergic reactions may be 30 times higher than reactions found by testing.

Time to bring in the science. Probably the biggest group looking at the mysteries of allergies is EuroPrevall:

EuroPrevall is an EU-funded multidisciplinary integrated project (IP) involving 17 European member-states, Switzerland, Iceland, and Ghana. Of the 63 partners, there are 15 clinical organisations and six small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as the leading allergy research organisations in Europe. Since the project began new partners have also joined from New Zealand, Australia, Russia, India and China.

The website isn't a thing a beauty. I've run in circles trying to find a supposedly downloadable brochure, with no luck.

With luck, the researchers can find their way around the scientific side more easily. One major approach EuroPrevall has taken is to study the regional differences in allergies, hoping to find clues to the way they occur. Andrew Watson wrote about one major and fascinating result in this week's New Scientist magazine, Food allergies get curiouser and curiouser.

Southern Europeans, in countries bordering on the Mediterranean, react to apple peels, cooked or uncooked, including the remains in processed apple juice. Those north of a sharp line running across the bottom of France, mid Italy, and northern Greece only react to the uncooked flesh. After age three, apple allergy is one of the commonest complaints of those visiting clinics.

What sense could this possibly make? That's where the comparative studies prove their worth. That sharp line marks the southernmost limit of areas where birch trees grow. Birth tree pollen is a common cause of hay fever. That line is also the northern boundary of a line of peach allergies.

When the scientists look at the individual proteins they find two allergens in apples: Mal d 1 in the flesh and Mal d 3 in the skin.

Here's the connection. The protein Mal d 1 is similar to the birch pollen allergen Bet v 1. The peach protein Pru 3 p is similar to Mal d 3. People get sensitized by one kind of pollen, priming the immune system. When they eat the similar protein in another food the immune system reacts.

The direction of the connection can also be explained. People breathe in birch pollen, sending the pollen directly into the bloodstream. This bypasses the digestive tract so it doesn't get broken down and denatured. But a later bite of the apple triggers a reaction as soon as the protein makes contact with the mouth.

In more formal terms:
Significantly, this line marks the southern limit of the birch tree, a plant whose pollen is one of the causes of hay fever in northern Europe. Clues for this link lie in the different proteins found in various parts of the fruit: the flesh harbours an allergenic protein called Mal d 1, while the skin is relatively rich in Mal d 3. The structure and composition of the Mal d 1 protein strongly resembles the allergenic protein Bet v 1 found in birch pollen. This means that people who suffer from birch pollen allergy may be primed to overreact to Mal d 1 - explaining the prevalence of the allergy to apple flesh in this region.

A similar cross-reaction explains the allergy to apple skin found in southern Europe. In this case, a prior sensitisation to the Pru p 3 protein in peaches, which bears a strong similarity to Mal d 3, seems to be the culprit. What's more, Mal d 1 breaks down when heated while Mal d 3 is heat resistant, which neatly explains why northern Europeans are fine with cooked apples and pasteurised apple juice but apple-allergic people in the south cannot cope with these fruit in any form...

These numerous examples of cross-reactions raise another question: why does Bet v 1 cause an allergy to the Mal d 1 protein but not the other way around? Researchers believe it's because Bet v 1 enters the body via the lungs, so it is not broken down by digestion and can reach the bloodstream intact, where it activates the immune system. Mal d 1, on the other hand, is broken down during digestion, so it loses its capacity to prime the immune system. Once the immune system has been stimulated by the Bet v 1, it may then become sensitive to similar looking proteins like Mal d 1 - sensitive enough to trigger a reaction when it comes into contact with the mouth.

The EuroPrevall teams are finding additional examples of this cross-sensitization:
a link between house-dust-mite faeces and shrimp allergy, and another between mugwort pollen and an allergy to carrots, celery and sunflower seeds ... This also explains why some migrants from east Asia to northern Europe suddenly develop an allergic reaction to jackfruit once they have come into contact with birch pollen. The allergen in jackfruit does not on its own sensitize the immune system, but once birch pollen has done the job, the immune system may react to jackfruit too.

With pre-primed individuals suddenly coming into contact with foods they might not other have eaten - sunflower seeds, like soybeans, are used extensively in the food industry - allergies may start erupting where never before seen.

As always, knowing a possible underlying feature of a problem gives hints at a solution but doesn't provide any ready answers. Taking some of the mysteries out of allergies still is a welcome first step.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast

Stacey Palevsky, on (J as in Jewish):

was thrilled when the book "The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast" arrived in our newsroom last month.

My editor was appalled by the title. I was unfazed. And excited. Finally, a cookbook for people with troubled intestines.

I'd be thrilled, too. What a great concept.

The book's author is Danielle Svetkov, a Jewish native of Larkspur now living in San Francisco. She writes out of a Jewish tradition, for Jews...
Studies indicate both Jewish men and women suffer digestive maladies in disproportionate numbers.

Jews are two to four times more likely than non-Jews to have a spectrum of digestive ailments, such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, food allergies or lactose intolerance.

...and not for Jews:
But her recipes are not exclusively for the Jewish dinner table, because “there’s a broad audience for this cookbook,” she said. Pregnant women, couch potatoes, travelers and seniors also are often plagued with digestive ailments.

The recipes seem to be high-fiber dishes, using a variety of fibrous ingredients to give it taste.
Product Description

Now, millions of Americans can beat constipation, without giving up gourmet food.

Millions of Americans have to pass up good food because of their bad problem - constipation. In 2004 alone, there were 41.3 million visits to physicians for digestive system symptoms.

[The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast – 125 Recipes for the Regularity Challenged] is the kind of cookbook home chefs can count on every day to deliver regular meals with exotic variety and homey comforts. For the family cook, it has the main courses, sides, and deserts that will keep everyone moving: pasta puttanesca on Monday, pizza with shrimp on Tuesday, and pork chops on Thursday. [The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast – 125 Recipes for the Regularity Challenged] is the go-to cookbook for anyone who wants the pleasure of a great meal without worrying about the side effects.

(Puttanesca, pizza with shrimp, and pork chops? Can Jews eat any of the recipes?)

Constipation isn't normally an issue that those with lactose intolerance ever have to deal with, but other with dairy issues definitely do. And fiber is yet another of those things Americans don't get enough of in their diets.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fuzzy-Brain Medicine conglomerates a series of public blogs that anyone can post to, on a variety of subjects. "Fresh Living is a natural health and holistic blog for people like you, who care about what you eat, how you feel, and how to be more alive, connected, and in-the-moment. We wade through the latest in mind-body-spirit wellness and plumb ancient wisdom to bring you tools, tips, ideas, and inspiration. Plus, you get to hang out with us as we journey on our paths, one breath at a time."

I care about how we eat and how we feel. As a historian I find it increasingly more urgent for us to know something about the context of our existence than on being "in-the-moment," but we can let that pass.

I put my foot down when it comes to placing history, medicine, dairy, and holistic sludge into a blunder and sipping from the result.

As Holly Leibowitz Rossi does in her post, Fuzzy Brain--Is Dairy at Fault?

I'm wondering if this complete brain-fuzz attack (there have been others so far today, but none as visible as the first) has something to do with dairy. Yes, dairy. Yesterday my acupuncturist told me to stay away from the milky stuff for awhile--and I ignored her because my id wanted a chocolate ice cream sandwich last night. Bad id!

The result was a weird night's sleep, not to mention the complete fuzzy brain situation. Chinese medicine practitioners would wag their needles at me because dairy in TCM is believed to cause "damp heat," which at this hot, humid time of year is bad news for chi flow, smooth thinking, and a well-behaved body.

I honestly don't know if TCM - Traditional Chinese Medicine - considers dairy to cause "damp heat." I do know, being a historian and having studied the subject, that the Chinese mix of cultures (except for the Mongolian) did not traditionally include dairy. This, as anthropologist Marvin Harris has shown, is largely due to the traditional farm unit in China not being friendly to large milkable domesticatable animals. Foods that are outside the norm in a culture are disposed to being cast either as exotic and luxurious, as dairy was for the privileged classes, or vile and injurious, as dairy became.

Who doesn't believe in dairy causing "damp heat," being bad for chi flow, and needing to be avoided? The Chinese, for a starter. They are adding huge quantities of milk to their diets, now that dairying herds have become common. Although most ethnic Chinese are genetically lactose intolerant, many can have small amounts of lactose without symptoms, as is true for most of the LI people in the world.

I'm sure some traditionalist Chinese still adhere to TCM beliefs about dairy. For a modern American to throw over all modern understanding of history, culture, medicine, and plain common sense to do so sends my senses to reeling. I now have a bad case of fuzzy brain as a result. But I won't be talking to acupuncturist to find out what to do about it.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Nestle Boost Kids Essentials. Lactose-Free, But...

Nestle, the worldwide food giant, launched Boost Kids Essentials Nutritionally Complete Drink earlier this year with a mightily barrage of claims, such as in this press release.

Today, parents have a new way of providing their children with optimal nutrition and protective benefits with the launch of BOOST(R) Kid Essentials Nutritionally Complete Drink. BOOST Kid Essentials Drink--an innovative product developed by Nestle HealthCare Nutrition--is the only nutritionally complete drink that gives kids ages 1 through 13 the power of immune-strengthening probiotics plus complete, balanced nutrition. Probiotics, delivered through the BOOST Kid Essentials straw, have been clinically shown to help strengthen the immune system to help keep kids healthy(1,2). In addition, BOOST Kid Essentials Drink fortifies a child's diet with 25 essential vitamins and minerals, seven grams of muscle-building protein, key antioxidants and 244 energy-packed calories. ...

Probiotics are live, active cultures that--when consumed in adequate amounts--provide several health benefits, including aiding digestion and supporting a healthy immune system. Together, the power of immune-strengthening probiotics plus complete, balanced nutrition gives parents a delicious option to help keep their children strong and healthy. ...

BOOST Kid Essentials Drink is also digestion-friendly, being lactose free and gluten free, and does not contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Whenever I see a drink that labels itself as lactose-free, I wonder what it does contain.

The Boost main webpage will tell you, although you have to click on the Healthcare Professionals tab to see the answer. What do you get there? The nutritional labeling information that will be on the side of every box. Really? They're saying that the minimal information demanded by law is something parents needn't know or wouldn't be interested in?

As you would expect, the ingredients are technically lactose-free. No multinational conglomerate's lawyers would let them post a false claim that blatant. But parents may not be as reassured by the actual ingredients as by the press release's glowing message.

Here are the ingredients for the chocolate flavor:

Chemicals! Run for your lives!

Nestle can't sell you milk at a much higher price when you already have milk in your fridge. They have to give you extra value, something that you will like and so will your kids.

Like sugar. A boost has 33 grams of carbohydrates in a container (1 and 1/32 cup). A cup of chocolate milk has 26 grams. That's 27% more sugar. And containers. The kids can take the pre-made containers with them as they run around from all that sugar and that's, okay, that's convenient if lousy environmentally. And you get all those essential vitamins and minerals, as if every other kids' food in modern America isn't already fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. What kids don't get enough of is calcium, but Boost's calcium content is slightly more than chocolate milk and slightly less than regular milks.

I could go on, but you're still waiting for the lactose part. Especially with all those terms that sound like milk. Sodium caseinate, a salt that is derived from milk protein. Calcium caseinate, ditto. And whey protein concentrate. Until recently, every food made with whey protein concentrate contained lactose. A new process, one that I wrote about earlier this year, changed that, making whey protein concentrate the go-to ingredient for making foods more milk-like without lactose.

Boost Kids Essentials is high-priced fortified flavored sugared artificial milk, with probiotics. You have to judge whether it's something for your kids. Don't go anywhere near it if you're milk allergic, though. And it's not for galactosemics, either. You're a parent. Nutritional information is something you should read and doublecheck. Don't let it be hidden away from you.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Lactase from the Antarctic?

Lactase is the enzyme that digests lactose. You hear that a lot. I say that a lot. But it's not as simple as that sentence makes it out to be.

Lactase is not a thing, a simple protein. There are lots of lactases, or at least lots of variations in the basic protein. Each animal's lactase is slightly different. And the yeasts and fungi and bacteria that also manufacture lactase make a zillion more variants.

Each of the variants digests lactose, true. That's the definition of lactase. But each works best, has its highest activity levels, at different temperatures and at different pH values.

That's hugely important. The lactase we manufacture is designed to work best in our small intestines because in nature that's the only place it ever needs to work. Then human ingenuity came along. We wanted lactase for people who didn't make lactase. That's a problem. Few people would consent to having lactase injected directly into their bowels before each meal. Swallowing a pill is the only realistic way to take lactase. A swallowed pill has no choice but to go through the stomach before entering the small intestine. The stomach has particularly high acidity. Human lactase wouldn't work if swallowed, but the lactase from a fungus called Aspergillis oryzae has exactly the properties needed, an optimum pH of 4.5-5.5, a stable range of 3.0-7.0 and an optimum temperature of 37C (98.6F) or body temperature. All lactase pills are based on the lactase from this fungus.

That's great. Now, don't let the food scientists rest on these laurels. Tell them they have to find a lactase that will work in the chilly confines of a refrigerator and in the different pH of milk to create lactose-free milks. A dairy yeast named Kluyveromyces lactis happens to manufacture lactase that has these properties. And that the lactase that is used in lactase pills.

K. lactis has its own limitations. It won't work at the freezing point of 0C or 32F. You'd think a bacteria found in Antarctica might not mind the cold as much.

You'd be right. If you read through the heavy science of this press release from you'll see the connection.

[W]e present a new beta-D-galactosidase as a candidate to be applied in the above mentioned biotechnological processes. The gene encoding this beta-D-galactosidase has been isolated from the genomic DNA library of Antarctic bacterium Arthrobacter sp. 32c...

Although, the maximum activity of the enzyme was determined at pH 6.5 and 50degreesC, 60% of the maximum activity of the enzyme was determined at 25degreesC and 15% of the maximum activity was detected at 0degreesC.

Conclusions: The properties of Arthrobacter sp. 32c beta-D-galactosidase suggest that this enzyme could be useful for low-cost, industrial conversion of lactose into galactose and glucose in milk products and could be an interesting alternative for the production of ethanol from lactose-based feedstock.

A process for better lactose-free products. I'll be looking to see if this makes it into industrial production at any time soon.

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