America, you can eat gluten again!

❝ In fact, most of you always could. That isn’t stopping the food industry from making a mint on gluten-free products.

❝ Only 1 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with celiac disease, yet gluten-free products are still filling up—and flying off—grocery store shelves. U.S. sales reached $1.57 billion last year, up 11 percent over 2014, according to data from Packaged Facts.

Sure, that growth has slowed — it was at 81 percent in 2013. But it still runs laps around the grocery sector’s overall growth of 3 percent. In the cereal aisle, for example, where sales have been declining for the past decade, claims such as “gluten-free,” as well as “GMO-free” and “no high-fructose corn syrup” have made for one of the few bright spots, according to a recent Nielsen report…

❝ Avoiding gluten while dining out is also getting easier. Although some restaurants are now celebrating grain, others are touting their gluten-free options. “Gluten-free” was on 23.6 percent of menus this year, beating out “organic” (21 percent), “locally” (14.2 percent), and “all natural” (8.9 percent), according to DataSsential Menu Trends. That’s a big jump from 2014, when it was on only 15 percent of menus, and organic was still the health term to beat, appearing on about 19 percent of U.S. menus…

❝ For those diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, the sudden boom in tasty, sort-of-affordable gluten-free foods is a “blessing”…But only 15 percent of consumers make these purchases because a member of the household has a gluten sensitivity, and only 9 percent make them for a member with celiac disease…

❝ The top reason for purchase? Thirty percent responded that “some products that I buy for other reasons are marked gluten-free.” Nearly as many — 29 percent—said they buy them because “gluten-free products are generally healthier,” and 20 percent said they make the purchase to manage their weight. Other surveys confirm these findings. NPD Group found that about one in four consumers thinks “gluten-free is good for everyone.”

Healthcare professionals say this is a misconception — people without a related diagnosis don’t need to avoid gluten.

I didn’t have to sit around waiting for Bloomberg to publish this little article. As is my habit, when I see food purveyors ramping up production of something that reads like a fad diet, I start looking for articles from recognized sources of medical and nutritional information based on science – not profit or popularity.

I’d already learned the size of the legitimate market. I was able to compare that to what I saw in the markets where I shop. Fortunately, folks working in local stores belonging to national chains specializing in natural and organic foodstuffs have an obvious sense of humor. Signs appeared in both stores for gluten-free water, gluten-free carrots, and on and on.

Yes, they carried a chunk of the newly-expanded catalogue of wheat-free, gluten-free products. Some folks need them. Provide useful access for those who benefit and you may as well sit back and get your share of the fad from the rest.

RTFA for more details. Think you have a problem with nutrition? Consult a good doctor. Hopefully, you already have one. There are plenty around, at least, it feels like it in my neck of the prairie.

Fad of tightly swaddling babies places newborns in harm’s way

Mothers who tightly swaddle their babies to prevent colic are causing a rise in a hip problem that disappeared 25 years ago, a doctor said today.

The practice – eradicated in the 1980s after educational programmes – is now back in fashion with some websites selling tight ”swaddlers” to keep babies warm, help them sleep and avoid the crying associated with colic. But Professor Nicholas Clarke, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, said the unsafe form of swaddling is leading to more cases of hip dysplasia.

The condition is where the hips are loosened by mothers’ hormones to relax ligaments during birth, but the swaddling is forcibly straightening the legs within the first three to four months of life.

This means babies who would otherwise recover naturally are unable to freely flex and strengthen weakened joints, making surgery essential. ”This form of swaddling used to be very commonly used across the world but, with the help of major educational programmes such as the one used to eliminate the problem in Japan in the 1980s, it was all but eradicated and cases reduced drastically,” said Prof Clarke, who spoke out as part of the STEPS charity’s Baby Hip Health Week 2012.

”Now, I and my colleagues across the UK and in America are witnessing its revival, with swaddlers being advertised on the internet that tightly wrap babies. For the hips, that is exactly what you don’t want to happen…

Up to 100 babies are screened at Southampton General Hospital’s hip clinic every week with around one in every 20 full-term babies has some level of instability and swaddling-related incidences are increasing.

Although treatment, which involves fitting a harness to keep the legs bent up day and night for six weeks, is successful in 85% of babies, some will suffer permanent damage…

”I advocate swaddling in the right and safe way, which means ensuring babies are not rigidly wrapped but have enough room to bend their legs – they don’t need to have their legs straightened as there is plenty of time to stretch before they start to walk,” he explained. ”But, and this is worrying the orthopaedic community, it seems to be increasingly fashionable among parents to follow the re-emerging trend of tight swaddling…”

”We need to focus on ensuring the years of hard work and effort made by thousands of clinicians across the world to drive out tight swaddling is not unravelled in a matter of months and that means stepping in immediately,” he added.

Spooky rumors, “remedies” passed along through gossip sites – and even dumber, via hustlers trying to make a buck from mothers’ fears – are the last thing clinicians and pediatricians need to have reversing decades of education and effort.

It’s natural for anyone under the stress of a newborn to look for quick solutions to some of the problems attendant upon newborn care. Reaching out to superstition and quackery is the last thing you and your child are in need of. Especially your child. Placing an infant in danger of needing surgery at a tender age because your favorite granny’s advice website recommended tight swaddling to quiet colic symptoms – is more than absurd. It’s backwards and primitive.

Tokyo cat cafes not just for old bats with cats

Sip a latte, flip through a manga, surf the Internet — or have a cuddle with a feline friend at one of Tokyo’s many cat cafés.

On first glance, these popular hangouts appear to be normal, cozy cafés, with sofas, coffee cups and shelves of magazines.

Look closer, however, and you’ll find something curious — all types of cats (“neko” in Japanese) reclining on top of drink machines, in corner baskets or in the laps of patrons.

At Tokyo’s cat cafés, catmosphere comes first, coffee a distant second.

Neko cafés are a relatively recent development in Japan…

About 100 neko cafés can be found in Japan, according to the nekocafe map, with a few outliers in South Korea and Taiwan. More than 50 of the cafes are in Tokyo proper, with almost 70 in the greater Tokyo area…

Paying money to hang out with cats (the average cost is about $12 an hour) may seem like a strange concept best suited to batty old ladies with frizzy hair and multiple scarves, but customers tell a different story…

The popularity of neko cafés as date spots is corroborated by a visit to Shimokitazawa’s Cateriam, where lace-skirted young women and their mohawked men ooh and ahh over the kitty antics…

The cat café boom has spawned countless blogs documenting cat café stars. Some cats even have their own mixi profiles.

One blogger, a Japanese amateur photographer who calls himself Jack, says he goes to cat cafés because he likes watching his favorite cats grow up…

With cat cafés proliferating around Japan, you can decide for yourself.

Not in Japan? Start one where you live. Just take the money and run before the fad decides to be unfashionable.

Seems to me more than impolite, even thoughtless, to subject your cat to public manipulation just so you might meet someone of the human persuasion you’d like to spend time with. In addition to your cat.

Food tattoos – tasty or just plain demented?

There is a tattoo trend afoot. We’ve had dolphins, ancient symbols, “ironic” sailor tattoos and now I give you … the food tattoo…

When Lulu Grimes of Olive magazine Twittered these food tattoos I thought it was a pretty funny joke. But it turns out these are real tattoos. As in, these people are stuck with them forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I spend much too much time planning what I will eat next and have many favourite foods. Most of them involve cheese. But, never in all my days of scraping the last crumb of Stilton off the rind, have I considered marking my love of the stinky cheese in a permanent fashion.

The shaven-headed man pictured above loves fried breakfasts so much that he sports a full English on his shiny pate. At least he could grow his hair back to cover it up, although the thought of a baked bean peeking out of his parting makes me feel a little nauseous. A woman has a cherry-topped cupcake on her foot, but look a little closer and the cherry is a skull. Sinister. And weird. Yet another shows a piece of toast, complete with smiling face, spreading itself with jam. The toast looks happy enough, I wonder whether the owner of the tat is quite so jolly?

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