Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Celiac Disease : The Silent Killer

Perhaps the title of this Gluten-Free Blog article is a bit harsh or otherwise scary, but I want to bring attention to how serious this disease really is, and how widespread it is becoming.

I was just reading a summary article about a Mayo Clinic study published a couple months ago in the journal of Gastroenterology, where the study looked at LONG-TERM (45+ years) mortality outcomes for people affected with Celiac disease (an immune system reaction to gluten in the diet), and the trends in population-prevalence of this disease.

Here are the key findings in brief:
  • [study] subjects who did not know they had celiac disease were nearly four times more likely than celiac-free subjects to have died during the 45 years of follow-up [I read this as: ignoring Celiac disease, and leaving it untreated (i.e., not following a strict gluten-free diet), leads to premature death, simply put]
  • undiagnosed or 'silent' celiac disease may have a significant impact on survival; [four-times higher mortality-rate is certainly significant!]
  • Celiac Disease is 4.5 times more common today than it was 50 years ago [it now affects about 1 in every 100 people in the general population], but scientists do not know why;
  • The increasing prevalence, combined with the mortality impact, suggests celiac disease could be a significant public health issue. [perhaps this is obvious after reading those prior bullet-points, right?]
The study was rather fascinating in how they came up with this long-term diagnostic information. They relied on blood samples taken back in the late 1940's and early 1950's at Warren Air Force Base (AFB) in Wyoming, and applied modern antibody-testing techniques to those blood samples to determine which participants back then had Celiac Disease and did not know they had it.

This data was then aligned with information about those study-participants' lifespans and longevity (or lack thereof) over the next 45+ years, and poof: out popped this alarming bit of information about those with undiagnosed or untreated (i.e., non-gluten-free diet followers) Celiac Disease, and how they were dying off at a rate 4 times higher than the general population!

The best thing about studies like this is not the fear that it may put into those with Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance (though, being "scared into" a strict gluten-free diet may be the only way some people will follow the diet they should), but the important thing is increased awareness of the severity of the disease throughout the medical community. The study pointed out how testing for CD should be treated perhaps just like testing for cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other equal risks to patient mortality.

With a disease that presents with a series of wide-ranging symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, anemia, unexplained infertility, loss of teeth or even premature or severe osteoporosis, there has to be a better way of detecting Celiac Disease (as the true *cause*) more quickly and effectively than the current hunt-and-peck approach to "diagnosing" CD that many of us have experienced.

This quote from the study says it all:
"Some studies have suggested that for every person who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there are likely 30 who have it but are not diagnosed. And given the nearly quadrupled mortality risk for silent celiac disease we have shown in our study, getting more patients and health professionals to consider the possibility of celiac disease is important."
If you, or anyone you know, is likely to have Celiac Disease and is ignoring the signs and/or not following a strict gluten-free diet, please... point out the fact that they may be gambling with their life expectancy and that this gluten-free requirement is something to be taken seriously. And, on the flip-side, do not obsess about the numbers from this study if you follow a gluten-free diet: the study only found that "silent Celiac" (i.e., untreated) was a predictor of higher mortality.

The bottom line: maintain a proper gluten-free diet with solid nutrition and exercise, and you should remain outside the at-risk population described in this study.

Note: if you want to read the summary yourself, here is a link to it: Science Daily - CD Long-Term Study Article.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch : Awesome!


[by Mike] Let me begin by saying: this stuff is simply awesome!

I have had many a "trail mix" over the years, but this product is a cut above to say the least. It is fabulous, satisfying, and made with high-quality ingredients. For me, it is trail-mix nirvana.

Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch is all natural, oven-roasted (slow dry roasted) ingredients that include Almonds, Cashews, and Pistachios, with a lightly-glazed coating derived from evaporated cane juice and rice syrup, with some blueberries, pomegranate, sea salt, and natural flavors that all come together in trail mix perfection!

This is a very hearty mix - as the close-up picture below makes clear (click for more detail) - lots of nuts forming the bulk of the trail mix chunks. And, those chunks carry with them a great overall flavor of blueberry and pomegranate that is present with every crunch, and enjoyable without being overbearing.



I find the balance of flavors nearly perfect, and this gluten-free snack food lives up to Mareblu Naturals claim that they wanted to "create a perfect bite-size snack that was healthy yet didn't sacrifice great taste". Indeed! They certainly did meet that goal.

The product is Peanut-free, contains zero trans fats, is gluten-free, vegan, wheat-free, Kosher, Cholesterol-Free, Dairy-free, and is made here in the USA! That last item of interest (made in the USA) sold me over a competing brand that was also at Costco at the same time, as the other one was from China, and I just do not believe the gluten-free status of some of those products given all the other notable issues with quality control in Chinese food products over the past few years. So, the Mareblu is the perfect choice for me on many levels.

We found this nice 20oz resealable bag of Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch at Costco for $8.99, which is substantially less than anywhere else I could find the trail mix online when I started looking around. In fact, it was less than half the price that most places want (including Amazon.com and their dealers), as they show a "list price" there of nearly $25.00... a price to which I say, "yeah, right!"; meaning, I would not pay that even though it is a fantastic product.

NOTE --> here is a money-saving tip: if you do not have a CostCo nearby, you can order Mareblu products directly from the Mareblu Naturals website for about the best online prices I could find. Plus, they have ALL the varieties available there, as you would expect. Shipping is reasonable (in fact, it says it is FREE over $50.00 orders) too. E.g., this bag of BB/Pomegranate is $11.99 direct vs. $8.99 at Costco.

I find the $8.99 price at Costco reasonable (as well as the not too much higher prices on the Mareblu web site) given the high-quality, hearty ingredients. I would certainly not pay that for a generic bag of "trail mix" that is just a bunch of raisins and M&Ms and peanuts; but, this Mareblu product is anything but generic - it is a quality snack food (or a dinner in a hurry - lol) that satisfies with substantial ingredients chosen to complement each other well and deliver some low-sugar, high-protein, great taste when you want it.

Mareblu Naturals makes a wide range of snacks and trail mix products in addition to this Gluten-Free Blueberry Pomegranate version, though I have yet to try them since Costco only had this one variety currently (note to Costco: get some more flavors!). The back of the bag lists varieties (visible on tehir website) like Almond, Almond Coconut, Cashew, Cashew Coconut, Pistachio, Pecan Cinnamon, Cranberry Pomegranate Trail Mix, Acai Blueberry Trail Mix, and a couple featuring my favorite thing - CHOCOLATE - like, Dark Chocolate Cashew Crunch and Dark Chocolate Almond Crunch. And , until Costco gets more, I just ordered a few other varieties online to try them out -- now I just have to be patient while they ship to me! Given the wonderful impression this Gluten-Free Trail Mix made on me, I expect similarly high-quality and delicious results in their other products, and look forward to trying them.

Everything about Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch said "high quality and attention to great taste, texture, and even health" as I consumed it, and it gets an emphatic thumbs-up rating from me, my wife, my parents, Nick (who seems permanently distracted lately and may not be writing further reviews for me), and Nick's father. We ALL loved this product. The only down-side: we find it difficult not to consume an entire bag in no time once we open it... this is some really great, and nearly addictive, trail mix!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fresh Sweet Corn from our Wonderful Neighbors!


[by Mike] There is nothing quite like experiencing the warmth and hospitality of kind neighbors. In this case, our new neighbors (the local Mennonite family that owns Trickling Springs Country Store on a farm down the street), made an early morning delivery that was most wonderful -- they surprised us with a treat of Fresh Sweet Corn on our doorstep, completely unexpected.

I woke up early, opened the front door, and there on the steps was a bag of 14 ears of corn. The only reason I knew it was from the family about 1/4 mile down the road is that, when my wife and I stopped by their little country store to shop for fruits, veggies, cheese, and a few other items the day prior, we asked about the availability of sweet corn in the area and were told that this year they had not planted any for resale at their store, but had planted only what they wanted for their own consumption. I asked if they knew anyone else within a mile or two that was selling any sweet corn to the public this year, and they did not know of anyone that close.

So, it seems our inquiries about Sweet Corn gave the neighbors all of the clues needed to know that we really, really enjoy fresh sweet corn. And, in an act of complete selfless kindness, they decided to surprise us by reallocating some of their own supply to us. Thank you neighbors! And, this corn was absolutely awesome - fresh, delicious, sweet, and satisfying! (I hope we can grow some of our own next year too!)

Now, I feel the desire to bake them something from our Gluten-Free Desserts cookbook in return, as soon as we do some "research" to probe for what type of desserts they may like -- perhaps a nice Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, or even a Cheesecake? Well, we will have our work cut out for us... and, there are a few children at their farm location to gather dessert feedback from too. Speaking of farms...

Our New "Garden" (aka: Farm)

Here are a couple pictures of our new yard / garden / farm looking off our deck. There is a bit of overgrowth to say the least -- we did not have time to give the new "garden" the weeding it deserved as we were busy moving and all. And, much of the area is planted in soybeans currently (another gluten-free wonder-crop used in so many products these days), though we hope to slowly change that over to a wider variety of more specialized gluten-free grains, vegetables, and fruits over the coming years. (even some of that sweet-corn mentioned earlier)

Iin case you are wondering, no *we* did not plant the soybeans -- some local Mennonite farmer rented the "extra" space from us this year to raise soybeans on until we can get going with our ultimate wheat-free and gluten-free plans. We talked to him about potentially planting things like Teff, Millet, Sorghum, and so on for us in upcoming planting seasons, and it sounds like he may be able to help... sure beats trying to plant by hand -- his tractor and equipment will come in handy, though it sounds like we may need to acquire some seeders suitable to different grain sizes (I really have no idea what is involved yet; this is going to be a big, ongoing, learning process!)


As you can see, we will have our work cut our for us in the years to come. But, along with the work comes all sorts of benefits like: peace and quiet here (it is so totally quiet at night that it is hard to believe there is anyone within a mile or two), a nice view (right now, that view is green, green, green, all around as far as you can see), and room to just walk around and enjoy the great outdoors too. I guess we could also host a party for hundreds out on the lawn if we had to. lol.

Time to get back to some kitchen remodeling now, as we are transforming the baking area into something more conducive to creating more gluten-free desserts and other gluten-free foods. I hope to get this done soon, as we feel a bit out of place without the kitchen from our old house, and need a preparation area that fits our cooking and baking style. And, I also need to get Nick to write some more reviews, but he seems to have gotten busy with taking some College courses now too.