If you’d give an elephant a ball, why not a pig?

You’ve probably seen it at the zoo: balls on chains for elephants, bears on a treasure hunt for food, or big cats sniffing marmite. This is environmental enrichment. It provides mental stimulation to captive animals and can prevent stereotypical behaviours linked to poor mental health like elephants swaying or big cats pacing. Public support for enrichment is good enough for San Francisco Zoo to crowd fund a rhino toy.

a bear climbing a tree to reach a sack
Zoo animals are often provided with enrichment.

If we care enough about zoo animals to enrich their environment, why wouldn’t we do the same for farm animals? Pigs and chickens in particular tend to be farmed intensively indoors, either in individual cages or in groups in sheds. Free range farms are less common. How does this affect the welfare of the animals we eat? Do farm animals, like many zoo animals, get bored and express their frustration in stereotyped behaviours? And would they too respond to environmental enrichment? Read More »

Tolerisation therapy for coeliac disease

The problem with a gluten free diet is that it’s hard to follow and trace amounts are everywhere, according to Leslie Williams, president of ImmunosanT. ImmunosanT is developing a tolerisation therapy for coeliac disease. People with this autoimmune disease suffer damage to their small intestines when they eat wheat, barley, rye or oats. Currently the only known treatment for coeliac disease is a strict lifelong gluten free diet. But a tolerisation therapy could make it possible for coeliacs to eat whatever they want. Read More »

How much gluten is safe for coeliacs?

Currently the only treatment for coeliac disease is a strict lifelong gluten free diet. However several studies have shown that bowel damage persists in a significant proportion of treated coeliac patients even though their symptoms are resolved. Accidentally or deliberately, they must be consuming small amounts of gluten.

One study of coeliac patients’ intestines had to reject 4 of their 49 volunteers because their intestines were abnormal. Led by Professor Alessio Fasano from the University of Maryland, the study fed coeliac patients tiny amounts of gluten as pills. Read More »

Is gluten free food health food?

A gluten free diet is the only treatment for coeliac disease, and it’s also become rather trendy. But can we really call gluten free food health food? “A gluten free cake is still a cake,” explains Kathryn Elliott, and cakes are high in fat and sugar whether or not they’re gluten free. In this podcast Kathryn, a nutritionist who writes about cookery and health, gives us some practical advice about how to choose healthy gluten free food.

Click Play to hear Kathryn Elliott on how to choose healthier gluten free food (12min25).
If you’d like to download the file please right click here and choose to save the file.

Kathryn explains that when you’re choosing food you need to consider several things. Read More »

Low chemical cooking

If you have a food intolerance it can be handy to supply your family and friends with recipes that suit you. “Beware though – well meaning hosts will sometimes be tempted to spice up a meal, mistakenly believing that you’ll enjoy it more if it has some extra flavour,” warns Friendly Food. This book of recipes for the allergic and intolerant does sometimes leave you tempted to do a little spicing up, especially of the low chemical recipes.

The recipe I tested was the Potato Torte. It’s free of gluten, nuts and soy and low in food chemicals that affect the intolerant. And it’s weird. Read More »

So how intolerant are you?

It seems to be the question on every waiter’s lips when you ask them about the ingredients in a dish. To the person with a food intolerance, it’s a sensible question. But imagine the mother of an allergic child, carrying an epipen in her handbag, or a coeliac who knows that one hundredth of a slice of bread can damage their bowel. These three people could all become sick from eating the wrong foods, but the reasons for it are quite different. Read More »