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 However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.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, September 30, 2009

Yogurt and Probiotics - Part 1

Probiotics are the name under which companies try to sell bacteria to you. I've deliberately put that in the worst sounding way, of course. Bacteria are not simply germs that make you ill. Hundreds of varieties of bacteria naturally live in our bodies, especially in our colons. They tackle the job of digesting some of the foods that don't get digested by the rest of the intestines. Whether this is a good thing or not depends both on the type of bacteria and the food they eat. If the food is undigested lactose, then some bacteria may cause the fermentation that leads to the gas of lactose intolerance. Others digest the lactose and free us of this problem. Adding these "good" bacteria to our systems suddenly sounds a whole lot better. And people pay big money for products like Lactagen, DairyEase, and Digestive Advantage, which claim to do exactly that.

The food industry has known for many years that it doesn't work well to make offering you bacteria a selling point. When dressed up as "live and active cultures," bacteria suddenly sound much better. Cultures are merely bacteria, usually Lactobacillus bacteria. They naturally make yogurt and other fermented and cultured dairy products.

Selling just plain yogurt is no longer enough in the ultra-competitive world of supermarket sales. Even touting the general health benefits of yogurt isn't enough. Remember one marketing campaign of years past in which a group of yogurt eaters often lived to be over 100 years old? We're way past that. Yogurt now has to be an actual cure for actual diseases.

As I warned you many times in the past, though, yogurt isn't necessary yogurt. At least, the sugared, sweetened, fortified, fruit-laden, whipped, frothed, chocolately, milk solids-added concoction that is found in American supermarket dairy cases bears little resemblance to the thin, sour product that yogurt originally was. That product was good for lactose intolerants because it was auto-digesting. In other words, the cultures were sufficient to digest all or most of the lactose in the milk, making it a suitable product for anyway with mild LI. Today's products, with all those extra milk solids to make them creamier or smoother or milder or better-tasting are a crap shoot for the LI consumer.

And it's the same thing for consumer who want the health benefits of Lactobacillus bacteria. As Tara Parker Pope reported in her New York Times column:

But while there are thousands of different probiotics, only a handful have been proved effective in clinical trials. Which strain of bacteria a given product includes is often difficult to figure out.

There is no standard labeling requirement to help buyers make sense of probiotic products. The word “probiotic” on the label is not enough information to tell whether a given product will be effective for a particular health concern. Just as a doctor would prescribe different antibiotics for strep throat or tuberculosis, different probiotic species and strains confer different health benefits. ...

"Lactobacillus is just the bacterium," said Gregor Reid, director of the Canadian Research and Development Center for Probiotics. "To say a product contains Lactobacillus is like saying you’re bringing George Clooney to a party. It may be the actor, or it may be an 85-year-old guy from Atlanta who just happens to be named George Clooney. With probiotics, there are strain-to-strain differences."

Pope mentions a panel that looked at the medical literature and listed those problems for which clinical studies showed that probiotics could be helpful. That seems to be Recommendations for Probiotic Use-2008, by Martin H. Floch et al., Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: July 2008 - Volume 42 - Issue - pp S104-S108 doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31816b903f. (The full article is not available online.)

Their highest recommendations went to four uses:
• acute childhood diarrhea
• prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea
• preventing and maintaining remission in pouchitis
• immune response for the treatment and prevention of atopic eczema associated with cow's milk allergy

Those are rather specialized, although the last is good news for some people with milk allergies.

So what about all those ubiquitous yogurt commercials that make so many more claims? Oops.
Dannon, one of the biggest sellers of probiotic yogurts, settled a class-action lawsuit this month over its Activia yogurts and DanActive yogurt drinks, which claimed to help regulate digestion and stimulate the immune system. As part of the $35 million settlement, Dannon agreed to reimburse dissatisfied consumers and make labeling changes, among them adding the scientific names of probiotic strains it uses.

I'll talk about that case and the others that are pending, tomorrow.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bowel Incontinence

The excellent writer Christian Nordqvist of Medical News Today seems to come up a topic every month that is of useful interest to our needs. In July it was diarrhea and in August he covered sugars and carbohydrates.

This month he covers topic that few want to think about much less talk about in public, bowel or fecal incontinence.

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal (UK: faecal) incontinence, is an inability to control bowel movements. The person's stools (feces) leak from the rectum uncontrollably. Bowel incontinence can vary in severity from passing a small amount of feces when breaking wind, to total loss of bowel control.

Bowel incontinence is a sign or symptom of a condition or disease; it is not a condition or disease in itself. Generally, bowel incontinence is not life-threatening and does not impact negatively on the patient's health. However, the sufferer's quality of life, emotional and mental health, as well as self-esteem can be affected.

Lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or a number of other intestinal disorders can cause this. So can a bewildering variety of diseases, disorders, syndromes, and deformities.

Because there are so many possible causes, diagnoses and corrective treatments vary just as much. I'd suggest reading Nordqvist's article to see if something there covers your problem.

And be reassured that you are not alone and this is not a rare condition. He estimates that one to two percent of the American population suffers from it, and since the elderly are more likely to have it, the condition will become more common in the future.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Milk Not Dangerous

I don't normally take potshots at columnists at college student newspapers.

Humans are the only animals on the planet that drink another animal’s milk. Thus, by definition, drinking cows’ milk is extremely unnatural.

OK, that's the argument I hate the most in the world. Humans are the only animal who do ten million things. Humans are the only animal who cook foods. Humans are...

Where was I? Right. Beth Mendenhall is just a columnist for the Kansas State Collegian. I can hold professional reporters up to ridicule if they get basic facts and information wrong, but I can't really expect a student to be expert on every subject.
In fact, 60 percent of adults worldwide are unable to effectively digest lactose, the main sugar found in milk. So why do Americans insist on consuming massive amounts of dairy products?

Stop that. Stop quoting. You're just taunting me.

You know who's supposed to be correcting the illogical and ignorance of college students? College professors. I don't know if the Collegian runs many articles by professors, but they did the next best thing. They published a point by point rebuttal by Ben Wileman, a graduate student in veterinary medicine - a pretty advanced student since he already has a Dr. in front of his name - under the title of Milk not a dangerous thing for people to drink.

Beth wrote the usual drivel that can be found at a million places on the Internet. There is absolutely no reason to subject yourself to it. The piece by Dr. Wileman has sense and facts. I recommend it. Please read it. I hope that he goes on to have this calming and edifying effect on legions of students in the future.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dairy-Free Bubble Chocolate Now in America

Bubbles. Chocolate.

Better than chocolate and peanut butter? It melts in your mouth and is lower in calories. (I Can't Believe It's Not Chocolate?) So you tell me.

Whatever it is, it goes by the easy-to-ask-for name of Bubble Chocolate.

First the press release.

While the sensation will be new to most Americans, it will be a taste of home to the millions of international citizens living in the States. With an estimated one billion dollars in annual international aerated chocolate sales (Mintel, 2009), Bubble Chocolate® introduces chocolate lovers to the light, airy, and unique melt-in-your-mouth experience.

"This is a new Bubble Chocolate® that’s all natural and reformulated to introduce Americans to the aerated chocolate craze that has dominated international markets for decades," says Frank Drab, president Bubble Chocolate®. "The timing is right to bring something new and exciting to the U.S. market. Americans will love it, the international community will be happy to have it and it will be a favorite among dieters who are looking for a satisfying, yet lower calorie chocolate fix."

People on restricted calorie diets, tend to prefer this type of chocolate. The nature of the aerated process makes the bars lower in calories than a regular chocolate bar, and despite the lower calories, it does not compromise the overall taste experience. In fact, since Bubble Chocolate® literally melts in-your-mouth, the taste is more immediate and the burst of flavor tends to satisfy chocolate cravings sooner. As the company slogan states, it’s "Just the Right Amount of Chocolate®." ...

"Creating Bubble Chocolate® is both an art and a science," says Drab. "Our proprietary procedure infuses bubbles throughout the chocolate at just the right temperature. Then it's molded and cooled so the bubbly structure remains inside while a smooth outer shell is formed."

Bubble Chocolate® looks like a regular chocolate bar, but the inside has tiny bubbles. The best way to enjoy Bubble Chocolate® is to start by breaking off a small piece and chewing it gently until it begins to melt. Your mouth will change from slightly dry to moist and creamy. This delightful transition occurs when your taste-bud receptors are drawn to the chocolate bubbles as it starts to melt.

Is it cruel to say that you can tell this product is from a European company because the press release seems to have been written by somebody for whom English is not a first language? Of course, I tend to think that of most press releases.

Only the dark chocolate version of Bubble Chocolate is dairy free, of course.

I found one review of it, by Lorraine Eaton of the Virginian-Pilot. Apparently having to let chocolate melt in your mouth is something instant-gratification-raised Americans will need a while to adapt to.
I broke off a square of the dark, which delivered a nice, dark hit of flavor. The texture takes a bit of getting used to. You definitely have to let it melt in your mouth; chewing results in a grainy texture. It wasn't a winner in my book, but maybe the calorie savings would make it more enticing.

When I compared the back of my Bubble Chocolate bar and my Trader Joe’s bar I was surprised to find similar values: Trader Joe’s has 200 calories and 15 grams of fat in a 33 gram serving (about four solid squares) and Bubble has the same counts in a 40 gram serving. The kicker for me was price. TJ's is $1.99 for a 3.5-ounce bar; Bubble Chocolate is $2.50 for a 2.82-ounce bar.

No love at first nibble for me. Sigh.

Well, 40 grams is almost 20% more than 33 grams, so having the same total fat and calories is a 20% savings per unit volume. That might make a difference to some.

Or letting it melt won't be a problem. Try it for yourself. The company will ship to "virtually any address in the US. Note that there are restrictions and/or challenges with some destinations due to the perishable nature of all natural premium chocolate. "

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Dairy-Free Recipes. On Your iPhone.

Didn't I just read a piece of satire about the one billionth app available for your iPhone? It allows you to dial another person and talk to them.

It's hard to think of that as satire when you see the headline IPhone - Ready for Rosh Hashanah? iPhone Now Has 'Kosher Cookbook' by Marisa Torrieri.

Sweet, dairy-free chocolate-chip cookies and savory “mushroom ears” are just a few taps away for home bakers creating delectable Rosh Hashanah treats.

Just in time for the Jewish New Year, APPSolute Media has launched Gloria Kobrin’s “Kosher Cookbook” for iPhone and iPod Touch users – its first digital recipe book as part of its new Cookshelf application.

Ideal for spontaneous cooks who don’t always have recipe files handy, “Kosher Cookbook” features more than 300 of New York City-based cook Kobrin’s kosher recipes, including 50 customized meal plans for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. ...

Upon clicking the chocolate-covered pear application on an iPhone or iPod Touch, the user is led to a menu where he or she can choose recipes and add the needed ingredients to the one-click shopping list. These lists can also be viewed by store aisle or by recipe.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Non-Dairy Cheese "Analogue" for Pizza

Cargill is probably the hugest company in the U.S. whose name isn't a household word. It's privately owned, the largest such company in the U.S., so it doesn't get the daily attention from the business world that companies with publicly trade stock receive. Cargill had revenues of $120 billion last year, or as much as Microsoft and Boeing combined.

That gives them lots of pennies to pay for R&D. A teeny portion of Cargill, which means huge by any other standard, is Cargill Texturizing Solutions, with a mere 31 plants on five continents.

What did they do in a Belgium laboratory? Come up with a non-dairy cheese "analogue" for pizza. Luckily for me, one of their press releases is in something resembling English, and by that I mean not filled with too many technical terms (rheological? syneresis?) for my brain to process.

Cargill has launched a unique breakthrough innovation that enables the cost-effective production of a 100 percent non-dairy cheese analogue for pizza and other prepared food applications.

Lygomme™ACH Optimum functional system (patent pending) replicates the functionality of dairy protein and replaces it fully at an outstanding cost advantage for the manufacturer.

Fabien Bouron, senior dairy applications specialist at Cargill Texturizing Solutions, explains: “Cheese represents approximately 15 percent of a pizza recipe and given its high and fluctuating price, it can have a significant impact on the cost of frozen pizza production. In order to protect their margins, manufacturers have traditionally had to choose between raising pizza prices, limiting portion sizes, or using a blend of different cheeses depending on their current market value.”

Lygomme™ACH Optimum functional system removes this instability by offering manufacturers a cost-effective cheese alternative for pizza which can be used to completely replace highly volatile dairy proteins. Furthermore, its appearance, taste and texture perfectly match those of processed cheese based on dairy proteins and are similar to those of traditional hard cheeses, such as gouda, cheddar or gruyere, thereby ensuring equal enjoyment and satisfaction for consumers.

A dairy-free solution for cost-optimization
Due to its specific composition, consisting of a combination of three starches, a galactomannan and a gelling carrageenan, Lygomme™ACH Optimum functional system is not liable to price volatility, eliminating fluctuations in recipe cost. Even when taking into account falling dairy prices, it remains highly attractive with up to 60 percent cost reduction compared with a standard analogue cheese (which on average contains 15 percent dairy proteins) and over 200 percent when compared with traditional cheeses such as mozzarella or emmental.

A dairy-free solution for performance
Furthermore, Lygomme™ACH Optimum functional system overcomes the technical challenges associated with the total replacement of dairy proteins, providing the same key physical and rheological properties as those of analogue pizza cheeses: taste, firmness, appearance, shreadability and melting behavior.

Each component has been carefully selected by Cargill’s expert team to play a specific role: allow and stabilize the emulsion, bring sufficient viscosity during processing, absorb the water phase, avoid oiling out and syneresis, create a strong network in order to allow the finished cheese product to be shreadable/sliceable, and have a remelting profile.

A dairy-free solution for health
In addition to the important cost and performance benefits, Lygomme™ACH Optimum functional system also offers health advantages as it contains reduced calories (less fat and no saturated fats) and reduced phosphate intake (no melting salts used). It offers a cheese alternative for people with lactose intolerance and a unique opportunity for vegans to enjoy a product that has the characteristics and taste of cheese but without any animal-derived ingredients. Last but not least, Lygomme™ACH Optimum functional system provides the opportunity to make analogue cheese without allergen labelling, and eligible for Halal and Kosher certification.

When will this be miracle goo be appearing on real-life pizzas? You have to ask the hard questions, don't you? I have no idea. At least somebody out there is thinking of you.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Free-From Foods Not Free From Salt

Food is great stuff. It's delicious in a thousand different ways, but mostly because humans have adapted over hundreds of thousands of years to the components of foods. This works in two different ways. First, there are the distinct sensations conveyed by our "taste buds." Sweet, sour, salty and bitter, and possibly a fifth sometimes called umami or savory. We're particularly prone to find sweet and salty foods delectable but are likely to be repelled by bitter and sour tastes. Children find the latter especially yucky and this may guide them to sweet and salty foods which they retain a preference for as adults.

We're also adapted to like the taste of fats even more than other components of food, presumably because fats pack more than twice the caloric density of proteins or carbohydrates and that could mean survival in the wild.

Most inhabitants of western countries today find it more than easy to get all the fats they need today just as it's easy to find the once rare and precious sweetener we know as sugar. Most nutritionists will argue that we eat way too much fat and sugar. And salt, for that matter.

So for years food scientists have slaved over their test tubes and test kitchens trying to create food that is fat-free or sugar-free or salt-free or all three that tastes just as good as the originals. Most of the time they fail. "Free from" food as it's sometimes called, more usually in the U.K., has a distressing propensity to taste like cardboard. So the scientists cheat. They'll sometimes load up fat-free foods with sugars just to give our palates something to play with on the way down, for example. Nutritionists tend to go into palpitations at such antics, and for good reason.

Now comes the distressing news that a study of house brands at five British supermarket chains finds them loading up the free from dairy-free or wheat-free foods with tons of extra salt. Salt has the property of enhancing flavor, which is why a pinch - or more - of salt is added to about everything. But this BBC News article reported that the chains go a lot farther than that.

Sainsbury's Free From Jaffa Cakes have 0.67g of salt per 100g, compared with 0.1g of salt per 100g in standard Sainsbury's Jaffa Cakes.

This is more than six times the salt level of the standard version.

Morrison's standard Chocolate Chip Cookies contain 0.5g of salt per 100g, while their Free From version contains 1.5g per 100g - three times as much.

ASDA Free From Double Chocolate Muffins have over three times as much salt as ASDA Double Chocolate Muffins, 1g per 100g as opposed to 0.3g per 100g.

Tesco's Free From Victoria Sponge has more than double the amount of salt as its standard cousin, 1.4g per 100g compared with 0.6g of salt per 100g.

Do free from products need to have this extra salt to taste good? Not necessarily. Each supermarket has some product equivalents with lower salt.

While the impact of salt on health has been hotly disputed of late, "free from" foods should be approximately equivalent to their regular counterparts and there's no good reason to load them up with salt.

Does this mean that I'm recommending yet more ingredients list reading in the supermarket? I'm afraid so. Don't get so happy at finding a dairy-free product that you toss it unthinkingly into your grocery cart. (OK, you can do it once.) Check closely how those canny food scientists are achieving the feat. Dairy-free should never mean unhealthy.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams

I'm not sure how I missed it, but the publication of Cathe Olson's Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love slipped by me.

Ice cream is universally loved and is at its very best fresh out of the ice cream machine. Homemade ice cream is actually easy to make, and can be made with a variety of nondairy milks perfect for those with dairy or soy allergies. Whether you avoid dairy products for health or ethical reasons, or to protect the environment, these frozen treats will rival any store bought gourmet ice cream.

Lick It! elevates vegan ice cream to its creamy, dreamy best. Readers will find well-loved, traditional flavors plus a tempting variety of exotic and gourmet tastes made with herbs, spices, and liqueurs. And you can adjust the flavors and sweetness to your liking, using the choicest natural ingredients. From scooped ice cream, sundaes, sherbets, and sorbets to ice cream sandwiches, shakes and floats, you'll find all your ice cream parlor favorites complete with toppings and sauces! So swirl it, savor it, lick it! It's never been yummier.

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Book Publishing Company
List Price: $14.95

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pioneering Dairy Researcher Dies

"The next time you pick up a carton of low-lactose milk or reduced-fat mozzarella cheese at the grocery store, you are holding the result of Virginia H. Holsinger's research. She also developed a shortening used in baked goods and created a low-lactose powdered milk used in military field rations."

That's from a fascinating obituary by Patricia Sullivan in the Washington Post.

Dr. Holsinger, the former head of the dairy products research unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Wyndmoor, Pa., developed the enzyme treatment that makes milk digestible by people with lactose intolerance, research that resulted in the commercial product Lactaid. ...

Virginia H. Holsinger was born in Washington and graduated from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County. She received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the College of William and Mary in 1958 and a doctorate in food science and nutrition from Ohio State University in 1980.

She started her research career as an analytical chemist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service's dairy products laboratory in Washington and transferred in 1974 to the Eastern Regional Research Center in Pennsylvania, where she stayed until her retirement in 1999. ...

Dr. Holsinger wrote or co-wrote more than 100 scientific papers and received multiple awards from agricultural and food chemistry organizations, as well as the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Glycogen Storage Diseases (GSD)

I maintain this blog for every type of person who wants to reduce or avoid dairy. Some reasons are obvious: lactose intolerance or milk protein allergy. Some are secondary to another goal: keeping kosher or vegan. A few are less obvious: diseases like galactosemia or glycogen storage disease.

Glycogen storage disease (GSD) is actually a host of 11 related ailments, each caused by the failure of an enzyme to break down sugars in the body. Some have older names, like von Gierke's disease, now known as GSD type 1, the commonest of the types.

Sufferers of these very rare conditions can't break down the fructose found in most fruits or galactose, which is the sugar that the lactose in milk breaks down to. They have to avoid those sugars their entire lives. Even so, liver damage is always a threat.

I found out about this rare problem from an article by Martin DeAngelis of about the death of Lindsey Goldhagen.

Lindsey was 9 months old when Ina and Jerry Goldhagen found out she was sick - gravely so, and in imminent danger of suffering brain damage, they were told. The parents thought they were going to their pediatrician for a routine checkup, but they next thing they knew, they were rushing their first baby to a hospital.

Even there, though, nobody could figure out why her blood sugar was so low. The doctors just knew Lindsey wasn't getting enough nutrition and wasn't responding to any treatments for that. The only thing they could suggest was to rush Lindsey across the river to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

But doctors there not only recognized a condition called glycogen storage disease, it turned out that CHOP specializes in GSD. It's a genetic disease that affects just one out of about 250,000 babies, generally with Jewish parents. It makes it impossible for the liver to break down sugars into nourishment for the body; instead, GSD stores sugar in the liver and "would make her liver get bigger and bigger," her mother explains.

GSD is hard to live with, but the specialists said the family could manage it by taking care of Lindsey's diet - constantly, and scrupulously.

"No fructose," or fruit sugar, her mom says, ticking off a few of the food restrictions. "So she couldn't have a piece of fruit. Never. No lactose, so she couldn't have cheese. No candy, no cake," and the banned-foods went on and on.

A liver transplant gave her two extra years of life and the healthier liver allowed her to eat a more varied diet. Valedictorian of her high school, she planned on being a nurse to help others. Her body finally rejected the new liver and she died just before beginning what could have been her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania.

My condolences to Mr. and Mrs. Goldhagen and all of Lindsey's many college friends.

For more information, check the Association for Glycogen Storage Disease or the Children's Fund for GSD Research sites.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Vegan Yum Yum

Hot blogger Lauren Ulm, whose Vegan Yum Yum blog won the 2008 VegNews magazine Veggie Award, and the 2008 Veg Blog Award, now collected the recipes the appeared there and more into a cookbook, Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday.

Product Description

Put the yum into your meals with more than 85 mouthwatering vegan recipes!

When Lauren Ulm went vegan, she faced the typical onslaught of questions from acquaintances and more than the occasional wince from unsuspecting dinner guests. Vowing to prove that vegan food can be decadent and delicious—and not a bland stand-in for 'normal' food—she created a blog, What began as a hobby became an obsession, winning her not only legions of vegan and non-vegan foodie fans, but also the 2008 Best Veggie Blog Award from VegNews magazine.

Here in her debut cookbook, Lauren shows that vegan food is anything but dull, with her creative and quirky twists on everything from crowd-pleasing appetizers to indulgent desserts, from easy weekend breakfasts to speedy weeknight dinners, plus holiday- and company-worthy fare you can serve with pride.

With most ingredients both readily available and budget-friendly, Vegan Yum Yum shows anyone how to go gourmet the vegan way.

About the AuthorLauren Ulm, "Lolo," is a vegan foodie and founder of who lives in Boston with her husband and two cats. She is not a chef, has never been to culinary school, and she's not a professional photographer (but she has fun pretending!) When she went vegan in 2002, the kitchen became her favorite room in the house, and still is today. She has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and has been featured in Vegetarian Times.

Health Communications Inc
290 pages paperback
List price; $18.95

There's a press release as well, one that gives recipes. Press releases are fair game, so I'm copying the recipes here for you.
Hurry Up Alfredo

One day I came home from running errands and I was starving. I felt like pasta with a creamy sauce, but I didn't have the patience to make a roux. I decided to make a blender Alfredo because I was so hungry that I didn't care how it turned out. Not only was it delicious, my husband and I now make it on a regular basis. It's fast and easy, and you probably already have all of the ingredients. It's a great compromise between "I don't feel like cooking" and "I don't want to eat toast for dinner."

While I like to use the wide fettucini-style rice noodles, whatever pasta shape you have will work wonderfully. You don't even need pasta to enjoy the sauce: You can pour it over a huge bowl of steamed organic broccoli and it will be divine.

2 or 3 servings

3 cups of any small pasta shape

2 tablespoons Earth Balance
1 cup soymilk
2 teaspoons Dijon or stone-ground mustard
3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 rounded cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 to 4 garlic cloves (optional)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch salt
black pepper, to taste

Optional Add-Ins
2 tablespoons of fresh herbs (your favorite)
2 cups steamed broccoli florets or any other veggie

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the noodles. Cook until tender but not mushy, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all of the sauce ingredients together in a blender and blend on high until very smooth. If your blender is having issues with grinding the nuts smoothly, you can strain the sauce. (Or you can keep them as is and pretend it's a "textural feature".)

When the noodles are finished cooking, drain them well. Add the noodles back to the (now empty but still hot) pot and pour as much sauce as you want over them. Turn the heat on and gently stir until the noodles are piping hot, adding in your optional veggies or herbs if you're using them. Serve immediately.


Cannellini Bean Soup with Pan Fried Croutons

I created this soup after I had a similar one in a restaurant in my neighborhood. I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I deconstructed it and recreated it in my own kitchen. It's very simple and fresh, but bursting with flavor. Crispy fried croutons pair perfectly with soft beans and tender kale, while little grape tomatoes give bursts of sweetness. This is definitely one of my all-time favorite soups, and you can prepare the croutons for any recipe you like.

2 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
2 to 3 kale leaves, torn
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
16 grape tomatoes, halved
Fresh lemon juice, for seasoning

Pan-Fried Croutons:
2 tablespoons Earth Balance
3 slices whole wheat bread, sliced into 1/2" cubes

Melt the Earth Balance in a skillet and add the bread cubes. Let the bread cook, absorbing the margarine, until golden brown. Toss and brown all sides of the bread and then remove it from the pan when it's rich brown and crispy. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the shallots and sauté until tender and lightly colored. Pour in the vegetable stock and heat until simmering. Add the kale and salt and cook, covered, until the kale is tender but still dark green. When ready to serve, turn off the heat and add the tomatoes. Let them sit in the hot soup for 1 to 3 minutes to cook slightly before serving. Check the seasoning and adjust, if desired. Add the pan-fried croutons at the last moment, with a small squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

Mini Baked Donuts

I set out to create a vegan doughnut recipe that didn't involve frying. All you need is a "petite doughnut pan," which should be available at kitchen stores or online. Look for something nonstick. My standard party dessert has been cupcakes up till now, but now that I know how easy doughnuts are to make, I've been converted.

Makes 20 donuts

Dry Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
1 tiny pinch or shake cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup soymilk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Egg Replacer for 1 egg
4 tablespoons vegan margarine

1/2 cup powdered sugar (lump free!)
1 tablespoon soymilk
Bowl full of sprinkles (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350º F

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk to mix thoroughly. Combine the wet ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium low heat and mix until the margarine is melted. This mixture should not get too hot; you should be able to stick your finger in the mixture and feel slightly warm. If you burn yourself, 1) it's not my fault! and 2) it's too hot for the dough!

Add the wet ingredients to dry ones and mix until just combined. It should form a very soft dough or thick batter.

Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out the dough into your ungreased nonstick mini-donut pan. Smooth out the top of the dough with your fingers, clearing off the post in the middle of each one. This will make for more even, prettier donuts, but isn't crucial.

If you over fill, your donuts will come out looking like they have muffin tops. While not the end of the world, it's not very donut-like either.

Bake for 12 minutes until the donuts are almost browned on top, and a tester comes out clean. Invert a hot pan over a cutting board or cooling rack to release the donuts. Allow them to cool completely before decorating, with the exception of the powdered sugar donuts. If you let them cool loosely covered with plastic wrap, the donuts will stay soft and fluffy.

To Glaze with Sprinkles
Whisk the soymilk and powdered sugar together. Dip the "bottom" half of the donut (the side with the nicer shape) into the glaze, let some drip off, then dip glaze-side down into sprinkles. Transfer to a wire rack that has been set on top of some parchment paper. The excess glaze will drip through the rack onto the paper for easy cleaning later.

To Chocolate Dip
This is the easy part. Melt one bar of your favorite dark chocolate in the microwave. Remove from the microwave and stir every 15 seconds until chocolate is smooth and barely warm to the touch. I should mention that you should be very careful not to get any water in the chocolate or it could seize, and no one likes that!

Dip your donuts one-by-one into the chocolate. Place the donut on your wire rack and decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

For Striped Donuts
Dip the donuts into the powdered sugar glaze first, then drizzle with melted chocolate.

For Powdered Sugar Donuts
Roll warm donuts in a bowl of powdered sugar. Yum!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yes, Virginia, There Is Vegan Soft Serve

I didn't want to leave you hanging yesterday when I broke the bad news that not all lactose-free soft serve is really lactose free. Some true non-dairy, vegan soft serves can be found. Even if you have to look for them.

Most vegan soft serves are an afterthought to regular ice creams or a small addition to a vegan grocery. Googling for vegan soft serve brings up many local stores but not much information on brands, flavors, or availability. You'll have to do that sort of digging for yourself.

I can mention that I've found three national brands of vegan soft serve.

Good old Tofutti:

Premium TOFUTTI soft serve mix is available in three flavors:
Vanilla, Chocolate, and Peanut Butter.

Unfortunately, the company has been concentrating on supermarket sales so while soft serve is available, it's not a priority.

Then there's OatsCreme:
Ingredients of Soft Serve OatsCremeTM by Flavor:

Water, Oat Flour, Dutched Cocoa, Natural Flavors,* and Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Water, Oat Flour, Natural Flavors,* Vanilla Extract, and Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Water, Oat Flour, Natural Flavors,* Natural Beet Color, and Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

And there is also Temptation:
Vegan Soft Serve Ice Cream

Restaurants and ice cream shops looking to expand their offerings to vegans, vegetarians, and lactose-intolerant (up to 15% of the U.S. population!) can use our vegan soft serve ice cream to get an edge over the competition. This creamy alternative is kosher parve certified and available in Fair Trade Chocolate and Vanilla varieties.

Temptation Chocolate Vegan Soft Serve Ice Cream
Vegan Beet Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, Soymilk Powder, Fair Trade Certified(TM) Cocoa Powder, guar gum, xanthan gum, salt

Temptation Vanilla Vegan Soft Serve Ice Cream
Vegan Beet Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, Soymilk Powder, natural vanilla extract powder, guar gum, xanthan gum, salt

If you can't find any of these locally, start asking for them. Or whatever other brands the store owner can find. The more demand, the more likely they are to carry vegan products. Even for something as taste-sensitive as ice cream.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not Frozen Yogurt. Not Lactose-Free.

Some things that sound too good to be true probably are.

Emily Moore did a review of local Tuscon frozen yogurt shops for her student newspaper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

For Yogurt Delight she wrote:

The menu changes daily and they offer three main types of yogurt: regular non-fat (dairy based), Wow Cow!™ (lactose free and sweetened with fructose), and Skinny Mini™ (lactose free and sweetened with Splenda™).

Several problems here. First, Skinny Mini, trademarked or not, is spelled Skinny Minnie. Second, neither Skinny Minnie nor Wow Cow are frozen yogurts. They are soft serves, a totally different product.

And they don't seem to be lactose-free either. It's not easy to find up-to-date information on these products they are sold only to commercial stores and aren't standard supermarket consumer products - but these pages from Red's Dairy Freeze seem to be pretty good.

Skinny Minnie contains nonfat dry milk, whey protein concentrate, and cream powder. Wow Cow has whey and cultured yogurt solids.

Paradise Yogurt of San Diego claims that the whey is delactosed, but includes nonfat dry milk as another ingredient.

Several sites say that Wow Cow is considered a low lactose product and make the sam claim as Paradise Yogurt that Wow Cow "can be enjoyed by most lactose intolerants." That's almost certainly true, but is not exactly the same as lactose-free

If you're looking to avoid lactose I would avoid both of these products until you get more information on them.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes, Hedgehogs Are Lactose Intolerant Too

All adult mammals are lactose intolerant. All of them. Dogs. Cats. Even cows.

People have the notion fixed in their heads that the best food to serve a hungry animal is milk. That may be true if a nursing baby animal is involved, but not at all a good idea when it comes to adults or even young animals beyond the nursing stage.

And yes, that's true for hedgehogs as well. As we see in this article by Rebecca Connop Price.

Hedgehogs are at serious risk if they cannot gain enough weight to survive the winter, so the autumn months are a crucial time for them. ...

During September and October, baby hedgehogs, called hoglets, need to gain as much weight as possible.

People can help by placing bowls of food in their gardens.

It is a common misconception that milk is good for hedgehogs; in fact, they are lactose intolerant and it can give them diarrhoea, which is potentially deadly.

In the wild, hedgehogs are meat eaters and their diet consists mainly of bugs, including beetles, earthworms and caterpillars.

For this reason, the BHPS [British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Really.] recommends cat food as a food supplement.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

CrazyAllergyGirl Gluten-Free Recipe Blog is a community based gluten free recipe search engine for the food lovers with multiple food allergies. Visitors to the site can find delicious recipes from some of the best food-based websites. Members may even create a recipe and post it on the website. There are recipes categorized on the basis of allergies such as corn-free, diabetic, dairy-free, egg-free, high-fiber, lactose-free, low sodium, low sugar, vegan, etc.

That sounds like press release prose because it is. It's from the CrazyAllergyGirl gluten-free website announcing a new sister site. has been designed as a community-based gluten-free recipe search engine and editorial resource that aims to serve to food lovers all over the world. The site has handy information, specifically aimed at helping those trying to cope with food allergies or food intolerance. The website also comprises useful food recipe links from some of the top food sites on the Internet. Food lovers can easily locate their favorite food recipes from this database and the site allows users to upload and share their favorite recipes with others. By creating a free account, members can share recipes as well as modify the existing results, add title, descriptions and recipe links to the website.

All the visitors to can add, vote, and comment on the recipe search results that come up. The users may also modify existing recipe results on the site. The order of the search results depends on how well the community has specified the title, description and tags for the result. aims to build a food loving, gluten-free and corn-free community, much akin to its parent site, For further information, visit the website

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Running Toward a Cure to Galactosemia

Galactosemia is that very rare congenital disease in which lactose is successfully digested into glucose and galactose but the galactose is never metabolized into more glucose. Instead it remains in the bloodstream and can eventually cause liver failure. The only remedy is to place the child on a strict lactose-free diet for life.

One such child is Sarah Southard of Wichita Falls, TX, whose parents have started an annual fundraiser toward research called Sarah's Cure.

This year all proceeds from the Wise Tri Triathlon will go to Sarah's Cure. You can read about it in an article by Jessica Langdon in the Wichita Falls TimesRecordNews.

For more about Sarah's Cure and about galactosemia, check out Parents of Galactosemic Children, Inc. (PGC).

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

I've been posting for years of the slow insertion of milk and dairy products into Asian markets, especially China. This isn't happening accidentally. While Chinese entrepreneurs see opportunities in introducing a new, exotic, and interesting food into a historically milk-free culture, Western firms see every aspect of the huge Chinese market as potential for exploitation. Consider that the middle-class population of China, although still a small percentage, is numerically larger than that of the U.S. or the EU.

A transcript of a broadcast by BBC World Service correspondent Mukul Devichand told of the very modern means by which dairy is being introduced.

At a Chinese radio station, on-air personalities tout the virtues of pairing the proper wines with the proper cheese, eating pasta and enjoying a good cigar.

British, French and Portuguese foodies are pushing gastronomy and fine dining to a remarkable new class of Chinese citizens.

The problem is, parmesan, cheddar and brie are pretty alien to the Chinese palate. Despite over 3000 years of Chinese fine dining, it's only from the 20th century that dairy products were really consumed in China -- many there remain lactose intolerant.

The solution for European marketers is to educate Chinese consumers.

And one way is to make the new seem less so by associating it with a familiar product.

So at seminars, the Chinese are taught to think of cheese as a new kind of... tofu.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Lactaid Reaches Out to Minority Women

Lactose tolerance is a mutation that is shared mostly by people of European descent. In multicultural America, that means that minority populations - blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, and others - have a much higher percentage of lactose intolerance.

Lactaid, the makers of lactose-free milks and other dairy products, has an annual promotion aimed at these populations. In 2007, they used Hispanic actress Angelica Vale. In 2008 they turned to African-American celebrity chef and restaurateur Delilah Winder.

This year they've teamed Hispanic registered dietitian and certified personal trainer Sylvia Klinger with Winder, reaching out to both target audiences. From the press release:

A new Lactose Intolerance in Multicultural Communities Survey found that 78 percent of African American women reduce the amount of milk or dairy in their diet as a way to manage their lactose intolerance. Yet, 48 percent of African American women who have lactose intolerance worry the condition keeps them from consuming important nutrients, such as calcium and vitamins A and D. Despite their concerns, only 16 percent have talked to a health care professional about lactose intolerance.

The study found that half of African American women are unsure about what foods are safe to eat without triggering symptoms and 11 percent remove dairy from their diet completely as a way to control their lactose intolerance. This is concerning as dairy foods and beverages contain key essential nutrients that are important for a healthy lifestyle.

To help educate women about lactose intolerance, the LACTAID(R) Brand has partnered with Delilah Winder, celebrity chef, author and restaurant owner, and nutritionist Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, to share recipes and tips for eating healthy and enjoying dairy again. In fact, lactose intolerance is easy to manage, without forgoing milk and the dairy products.

Delilah Winder is a celebrity chef, restaurant owner and cookbook author who has a passion for food and entertaining. In 2000, she opened Bluezette in old city Philadelphia - an elegant restaurant that uniquely reflects her Southern heritage. In the fall of 2006, Chef Winder continued to develop her professional career by publishing her favorite southern recipes in Delilah's Everyday Soul: Southern Cooking With Style cookbook. Containing a foreword by author and personal chef of Oprah Winfrey, Art Smith, the book includes many of the recipes that have made Delilah a favorite chef of celebrities such as Patti LaBelle, Denzel Washington, Danny Glover, and Tavis Smiley. Included among the more than 100 recipes in the book is the recipe for her nationally acclaimed macaroni and cheese, as voted the best macaroni and cheese recipe by the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Sylvia Klinger, registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, is founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Hinsdale, IL a food communications and culinary consulting company. Mrs. Klinger has appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN Spanish, Univision, Telemundo, America Teve, TV Azteca, Telefutura. Many guest appearances in popular shows such as Despierta America and Hispanics Today, where she is a regular guest, and numerous Hispanic cable stations to name a few. She has been a guest nutritionist on numerous local Hispanic radio talk shows and numerous popular publications such as Latina Magazine, Siempre Mujer, Vanidades, Latino Social and Hispanic Business South Florida to name a few.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lactagen Prepares to File For New Drug

Ritter Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the makers of Lactagen, are gearing up for the release of a new drug for lactose intolerance. They've hired a new Chief Medical Officer in preparation for an IND, investigational new drug, filing with the FDA.

The company issued a press release on this.

Ritter Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Ritter) has hired Howard Foyt, M.D., Ph.D., FACP as its new Executive VP, Development & Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Foyt brings 13 years of expertise in drug development to Ritter, as the Company prepares to file an IND for its therapy for Lactose Intolerance.

Dr. Foyt will join Ritter's senior management team and oversee the Company's clinical development efforts. Ritter will take advantage of Dr. Foyt's leadership in drug development within big pharma and biotech companies. For the past three years, Dr. Foyt served as VP, Clinical Development and Chief Medical Officer at Metabasis Therapeutics, where he was responsible for five drugs in clinical development over multiple therapeutic areas. Dr. Foyt had previously worked at Pfizer, where he served as Senior Director and Site Head - Diabetes & Obesity, and earlier at Parke-Davis for over ten years participating in the clinical development of multiple drugs mainly in the metabolic disease field. Prior to joining Parke-Davis, Dr. Foyt was on the faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX. He earned
his medical degree and Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Foyt completed his residency in internal medicine at Baylor and an endocrinology fellowship at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. ...

Ritter's first compound, RP-G28, has been developed for the treatment of lactose intolerance. RP-G28 will effectively stand out as the first FDA-approved drug for the treatment of lactose intolerance.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mangos Still Don't Have Lactase, part 2 has become the bane of my life. The site allows apparently any, um, wannabe who can work a keyboard to sign up and become specialist bloggers on any subject they please. The site sorts bloggers by city so you can find many people in different locations blogging on the same topic. They make money by revenue generated by the Google ads that appear next to their columns so they have incentive to write as many columns as possible. Some have been known to generate 100 columns per month. They're lucky if they see a dollar a column for all this work, but they have dreams that they will hit the viral jackpot and see their name and work reverberate through the blogosphere. One or two always do, but the rest give up after a time. No matter. There is no shortage of willing suckers to follow them along.

Obviously, a few people who are expert or at least sufficiently knowledgeable to post on a subject do blog there. The ratio of the expert to the people who think they know something but don't is low, as low as you would expect to find on an unfiltered, unedited medium. is living proof of the worth of the current mainstream publishing world. Crap does get through the filter imposed by a worthy editor, but it's a much lower percentage than on any unfiltered site.

Why is this my concern? Because now seems to generate at least half of the hits I get when I search for lactose or lactase in the news. How am I supposed to filter out the good from the bad?

Sometimes I get lucky and it's obvious. Those are the bloggers who don't know a subject and just do a search and cut and paste any nonsense that they find online.

Example? I knew you'd ask. How to get a gluten-free dessert in almost any restaurant, Part two, by Lorinda Hill. Sounds like a useful and informative title. The text is not as inviting. Specifically:

Mango with sticky rice or Khao Nieow Ma-muang is a very popular favorite with the Thais. It is the mango that is the key ingredient. Mangos are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The magneferin, katechol oxidase, and lactase enzymes in the mango help purify the body.

Lactase in mangos? Why? Lactase is only found in the intestines of mammals, who need it to digest lactose, which is only found in milk. Why in the world would mangos have this property?

Hill is not the first to post this. People have been stealing and reposting it with variations for years. The original is a bit more graphic. Here it is reposted on Wellsphere last year:
The enzymes of the Mango, such as magneferin, katechol oxidase and lactase, clean the bowel of the "filth" within and are an ideal antidote for all toxic effects inside the body.

As soon as you see the word "toxic" or "toxins," run. There are no toxins in the bowel to cleanse. That's quackery of the first magnitude.

Why do I say this is the original? Because you can trace the quotes back in time. They seem to stop at an article by Dr. Martin Hirte, The Benefit of Mango for Human Health, which reads:
The enzymes of the Mango, such as magneferin, katechol oxidase and lactase, clean the bowel of the "filth" within and are an ideal antidote for all toxic effects inside the body.

Seems somewhat similar, see?

That version comes from 2002, although it may updated from an even earlier version.

That's the internet for you. No nonsense ever seems to get lost.

Shouldn't the corrections be equally visible? You'd think so. Until you realize that I already posted on this very quote, finding the same ur document back in 2007. Mangos and Lactose? Don't Think So.

That didn't seem to help. That quote has probably been reused a dozen times since 2007.

Doesn't matter. Don't believe it. Then, now, or in the future.

There's only thing left. Both mangos and mangoes are acceptable spelling for the plural of mango. I looked it up. Yes, on the internet. But that site I trust.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Chapman's Ice Cream Plant Burns

Chapman's Ice Cream is the largest independent ice cream company in Canada. The Chapmans, then a young married couple, grew it from a small creamery they bought in Markdale, Ontario, in the middle of, well, nowhere, in 1973, They've stayed in Markdale all these years, giving the town a major presence.

And the reason I'm talking about an ice cream company is that it makes several lines of specialty ice creams. Specialty audiences include us. It's no sugar added line is also lactose-free. Lactase is added to the ice cream to reduce the lactose. And the list of flavors is delicious and outrageous to Americans who barely can find anything more than vanilla. Chapman's makes lactose-free ice cream in Black Cherry, Butterscotch Ripple, Dutch Chocolate, Maple Walnut, and Neapolitan, as well as Vanilla. In addition, they have no sugar added, lactose-free Fudge Bar and Vanilla Sandwich novelties. Plus water ice and sorbets.

Which makes the news that Chapman's main plant has burned down so sad. A nice summary can be found in an article from the Manitoba Co-operator which reported that:

A historic southern Ontario creamery that housed Canada's largest independent ice cream manufacturer has been destroyed by fire, Toronto-area media reported Friday.

Chapman's Ice Cream produced ice cream and dairy-free alternatives for markets across Canada in the 150-year-old building at Markdale, about 90 km west of Barrie. ...

Chapman's has already pledged to rebuild at Markdale, CTV said.

A note on the company's website home page Friday said Chapman's "will be conducting business as per usual. Your continued support is important to us as we move forward."

On its site, the company has previously said "we'll never outgrow the community of Markdale, Ont. in which we live and work."

The company has large amounts of product stored in a warehouse so it won't disappear from shelves in the near term.

The rebuilding will be critical to the small town of Markdale, which was hit by a tornado only two weeks ago, causing $2 million in damages. The Chapmans' pledge to stay in Markdale and continue operations should be applauded.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Some Sensible Writing About Lactose Intolerance

Getting is right shouldn't be a news story any more than "Nobody Killed as People Go About Ordinary Day" should be the headline in a newspaper. Correcting wrongs is a more urgent business and one that I spend probably half my time at.

Every once in a while it's nice to recognize correctness, though. When two correct halves of a large and more complete correct whole come together, well, that's news I can and should write about.

A few days ago I posted about a new computer model study looking at The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe. That study also got a nice write-up in USA Today, which started its article, by Elizabeth Weise, with an overview of lactose tolerance and intolerance.

First off, most people who have bad reactions to milk aren't actually allergic to it, in that it's not their immune system that's responding to the milk.

Instead, people who are lactose intolerant can't digest the main sugar —lactose— found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so —lactase— stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

If you're American or European it's hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.

It's not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world's highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.

Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn't really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it's abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what's really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.

All true, and all things that I've said myself in the past.

But not the entire story, something difficult to pull off in the confines of a single article that's designed to lead to a particular point.

Skip the now 520[!] comments attached to the story, most of which will make you despair of the notion that intelligence is also an evolutionary result and turn to the letters to the editor page.

There we find a comment from a person who - unbelievable as it might seem - actually knows what she's talking about. Theresa Nicklas, professor, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine - Houston, wrote:
It's important to recognize that the lack of the lactase gene does not mean people can't enjoy milk and milk products. The limited ability to digest lactose (lactose maldigestion) does not necessarily result in any symptoms (lactose intolerance).

Although different people can handle different amounts of lactose, your readers should understand that even people who have a limited ability to digest lactose can enjoy dairy foods, often without any symptoms.

This has significant public health implications because it is difficult to get the recommended calcium and potassium in the diet without including dairy. A large percentage of Americans 2 years old and older are not consuming adequate amounts of calcium and potassium.

One against 520. Those aren't good odds. I'm happy to back Dr. Nicklas, making it 520 to 2. That's still bad, but heck, it's twice as good as before. I'd like to think that two people who are knowledgeable and right beat out the 520 who are neither. It's my fantasy of the day.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free, Caffeine-Free... Cookbook

At first glance, Cathy Torella's Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free, Caffeine-Free... Are You Kidding Me? cookbook looks like a great deal.

A brief article, more like an adapted press release, in the Barrie Examiner, said:

The book provides dozens of recipes for people living with various food allergies and sensitivities.

Torella wrote the cookbook after she discovered in 2004 that she had a number of food sensitivities.

"I have always had a keen interest in cooking, so I found it devastating to be told my regular eating habits had to change, but I was determined to feel well again and I would try anything to get there," she said.

"I started researching options and recipe ideas right away. I quickly found there were not many recipes available to accommodate all the sensitivities I had developed and thought there must be other people like me. I started experimenting with ingredients and recorded everything because if I liked the end result I wanted to be able to make it again."

It's a self-published 84 page paperback with a list price of $10.95. Many specialty books these days are self-published so that's not in and of itself a strike against it. Why do self-published books have a bad name? Because they have not been through the filter of having an outsider, an editor or publisher, separate the good from the bad. Of course many self-published books prove to be good. Others...

I don't know for sure whether Torella's book is good or bad. It has only a single review on Amazon and that's not enough to determine my opinion. That review is so devastating, though, that I feel compelled to share it with you.

Dr. Mary Traverse "allergy solutions teacher":
Yes, unfortunately, you are kidding me. This book is not what it represents itself to be. At least half the recipes have some form of either gluten, dairy, or sugar. It is a big disappointment, poorly researched, and assumes that "evaporated cane juice" is not sugar or Goat's milk is not a dairy food. My biggest objection, as a health professional, is that it is full of misleading and incorrect information (Ezekiel bread contains no wheat, for example.) It also makes little or no distinction as to which are the gluten or non-gluten grains. Definitely not what you are looking for if you are on a gluten-free, dairy-free, and/or sugar free diet.

That some of the recipes contain ingredients that some have to avoid doesn't bother me. Many multiple allergy cookbooks are written this way, since it's unlikely that all readers would share every single one of the allergies that the book addresses.

The other complaints are far more serious. I spend much time and effort trying to teach people that supposed "healthy" sugars are in fact essentially identical to the ordinary, everyday table sugar that they hate so much. And the idiotic notion that has infested the internet that goat's milk or milk from any other animal is not the same as ordinary, everyday cow's milk is an outrage, an indictment of our entire educational system and a symptom of the way that the internet spreads stupidity faster than any other medium in human history.

If Traverse's criticisms are correct then I would certainly urge that you avoid this book.

Who is Dr. Mary Traverse, though? Her doctorate is in Chiropractic and her website promotes her worldview, one that I don't share. She houses the Austin branch of the Crossroads Institute, started by ex-rocket scientist Curtis Cripe. And what has Cripe accomplished?
Curtis can now show definitively that every person who graduates from this program has between a ten and thirty point increase in IQ!!!

Sheer woo woo.

So I have someone I don't agree with correctly pointing out errors near and dear to my mission. I'm torn, but I always side with the facts. Traverse is right, Torella is wrong. That's true no matter what else Traverse says on other topics.

The facts always win, at least in my corner of the planet. Until proven otherwise, it's thumbs down on Torella's book.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Artisana Organic Raw Coconut Butter

I promised you more coconut milk news. What could be more pure coconutty than coconut butter. Carolyn Yoder tells us all about it on the sie.

Coconut butter is simply a puree of coconut meat, but the flavor it delivers is anything but simple. Coconut’s naturally occurring complex sugars provide an intense sweet flavor with a prominent tropical twist. It makes for an innovative topping on oatmeal, yogurt and fruit.

Each two tablespoon serving contains 186 calories, 18 grams of fat (16 saturated), an impressive 5 grams of fiber and just 2 grams of protein. Again, this product is clearly not a protein source, but its flavor and healthy fats are a welcome addition to any diet.

She's reviewing Artisana Organic Raw Coconut Butter, one of the company's long line of various nut buttters.
There are great moments in life when you are refreshed and delighted by an old love--when a old song finds its way back into your modern taste and you find yourself touched with a new appreciation and grasp of its beauty. Everyone knows the beauty and wonder of Coconut: electrolized water, oil so smooth and safe it can be used as lotion, and the dense nutrition of the coconut meat. Artisana has defined their Coconut Butter with a signature puree of coconut meat, yeilding a fibrous, densely nutritious spread and a wonderful ingredient in raw desserts, smoothies, savory dishes and snacks. We can't keep our spoons out of our jars. Find a new love in an old favorite. Mix Artisana Coconut Butter with Agave Nectar, Vanilla, and a pinch of Sea Salt for a fantastic raw frosting (sandwich it between two cookies...YUM!!!).

Ingredients: 100% Organic, Raw Coconut Meat (dehydrated at low temperature)

Notably absent: pesticides, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, stabilizers, added oils, GMO's.

Contains absolutely no Peanuts, Gluten, or Dairy

Oil separation occurs naturally; stir before serving.

No Refrigeration Necesary

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Coconut Craziness Scales Another Mountain

I've posted so many times about agave-sweentened coconut milk non-dairy products over the past year that Planet Coconut is a possible spin-off. Or would I get sued by Jimmy Buffett?

You must be loving it out there. I see as many coconut products as I do coconut trees on desert islands in cartoons. Watch out for your heads! They're falling everywhere.

Let's start with Turtle Mountain. In January I posted Turtle Mountain Goes Coconut Crazy, about the company lines of So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt and Purely Decadent Coconut Milk "Ice Cream." (They don't use quotes around the "ice cream," which drives me crazy. Ice cream is made from milk. Real dairy milk from animals. You can't have non-dairy ice cream. It's confusing and wrong. But they make more money than I do so they get to set the rules.)

What are they doing now? Kefir!

NEW! A world's first, coconut milk kefir is now So Delicious!
We have taken an old world classic and combined it with the delightful richness of coconut milk to create a new age beverage designed to enhance your overall sense of well being.

Coconut milk is naturally rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Two of the primary MCFAs found in coconut milk, lauric and capric acid, are known for supporting the body’s immune system. MCFAs combined with ten live and active cultures make our coconut kefir a great dairy free alternative. Drink it alone or splash it over your favorite fruit or cereal. Also makes for a wonderful addition to a variety of home recipes.

And it comes in Vanilla, Strawberry, and Original flavors.

More stuff's coming from them, too, but I'll wait until you can find it on their web site.

Or you can be like all hip and modern and cool and young and follow them on Facebook and get up-to-the-minute announcements. Which spoils the secret about their new Coconut Milk Creamer, announced on Just pretend you haven't seen it yet.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe

Most of the world's population is lactose intolerant, with the latest estimates that a minimum of 60% are. Being lactose intolerant means that you are born with a gene that turns off the production of the lactase enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose at some point in your life.

Most Northern Europeans and their descendants, which means most Americans, are not lactose intolerant. That makes them a unique population, given the size and numbers and uniformity of the ability to drink milk without symptoms as an adult.

How could this possibly come about? The origins of drinking milk had to come after milkable animals were domesticated in large numbers. That appears to have happened for the first time in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. That's a very short time in human history. We do know that the mutation that never sends out the signal to stop producing lactose is one that keeps cropping up - in fact, scientists have found 43 separate versions of the mutation - so it must be fairly common. Even so, getting a chance mutation, even a dominant mutation as this one is, to spread completely throughout a population is extremely unusual. No other mutation like lactose tolerance is known today.

Exactly when and where the mutation took hold in a population that would spread it across Europe has been fiercely debated for years. In Milk Mutation "Strongest Signal of Selection", for instance, I reported that:

Tishkoff's team determined the date range when the mutation likely occurred: 3,000 to 7,000 years ago, which matches up well with the archaeological record that places pastoralization coming to East Africa about 5,000 years ago. The European trait dates back about 9,000 years.

A new computer model developed by a group of UK scientists make the time and place much more specific:
We infer that lactase persistence/dairying coevolution began around 7,500 years ago between the central Balkans and central Europe, probably among people of the Linearbandkeramik culture.

Oh, c'mon, everybody knows the Linearbandkeramik culture. They were the first farmers in Europe.
The Linearbandkeramik Culture (also called Bandkeramik or Linear Pottery Ceramic Culture or simply abbreviated LBK) is what German archaeologist F. Klopfleisch called the first true farming communities in central Europe, dated between about 5400 and 4900 BC. Thus, LBK is considered the first Neolithic culture in the European continent.

The word Linearbandkeramik refers to the distinctive banded decoration found on pottery vessels on sites spread throughout central Europe, from south-western Ukraine and Moldova in the east to the Paris Basin in the west. The LBK people are considered the importers of agricultural products and methods, moving the first domesticated animals and plants from the Near East and Central Asia into Europe.

If lactose tolerance is associated with milking and milking is associated with farmers, then the first farmers in Europe are a logical place to look for a beginning. It all seems to come together.

When I was doing the research for Milk Is Not for Every Body, I had to struggle through dozens of articles from medical and archaeological journals, but for sheer total unreadability nothing compared to articles on the math of population genetics. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the introduction to this particular article from PLoS Computational Biology is written in more or less accessible English. Here goes.

Itan Y, Powell A, Beaumont MA, Burger J, Thomas MG, 2009 The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe. PLoS Comput Biol 5(8): e1000491. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000491

Lactase persistence (LP) is common among people of European ancestry, but with the exception of some African, Middle Eastern and southern Asian groups, is rare or absent elsewhere in the world. Lactase gene haplotype conservation around a polymorphism strongly associated with LP in Europeans (1−13,910 C/T) indicates that the derived allele is recent in origin and has been subject to strong positive selection. Furthermore, ancient DNA work has shown that the −13,910*T (derived) allele was very rare or absent in early Neolithic central Europeans. It is unlikely that LP would provide a selective advantage without a supply of fresh milk, and this has lead to a gene-culture coevolutionary model where lactase persistence is only favoured in cultures practicing dairying, and dairying is more favoured in lactase persistent populations. We have developed a flexible demic computer simulation model to explore the spread of lactase persistence, dairying, other subsistence practices and unlinked genetic markers in Europe and western Asia's geographic space. Using data on −13,910*T allele frequency and farming arrival dates across Europe, and approximate Bayesian computation to estimate parameters of interest, we infer that the −13,910*T allele first underwent selection among dairying farmers around 7,500 years ago in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, possibly in association with the dissemination of the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik culture over Central Europe. Furthermore, our results suggest that natural selection favouring a lactase persistence allele was not higher in northern latitudes through an increased requirement for dietary vitamin D. Our results provide a coherent and spatially explicit picture of the coevolution of lactase persistence and dairying in Europe.

Author Summary

Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most people in Europe and many from other populations continue to produce lactase throughout their life (lactase persistence). In Europe, a single genetic variant, −13,910*T, is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have been favoured by natural selection in the last 10,000 years. Since adult consumption of fresh milk was only possible after the domestication of animals, it is likely that lactase persistence coevolved with the cultural practice of dairying, although it is not known when lactase persistence first arose in Europe or what factors drove its rapid spread. To address these questions, we have developed a simulation model of the spread of lactase persistence, dairying, and farmers in Europe, and have integrated genetic and archaeological data using newly developed statistical approaches. We infer that lactase persistence/dairying coevolution began around 7,500 years ago between the central Balkans and central Europe, probably among people of the Linearbandkeramik culture. We also find that lactase persistence was not more favoured in northern latitudes through an increased requirement for dietary vitamin D. Our results illustrate the possibility of integrating genetic and archaeological data to address important questions on human evolution.

One final technical point. The evolution of "white" skin has usually been explained by the need for northerners to get more vitamin D from the sun in the relatively limited time available. "Black" skin reduces the uv absorbed and vitamin D made, but this isn't a problem in the tropics. Calcium sources were also more limited in the north, making milk a dietary necessity and vitamin D helps calcium absorption. So why isn't there the expected correlation between the people who were drinking more milk and therefore getting more calcium which therefore required more vitamin D? Two reasons. One is that the model found that the coevolution of dairying explained enough so that an additional explanation wasn't needed. The second was that this particular effect wasn't included in the model in the first place.

That's the problem with computer models. They are excellent at checking whether the data meets expectations. Putting every possible variation and explanation into a model exceeds what our computers can do at this point.

The whole article is a fascinating read and a good summary of much of what is known or suspected today on the spread of dairying and lactose tolerance. It's not as difficult a read as most, at least until the equations start taking over.

The history of lactose tolerance is the history of western civilization in many ways. Northern Europeans couldn't have survived the north without milk and dairying. Their aggressive societies took over the rest of the world, taking their milk-based culture with them. Most Americans grew up thinking that dairy was the norm and have been surprising to find themselves a minority in the world. This is history well worth the study and the time and difficulty in tackling it. It's the story of us, tolerant and intolerant alike.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Southeastern Wisconsin Residents Sickened by Raw Milk

Pasteurization was invented late in the 19th century. Some people hailed it as one of the greatest advances of all history, since thousands were sickened or died from the effects of tainted milk. Some, but not all. Many fought its usage bitterly and for decades. Many of pasteurization's opponents argued that model farms could produce raw milk of such quality and purity that pasteurization was totally unnecessary.

Unfortunately, these model farms never worked as well as proponents hoped. Cows are prone to a variety of diseases and no matter the care given some diseased milk always slipped through. Nor could the time consuming ongoing care be scaled up to meet mass demand. Pasteurization won not because it was a perfect solution but because none of the other alternatives measured up. By about the 1920s it became standard on all milk in the U.S.

Huge commercial milk farms today also face problems with keeping cows healthy. That's one of the reasons farmers started given the cows the hormone rBST. The use of the hormone also raised fears, although the science backing up those fears is lacking.

The backlash to milk manifests itself in many ways, one of which is advocating raw milk, or milk that has not been pasteurized. Raw milk, they saw, is literally healthier than pasteurized milk, which destroys minerals in the milk and kills even potentially beneficial bacteria. You can read an article from 1938 that summarizes much of what raw milkers say today. Although raw milk cannot be purchased in stores in most states, and some states go further than that to ban it, enthusiasts, numbering an estimated 500,000, go to farms to purchase raw milk or even buy shares of cows to designate themselves farmers thus legally allowing them to drink the milk of their "own" cows.

One problem remains. Those pesky cows keep getting sick. In an article titled Southeastern Wisconsin residents sickened by raw milk by Catherine Idzerda in the Janesville, WI, Gazette, we learn that:

Thirteen people in southeastern Wisconsin have been sickened by the consumption of unpasteurized milk, state public health officials said today. ...

The individuals who are sick tested positive for campylobacter jejuni, a bacterial infection that causes gastro-intestinal symptoms and fever, said state officials. ...

People began to get sick between Aug. 14-20. All victims had consumed raw milk or been in households where someone else consumed raw milk and became ill. Campylobacter can be passed between people.

This despite raw milk sales and distribution being illegal in Wisconsin.

I wish cows did not get so easily sick. I wish commercial farms were more respectful of the animals in their care. Both raw milk and regular old commercial pasteurized milk can be problematical. And both can be perfectly safe and healthy and good for you. Neither one is magical. Both have to be produced by farmers tending to cows and getting their wares to markets, sometimes far distant in time and space. It's that distance between cows and consumers that drove pasteurization in the first place. Our society has made that distance farther today.

Drink raw milk if you want. Just don't make claims for it that can't be upheld in stark reality. Cows, even well-tended cows, do get sick and pass those diseases on to those who drink their milk.

If you want to take this as a reason for veganism, you are free to do so. That conclusion isn't my intention, though. Any food can be a vector for disease, as recalls of dozens of vegetables have shown. My advocacy is for healthy food, with consumers understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the vast world-wide farm systems that bring food to our tables. All those systems can be improved, and all are only as strong as their weakest link. Demand healthy food by all means. Expecting magic will just make you sick.

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