Friday, August 29, 2014

Overselling the Microbiome Award: Peanut Allergies Cured with Microbiome

I'm always interested in potential therapies about nut allergies, due to my previously documented allergies that are now causing anaphylactic reactions.  It's an annoying allergy, and one I hope I did not pass down to my daughter. Diagnoses of food allergies are on the rise, and it is estimated that 3.9% of US children have some kind of food allergy.

It makes sense that scientists are looking to the microbiome to help treat food allergies. There is extensive research on the human microbiome and its implication in human disease. A portion of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is funding gut microbiome research.  In the current phase, Ramnik Xavier (Massachusetts General Hospital, Broad Institue) and Curtis Huttenhower (Harvard School of Public Health, Broad Institute) are focused on the gut microbiome and IBD.

However, science reporting is not doing scientists or their research any favors with headlines and reporting like this.  (Both are reporting on an article in PNAS "Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization".)

A gut microbe that stops food allergies (in Science Magazine) by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

In this case, it's really the headline that bothers me.  The article itself makes it very clear that it is in mice.  But, really, how many people are going to read the full article?  And what is CNN going to say when it writes a story based on this headline?

Scientists may have discovered how to stop your peanut allergies for good ( - Eileen Shim
The news: If you or someone you know is one of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, we have some great news for you. Researchers at New York University Medical Center have not only figured out why people are allergic to certain foods, they have also come up with a way to potentially treat or even extinguish food allergies.
The team found that young children overexposed to antibiotics were at greater risk of developing food allergies. Thankfully, though, they also discovered a way to combat the impact of antibiotics, which, theoretically, could potentially cure people of their food allergies.
Nowhere in the first two paragraphs of this article does it say that this work was all done in mice.  The researchers also do not make the claim that all peanut allergies are caused by altered gut microbiota.

The lack of scientific literacy in the US has been driving me crazy for a long time.  I also find reporting like this irresponsible.

I'm awarding my own Overselling the Microbiome award to Eileen Shim and the headline writer for Science Magazine (it may have been Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, but I am not making that assumption).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Citrus Lane March 2014 Box for 2-Year Old Gender Neutral

Our Citrus Lane box arrived today, and it is a bit hit!

This month's box:

1. Green Toys Tool Set ($27.99 for full set, $8.99 for this one?) - as usual, we love the Green Tools toys.  I've been considering picking up this set.  She is already loving playing with the tools!

2. Green Eats Tumblers ($5.99/2) - made by the sample company as the tools.  These are a good size for her to hold and seem very sturdy.  I think these will be a hit.

3. Barefoot Books The Prince's Bedtime Book and CD ($9.99) - very cute book.  The pictures in the Barefoot Books are fantastic, and I always like stories about bedtime routines.

4. Free Greeting Card from Treat ($3.49) - Treat is a subsidiary of Shutterfly. I shop from Shutterfly pretty regularly, so I'm looking forward to trying out the personalized greeting cards.

5. Sample of Mrs. Meyer's Lemon Verbena Dish Soap ($1.00?) - Mrs. Meyer's is a brand I've wanted to try, but for some reason never have.  Nice sample this month.

I'm estimating that this month's box would retail for around $29.46, but that's just an estimate for the soap and the Green Toys.

This is the last month of our Citrus Lane subscription.  I think we will be renewing.  E has really loved the boxes, and I like the green products and toys.  Citrus Lane is having a sale!  If you sign up before April 22nd, the boxes are really discounted (36% - 44% off normal subscription prices).  Sign up here!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tasterie Nut-Free Snack Box

I've heard great things about services like Graze and Crave, but have been very jealous that I can't sign up due to my nut allergy.  I did some searching and came across Tasterie, which caters to customers with food allergies.  I've received two boxes, and I'm still rather indifferent on the service as a whole.  Here's my April box:

  • Namaste Foods gluten free cookie mix ($7.49)
  • Don't Go Nuts gorilla power bar ($1.79)
  • Super Seedz tomato italiano pumpkin seeds ($4.99)
  • Mother's Pure Preserves seedless raspberry jam ($6.50)
  • Enjoy Life plentils dill and sour cream lentil chips ($1.50)
  • ThinkFruit pineapple tidbits ($1.69)
  • Indie Candy bunni gummi watermelon candy ($1.99)
The total retail price is $25.95.  The box costs $25.00 plus $4.00 for shipping.  I've enjoyed the snacks, but I'm not sure it's worth the cost to continue this.

This month, I also had a problem with the shipment. The jam arrived and had opened in the shipment.  It was wrapped up in bubble wrap, but the jar lid was loose and unsealed by the time it reached me.  I'm interested to see how they handle customer service who I just contacted today.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making Progress to Improve Myself

In December, I joined a moms' fitness class called Body Back.  It's a program designed by Fit4Mom designed to improve moms' fitness and strength.  I've definitely gotten stronger and am making improvements in fitness and my nutrition.  More than that, I've found an amazing group of women.  I was so nervous the day when I went to my first class, but they were so supportive and encouraging.  Now, in my third session, I'm happy to call them friends.

My second session, and first 8-week session, wrapped up at the beginning of March.  Over the course of 8 weeks, I:
  • lost 6.2% of my total body weight
  • lost 2.5% of my chest measurement
  • lost 6.5% of my waist measurement
  • lost 3.4% of my hip measurement
  • lost 3.6% of my thigh measurement
  • lost 5.4% of my arm measurement
Those are the exciting body changes - and believe me, I'm excited about them - but it also comes with an increase in fitness:
  • 43.9% increase in plank time
  • 42.9% increase in situps
  • 30.0% increase in pushups
  • 19.4% increase in side plank
It's pretty amazing!!!  Our instructor definitely pushes us often past the point where I think I should stop.   Some workouts are just as much mental as physical. With results like this, you can see why that's important.

Citrus Lane March 2014 for 2-year old (gender neutral)

We received our second Citrus Lane box this month!  It was a huge hit with E.  I'm happy that I went with gender neutral as this selection tends to be the colors and animal types she likes the most.  We'll see if this trend continues.

This month's box:

1. eco-kids eco-dough ($19.99/5, ~$8/2) - natural play dough made with plant, fruit, and vegetable extracts. It's supposed to stay soft much longer than PlayDoh and says that you can add a few drops of vegetable oil if it gets too dried out.
2. Petit Collage Safari Babies Beginner Puzzle ($14.00) - this set makes 4 different puzzles with a mommy and baby animal.  Each puzzle has between 3 and 6 pieces.  It's definitely more challenging than the wooden puzzles we've been doing so far, but E really enjoys it.
3. Me4Kidz Medi Buddy ($5.25) - cute portable first aid kid.  I've been meaning to pick one up for our diaper bag anyway, so it was a good addition.  I only wish that the animal wasn't printed on the plastic. It's just going to be a purple case as soon as we open it.
4. Clean Well Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes ($10.99/2, ~$5.50/1) - I'm not typically a fan of anti-bacterial wipes or hand sanitizer because of the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria, so I'm kind of indifferent to these.  They are supposed to be orange vanilla scented, but I find the scent rather strong at first and almost like pine.  I'm using them mostly because they are convenient to wipe up after dinner. 

Total value of this box is about $32.75.  I really like the two toys in this box and appreciate the utility of the medical kit, but would prefer something not anti-bacterial.  The dough and puzzle were a big hit! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nut-Free Pad Thai

One of the dishes I miss most since I developed a peanut allergy is Pad Thai.  These days, I generally can't eat at Thai restaurants at all due to the cross contamination.  I was really excited to discover that WildTree makes a nut-free Pad Thai sauce.  I tried my hand at making my own.  It's probably closer to a stir fry with Pad Thai sauce than an authentic recipe, but it was still really tasty.


2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound broccoli
2 eggs
8 oz. rice noodles
1/2 cup WildTree Pad Thai sauce


1. In a large skillet, sauté chicken in a small amount of olive oil.  Once it is mostly cooked, add in broccoli.  I used frozen, but you could use fresh if you want.

2. Prepare rice noodles and drain.  Set aside.
3. Once chicken and broccoli are cooked through, remove from pan.  Scramble 2 eggs in skillet.

4. Add noodles to skillet.  Mix in sauce and then toss in chicken and broccoli.

Serves 4

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Citrus Lane February 2014 for 2-year old neutral

This month is our first time getting a shipment from Citrus Lane.  I got a discount on a 3-month subscription, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  I wasn't sure whether to get a girl box or a gender neutral box, but opted to go with gender neutral since my daughter (E) doesn't always like very girly toys and loves green and blue.

Today we received our first box.  We got:

1. Oogaa divided silicone plate ($10.99) - this is a really sturdy plate and the wells are fairly deep.  The packaging says they hold 4 oz. each.  E wanted it out of the package right away and made daddy put blueberries on it.  It is microwave and dishwasher safe!

2. Green Toys Stock Pot and Utensils (about $12, full set is $20) - E has the full chef set, but she adores the pot and utensils so it's great to have another one.  Green Toys is a great company, and we are big fans of their toys.

3. Barefoot Books Starlight Sailor ($14.99) - this is our first Barefoot Book, but it is very cute.  The pictures are really colorful, and the book seems to be of high quality.

4. Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Hand Cream ($12) - this is a treat for mom.  As someone who has very dry hands from frequent washing at work, I am excited to try this!  It smells  nice - a light fresh scent without being overpowering - and isn't too greasy.

This box was a hit!  E couldn't wait to use the Oogaa plate and the Green Toys pot.

The overall value of this box is about $45 - $50 (depending on the cost of the pot, which is not available individually).  A single box is $29 although it is cheaper if you pay for several months in advance.

If you are interested, you can use this link to get 50% off your first box!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Even more of a yarn problem

I last totaled up my yarn stash at the end of 2012. I had 47,932 yards at that time and was going to try to reduce it...

Comic from Wool and Chocolate

Yeah, it went about that well. I now have 50,876 yards (28.91 miles). Insanity. I *really* need to make this total go down, so I am trying very hard to reduce the amount of yarn I have.

I'm working on knitting from my stash, including *only* knitting from stash for the first term (January - March) of the HPKCHC.

Hopefully this time goes better...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Increased sugar consumption linked to increase in diabetes rates

Interesting article in PLOS One (full article available free).  From the abstract:

Using econometric models of repeated cross-sectional data on diabetes and nutritional components of food from 175 countries, we found that every 150 kcal/person/day increase in sugar availability (about one can of soda/day) was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% (p <0 .001) after testing for potential selection biases and controlling for other food types (including fibers, meats, fruits, oils, cereals), total calories, overweight and obesity, period-effects, and several socioeconomic variables such as aging, urbanization and income. No other food types yielded significant individual associations with diabetes prevalence after controlling for obesity and other confounders.

Editorial in the NY Times likens it to tobacco studies.

Will this make you think twice about your sugar consumption?  I know I am.  I know that I consume too much sugar and try to cut back. Sometimes having a kick in the pants like this can really help.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So, You're a Scientist?

People ask me about what it is I really do.  I don't think it's an insult as much as it is a misunderstanding of exactly how scientists work and what getting a Ph.D. is really all about.  It can be quite a challenge to explain, especially to grandma at Christmas.  To that end, I'd like to present some resources to hopefully help you in your quest for simple explanations.

1. The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. by Matt Might
(reproduced here under Creative Commons License)

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:
By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:
By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:
With a bachelor's degree, you gain a specialty:
A master's degree deepens that specialty:
Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:
Once you're at the boundary, you focus:
You push at the boundary for a few years:
Until one day, the boundary gives way:
And, that dent you've made is called a Ph.D.:
Of course, the world looks different to you now:
So, don't forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.

2. What you know vs. How much you know about it
Created by Jorge Cham of "Piled Higher and Deeper" Ph.D. Comics

3. Scientists drink a lot of coffee!!

But that's ok! There are lots of papers (102 at time of publication) listing the benefits of drinking coffee.