Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gluten-Free Blog featured in Wall Street Journal Online

The Gluten-Free Blog Review in the WSJ

This week, I kept wondering why my Gluten-Free Blog traffic was 3-4 times what it was just a week earlier. My hopeful side was thinking that perhaps someone wrote a nice review of my Gluten-Free Recipes Book and caught the attention of prospective readers, but I was convinced the blog readership had to do more with the latest series of topics I posted with regard to controlling blood-sugar and controlling diabetes with exercise.

Well, thankfully David Marc Fischer over at Gluten-Free NYC set me straight and clued me in. Turns out the Wall Street Journal Online (WSJ) had recently written a Review of my Gluten-Free Blog where they were so kind to help others find this resource I have built, and provided the following summary to describe my Blog:

"The Gluten Free Blog

This blog by Cleveland-based Mike Eberhart addresses the needs of those who suffer from the digestive disorder called celiac disease and others who just want to maintain a gluten-free diet. Many common foods contain gluten, so those who need to avoid it face many of the same challenges as allergy sufferers. 
There are lots of recipes here for gluten-free foods, as well as reviews of gluten-free products and frequent updates on the latest medical news. Mr. Eberhart also encourages readers to share their personal stories and information on products on the blog."
Though I don't know the author of the WSJ Online article (a Becky Bright), I surely am glad she found my blog noteworthy and took time to include it in her roundup. I was absolutely thrilled to see that I am making an impact and helping others as I intended. And, if the extra media coverage and exposure helps others locate the Gluten-Free Blog, great! I hope I can live up to reader expectations in the coming months and years and provide more great gluten-free recipes, science news, and related discussion.

Thank you Wall Street Journal!

Perhaps some day a similarly large-readership publication will review my GF desserts cookbook, since I am still sort of caught in that "you can't reach people until you reach people" phase (aka, a Catch-22), as I have chosen not to sell my book on, Barnes and Nobles, or Borders Books (since their margin-requirements would leave me with nothing). As such, only those people who find my book directly on our website (at my Gluten-Free Desserts site or via this blog), or purchase a copy at one of the several food / diet / and nutrition product retailers around the country that inventory it, will ever have a chance to find out what they are missing. [UPDATE: in 2017, our recipes will simply be migrated onto a website of gluten-free recipes for everyone to enjoy there, for free. The printed book is long sold out.]

Now, on to other delicious topics...

UK Yeo Valley Yogurt Review

Where does time go? I have planned to review some of the wonderful Gluten-Free food items I found while in Britain a couple months ago.  In particular, I wanted to mention this wonderful Yeo Valley gluten-free organic yogurts I was eating (by the pint!) for breakfast while in the UK. It had to be the best yogurt I've ever had, which explains why I ate it nearly every day for two weeks (I luckily discovered it on only my second day in the country).

Sure, yogurts should be Gluten Free, but you just never know because of added flavorings, colorings, and the like. That's why it is so nice to have a clearly indicated "Gluten-Free" label on the package, as the Yeo Valley yogurts have. Not only is this yogurt incredibly creamy and flavorful and smooth, but it is also:
  • Organic and GMO-free (no genetically modified ingredients)
  • Full of bio-live cultures, including Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium probiotics - wonderfully delicious bacteria from what I can tell!
  • Gluten-Free and suitable for Celiacs / Coeliacs (of course)
  • Suitable for all vegetarians, though obviously not vegan
I've included a picture of the label (above) that demonstrates how "Gluten-Free" and other important classifications are clearly indicated. Plus, you'll be able to quickly recognize the brand should you ever have the chance to purchase some. The bummer for us here in the USA is that Yeo Valley does not export, nor has any current plans to export, their fabulous yogurts - arghh!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Diabetes and Blood-Sugar Control Methods

Here on the Gluten-Free Blog, I recently published an entry entitled "Controlling Blood-Sugar / Diabetes", that focused on the results of a recent study showing that through exercise alone, you could remarkably impact and improve your blood-glucose levels. Given the spike in readership here on the Gluten-Free Blog after posting that information, it seems I have touched on an area of interest. So, I plan to today continue the discussion about reducing blood sugar, and present a few other proven methods for significantly improving this important indicator of health.

Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid (aka Folate treatment)

Some studies have shown that Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid can improve insulin resistance, which in turn will improve blood sugar values. In one study on insulin resistance improving after folate and B12 therapy, subjects were given 500mcg B-12 and 5mg Folic Acid daily for a period of a couple months and compared to a placebo / control group. The results were quite encouraging, and the study found:
  • ...prolonged folate treatment decreased not only homocysteine levels but also reduced insulin levels, improving insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome.
  • Insulin levels dropped by over 25% in the Folate-Treatment group.
  • as a bonus: fasting glucose levels dropped, triglycerides dropped, plus a slight but significant decrease in systolic blood pressure was also demonstrated.
Note: If you suffer any B12 absorption issues, whether from Celiac Disease or Pernicious Anemia, you may wish to read another previous and popular blog I recently wrote entitled "Medical Secrets Revealed : Vitamin B12 Administration", where I discussed the efficacy of taking Vitamin B-12 sublingually (i.e., B12 dissolved under the tongue).

Calorie Restriction (CR)

I know, this proven method of improving blood sugar, pre-diabetes, and/or diabetes doesn't exactly sound "fun" as soon as you see those words calorie restriction on the page. CR is definitely something that takes a bit more work than popping some Folic-Acid/B12 pills. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this method of controlling insulin levels and blood glucose is probably going to be the most difficult (even more so than a consistent exercise program) for most people to successfully implement - myself included. I love food, especially delicious carbohydrate-rich breads, pizzas, desserts, etc., and just the thought of reducing my consumption of such treats causes anxiety.

But, it all comes down to which is more important: eating everything you want, or taking (challenging) steps to reduce your food consumption to live healthier and longer (I say "longer" here because CR is shown in various non-human mammalian studies to increase longevity; human results are expected to be the same, but our already long lifespans make studies quite difficult to implement). Harvard Medical School, just last week, published more information about how Calorie Restriction can lead to long healthy lives. CR induces a glucose-lowering and insulin-lowering response in the body, and in addition it alters the GH/IGF-1 (growth hormones) axis. The end result in studies is that by cutting calories substantially (by as much as 50-60%), huge gains in longevity (and reduced incident of age-related disease) are achieved.

The key is to restrict one's calories while not restricting one's nutrition; meaning you have to make very healthy choices about what you consume in order to get nutrient-dense calories. Essentially, this means less of the mainstream carbohydrate options (remove those refined carbs and sugars), and more of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meat. Seems like that's always what a good diet, CR or not, boils down to: eating healthy and eating things in moderation.

With this plan, I could certainly still find a way to eat my favorite gluten-free cakes, cookies, biscotti, and the like, but just much less in one sitting. I'm certainly glad the cakes freeze nicely, as I have learned to cut them up and freeze pieces for future days. Desserts are nearly all bound to be high-carbohydrate items, so moderation is always recommended, whether you are on a CR diet or not, since it is just better for you overall. So, do what you must to keep your eating under control.


This compound present in grapes, peanuts, and a few other fruits and veggies, has shown great promise in laboratory studies in controlling insulin and blood sugar levels. In fact, it essentially provides the benefits of CR (calorie restriction) in normal higher caloric diets. At least one pharmaceutical firm, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, is currently in clinical trials with drugs based on this compound as potential treatments for Type 2 diabetes [Update: in 2013, well after the GSK buyout of this firm, development was ongoing on new variations of this approach].

Sure sounds great to me - just eat a lot of grapes and get the effect of CR! Oh, wait,... not so fast... it isn't that simple. It takes a lot of this substance to get the desired effect; more so than you could get by eating foods that naturally contain Resveratrol. And, although there are (expensive) supplements on the market, there are lots of questions regarding the efficacy, shelf-life (due to oxidation), and required dosing levels in humans,... and in addition there is even a study entitled "high absorption but very low bioavailability of oral resveratrol" that suggests Resveratrol use in humans will be unable (even with supplementation) to get the desired effect due to how it is metabolized. So, Resveratrol one sounds like a "wait and see" item, with hopes that someone perfects a mechanism for delivery of the compound into our bodies while also making it affordable. I for one would sure like the CR-benefits while eating everything I normally like to chow on!

Some other noteworthy diabetes related items...

Recently, high-fructose corn sweetener (HFCS) has been in the news a lot for it's apparent correlation with Type II diabetes incidence. The fact is, this ingredient is in many commercially produced items these days, whether it is the pop/soda you are drinking, or the bread you are eating, or perhaps even the brand of tomato paste you put on your homemade pizza today. Search the Internet and you'll find plenty of information - like this article about sugary soda and diabetes [update: I had a link here, but over the years, the MedLinePlus article disappeared. Right now, I find that the best way to avoid this ingredient is to cook and bake my own foods, which is already commonplace for me given the gluten-free diet.

I also came across a presentation which documents that eating a high carb meal for breakfast results in an unacceptably high blood sugar swing - much higher than any other blood sugar rise seen throughout the day - even when compared to the same amount of carbohydrate eaten at a meal other than breakfast. The implication was that the body can not optimally process carbohydrates first thing in the morning, and if you are going to eat a meal higher in carbs, you should do so at lunch or dinner. Got me. But, that's what was shown.

I also have read about going to a completely low-fat vegan diet to control blood sugar. To me, that sounds like a lot of work and giving up a lot of foods I really like. In fact, I'd personally find that one easily as difficult as going on a CR (Calorie-Restricted) diet. And, this is coming from someone that was a totally meat-free vegetarian for over 7 years (I still consumed dairy and egg-products, since they are in most things I like). Even with my (prior) history of vegetarianism, I just can't imagine dropping my milk products or eggs - they come in so handy for baking (whether gluten-free baking or otherwise).

That's it for my roundup of other diabetes-control possibilities for now. I need to get back to posting some more Celiac-Disease and gluten-free specific topics in the coming days and weeks, especially some recipes and other things to coincide with the upcoming holiday events (yes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are still a bit away, but they tend to sneak up on me!)

UPDATE/NOTE: Please do not leave comments with links to your purported "cure-all" diabetes remedy-selling sites and tell me stories of how such and such supposedly did all sorts of remarkable things for someone you know. I will not let such comments through, UNLESS you can also provide links to placebo-controlled true scientific research that validates your remedy claims in an unbiased fashion. My goal is to provide people with proven ways to combat diabetes and high blood sugar, not to get their hopes up over products that make such claims with obscure, indirect, little, or no science behind them. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Controlling Blood-Sugar / Diabetes

Exercise and Blood Sugar Impact

I was just reading the results of a new 6-month study showing the impact of exercise on blood-glucose levels, and in particular how the combination of weightlifting (i.e., resistance training) and aerobic exercise yield a rather impressive reduction in Glycosolated Hemoglobin (aka HbA1c) readings. Given recent news of near-epidemic proportions of Americans that have, or will develop, type 2 diabetes (non insulin-dependent diabetes) in their lifetimes (nearly one in three persons!), it sure seems like there needs to be an overall wakeup call issued to stress the importance of exercise and how it can prevent this insidious condition.

For those of you new to HbA1c plasma-glucose-concentration test readings, they are represented as a percentage — and in healthy persons with normal blood-sugar, the reading will be roughly between 4% and 5.9%, and readings above 6.5% (or 7% depending on source) are considered indicative of Type 2 diabetes. And, "controls" in a study are like placebos — in this study they represent sedentary individuals.

With that in mind, here are some of the details (quite impressive for just 6-months of exercise) which include:
  • A 0.51 percentage point HbA1c reduction in the aerobic exercise group versus controls
  • A 0.38 percentage point HbA1c reduction in the resistance training [with weights] group compared with controls
  • An additional 0.46 percentage point HbA1c reduction in the combined exercise group compared with aerobic training alone
  • An additional 0.59 percentage point HbA1c reduction in the combined exercise group compared with resistance training alone
  • I.e., patients who did both aerobic and resistance regimens more than doubled the benefit with a drop in HbA1c of 0.9 percentage points!
So, what does .9% change in your HbA1c percentage value mean? Well, let's say you currently have a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of 6.0 currently (i.e., essentially "pre-diabetic" status), which equates to an average blood-sugar of 120mg/dL, and you were able to drop to a 5.0% reading, you would now have an average blood-sugar of around 80 — meaning, a 1% drop in average blood-glucose from exercise could move you from being on the fringe of diabetes to being squarely within normal / healthy numbers.

Start Exercising Now and Reduce your Blood Sugar Levels

It's time to make exercise a part of your life if it isn't already. If you are living on a gluten-free diet already, you have demonstrated your ability to adhere to a lifestyle change that takes work and perseverance. You obviously have the resolve to take up and maintain a healthy exercise program — in fact, this should be rather easy compared to completely removing gluten from your diet! This study achieved its results through 45-minute/day exercise, with aerobic activity performed 3 times per week and weights/resistance-training another 3 days (for the combined maximum benefit to reduced blood sugar levels). It sounds like a lot, but it sure sounds better than a future filled with the risks and complications associated with high blood sugar (including heart disease, hypertension, vision loss, kidney damage, depression, and much more).

This study on exercise and blood-sugar control is particular to persons with Type 2 diabetes. When talking about Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent), the exercise portion of the equation gets more difficult, as it can cause substantial swings in blood sugar that can be difficult to manage. Although Type 2 diabetes is no more prevalent among persons with Celiac Disease than the normal population, Type 1 diabetes risk is strongly correlated with Coeliac / Celiac Disease (aka Gluten Allergy, Gluten enteropathy, gluten-intolerance, etc) among adolescents — the risk is extremely high in fact, and another study [which was on Medscape at the time of this writing but whose link was no longer valid] concluded that: Celiac Disease Triples the risk of Type 1 diabetes in children.

This new exercise study is fantastic information, and further validates how important an exercise regimen is to controlling blood-sugar and avoiding Type II diabetes (not to mention the other health benefits). And, whether you have Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or have normal blood sugar readings, everyone should consider some sort of exercise to make sure they don't allow their blood sugar to increase further over time. I do as I say, and I regularly exercise in an attempt to ensure optimal long-term health — now with even more scientific reinforcement of my actions. I'm hoping others can benefit from this as well.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake - Recipe Variation (Flax)

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Flaxmeal, by Laura
Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake — Flaxmeal Variation

Chocolate Cake, a perennial favorite

One of my favorite gluten-free desserts is chocolate cake. I especially love a rich, dense, and moist cake, like the Chocolate Ganache Cake on page 20 of our Gluten-Free Gourmet Desserts cookbook — a recipe my wife created especially for my Birthday one year. Since then, she knows my gluten-free birthday cake request without even asking, and this year she also made this cake for her mother's birthday after experimenting with a slight variation on the original recipe.

It has always been my intent to share any such (successful) variations to our gluten-free dessert recipes with those who have purchased our book, and it has just been a matter of time to get to such things. Thankfully, I finally had some free time this morning to post the variations to the Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Recipe on our book sales site (at that link), as well as here on the Gluten-Free Blog.

The Recipe Variation : a bit healthier, thanks to Flax

Essentially, this variation just altered the ingredients equation by splitting the buttermilk component into half buttermilk and half whole-milk, while adding a ¼ Cup of Flax-meal (ground flax seed) to the mix. My wife also baked this version in a single standard 9" x 13" x 2" cake pan, whereas the original (in the gluten-free cookbook) was baked using three 9" round pans and layered with Ganache between each of the cakes. 

The results of this variation are wonderful! The cake, as expected, retains all of its richness and deep chocolate essence, while also having abundant moistness and a just-right somewhat dense texture that is so rewarding to eat. Plus, with that bit of flax meal in there, it just has to be a bit more "healthy", right? (if ever so slightly)

So, if you are planning a gluten-free birthday cake for yourself or another Celiac Disease sufferer among your family members or friends, keep this recipe in mind. Certainly you could bake it for any other event where GF cake is a must — be it a party at work, at your child's school, or wherever else a great chocolate cake would be a hit.

I have a few other variations to various dessert recipes sitting here in a queue waiting to be typed up and uploaded to the web. Some are as simple as trying out existing recipes in new formats (i.e., different sized pans), while others are drastically different ingredient experiments like dairy-free and/or sugar-free gluten-free dessert recipes.

UPDATE: here's a link to the dairy-free gluten-free chocolate ganache cake recipe now.

Now it's time to go eat some of the leftover chocolate cake.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Medical Secrets Revealed : Vitamin B12 administration

Better Vitamin B12 Absorption 

Today's Gluten-Free Blog title may sound a bit like marketing hype, eh? Well, I borrowed (or paraphrased) a headline I saw in one of these pamphlets/booklets about secrets the "medical establishment" won't let you know, after coming across an article (essentially nothing more than a sales pitch) within the pamphlet about Vitamin B-12 (Cyanocobalamin) and this supposedly top-secret method of administration.

Of course, the goal of the marketing hype, which went on for a few pages about this hidden and classified way of taking Vitamin B12, was to have you order a "special report" whereby you could learn of this undisclosed method - for only $12.95 or so. I'm going to save you all $12.95, and save you the wasted time of reading such a "report", and just disclose the supposed secret about Vitamin B12 administration, and gee, I haven't even ordered the report myself!

"Secret B12 Administration Method"

Here's the deal: take Vitamin B12 sublingually! (i.e., absorbed under the tongue) That's the supposed "secret".

This is rather common knowledge among medical professionals, though I have noticed that rarely do any doctors even mention this to people, unless they are dealing with patients that have a Vitamin B12 deficiency and/or anemia, like e.g., Pernicious Anemia, which is one of the worst manifestations of a Vitamin B-12 deficiency resulting from impaired gastrointestinal absorption. In addition, as people age, they produce less gastric juices (intrinsic factor in particular) needed to absorb Vitamin B12. Celiac Disease (i.e., Coeliac) certainly raises the risk of vitamin and mineral absorption among us gluten-free types anyhow, so I won't be surprised to learn that a few of you readers have some experience with Vitamin B12 deficiency and/or treatment.

You may hear about people getting Vitamin B12 shots, which is what makes the whole oral-absorption-path sound rather appealing. I know I surely prefer letting a vitamin dissolve under my tongue a lot more than I like to get poked with a needle!

As for efficacy as a treatment, there have been a fair number of studies comparing methods of correcting Vitamin-B12 deficiency, including standard oral dosing (swallowing a vitamin), intramuscular B12 shots, and sublingual administration. I have read quite a few medical publications on the matter, including studies like this one entitled: "Oral vitamin B12 versus intramuscular vitamin B12 for vitamin B12 deficiency.", which concludes:
The evidence derived from these limited studies suggests that 2000 mcg doses of oral vitamin B12 daily and 1000 mcg doses initially daily and thereafter weekly and then monthly may be as effective as intramuscular administration in obtaining short term haematological and neurological responses in vitamin B12 deficient patients.
Or, from this study titled "Replacement therapy for vitamin B12 deficiency: comparison between the sublingual and oral route.", which concluded:
A dose of 500 micro g[rams] of cobalamin given either sublingually or orally is effective in correcting cobalamin [B12] deficiency.
What this all means is that if you have impaired B12 absorption, you have another option as to how to potentially treat your condition. Most drugstores and corner pharmacies will carry versions of Vitamin B12 specifically tailored to sublingual ingestion, though, in my personal experience, they are more expensive than "regular" B12 tablets, and may provide little advantage for the price.

Fact is, even the "regular" B12 tablets will (typically) dissolve under your tongue in a matter of a few minutes and achieve similar results, but just lack the added flavors and colors put into the sublingual variety (apparently to improve the oral experience even though B12 has very little flavor to begin with, and dissolves readily in your mouth).

Last, B12 is considered safe and with very little side-effect possibility at even mega-doses, and if need be, I can certainly cite studies that demonstrate this.

I hope everyone finds this information useful, and if so, I'll try to expose more of those supposed medical secrets that it seems some people try to sell instead of just coming right out and disclosing what the "secret" is.

I actually would like to discuss some of my own B12 experiences in more detail later - including some of the rather remarkable improvements it made to certain blood-test results (not just B12 blood-numbers either). But, that's another story, and it'll have to wait.

Note: I am not a doctor, and if you want to confirm any of the information I provided, just ask your doctor and/or do online research.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gluten potential in "Fake Coffee"

Gluten in Fake Coffee

I was just perusing the Internet today reading some of the latest science news floating around. I came across this article entitled "Fingerprinting Fake Coffee" that got my attention at first because of the strange headline, but furthermore, upon reading, for its rather concerning content.

In a nutshell, here's what's going on:

Basically since gourmet coffee prices are hitting astronomical levels, the temptation or incentive for producers to "cheat" rises — and, in this case cheating means cutting the pure coffee (which is a naturally gluten-free product) down with other things that could surely jeopardize the Celiac-safe nature of coffee. Because certain (cheating) producers are using potentially unsafe (i.e., perhaps gluten-containing) dilution ingredients to cheat coffee consumers, the coffee may not be gluten-free after all. And, it's not like the producers are going to put anything on the ingredient list to indicate that they've jeopardized the purity of the coffee, since, after all, their entire strategy is based upon deception in hopes of increased profits.

The particular study cited above examined the widespread adulteration of Brazilian coffee, where tests showed that one brand of coffee contained 9% corn in it of all things! Sure, corn is gluten-free in it's pure form, and corn was the most common cutting-agent detected, but the following quote is what concerned me:
"Gulab Jham and colleagues point out that such adulteration of Brazilian coffee is among the most serious problems affecting coffee quality — with cereal grains, coffee twigs, and brown sugar sometimes mixed into the genuine article. Their research focuses on detecting corn, probably the most widely used adulterant."
That "cereal grains" statement really got my attention. Basically, because this entire "fake coffee" thing is about increasing profit by substituting other cheaper ingredients for coffee, it seems only likely that if wheat or other gluten-containing ingredients are cheaper than corn or coffee-twigs or what have you, that's what the perpetrators will use next, and there goes the safety of one of my favorite beverages! (and, some people are surely allergic to corn out there that expect coffee to be corn-allergy safe as well)

It's bad enough that greed drives people to dilute products and mislead consumers, but it's a whole other story when such scams could seriously impact the health and safety of unsuspecting buyers and coffee drinkers. This is something neither I, nor anyone else with gluten-intolerance or other food allergies, wants to worry about. Worse, the article made me thing about how if this type of behavior could affect coffee, it also may exist with other food products, especially anywhere that there is more money to be made through diluting an otherwise pure product -- what's next?... perhaps cocoa or chocolate will be next, or tea, or....

Let's all hope this isn't a widespread practice in the food industry!