High Levels of Food Toxins Are Found in Infants

It is one thing for toxic food compounds to be found in adults, who make their own food choices, but it is another issue altogether when we begin finding toxic food compounds in infants and young children.  Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine just brought this issue to light; they found that Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs), a toxic food compound, are often present at high levels in the bloodstreams of infants.1 Research over the past 20 years has implicated AGEs in most diseases associated with aging, such as: Alzheimer’s disease, cancers, type II diabetes, stroke, visual impairment, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, kidney disorders, skin disorders, and autoimmune diseases. 

Baby. Flickr: storyvillegirl

So, where are these AGEs in infants coming from? It turns out excessive food AGEs, through both maternal blood transmission and baby formula, are to blame.  Commercial infant formulas are deleterious to the health of infants, not just because of the deprivation micronutrients provided by breast milk, but also because infant formulas themselves contain toxins and harmful levels of AGEs. Formulas that are processed under high heat contain as much as 100 times more AGEs than human breast milk, delivering a heaping dose of AGEs to infants at a period when they are extremely vulnerable to toxins. 

The food a mother consumes during pregnancy also has an effect on the AGE levels found in the bloodstream of her infant once he or she is born.  The combination of infant formula with a mother’s diet of modern American fare is clearly dangerous for vulnerable newborns.

The Mount Sinai study found that newborn babies had levels of AGEs in their blood as high as their adult mothers right after birth.  Within the first year of life, after switching from breast milk onto commercial formulas, each infant’s AGEs had doubled to levels seen in people with diabetes, and many had elevated insulin levels!

Other studies have confirmed a link between the consumption of foods high in AGEs, diabetes and obesity.2,3. When diabetes patients were put on an AGE-restricted diet, they had a 35 percent reduction in blood insulin levels, well beyond that of their previous therapeutic regimen.  Inflammation went down and immune system strength went up. This study’s remarkable results exemplify that a reduction in AGE-rich foods can have powerful results, which should provide expectant mothers with even more incentive to avoid AGE-rich foods and breastfeed.

Advanced Glycation End products are found predominantly in foods that have been cooked using dry heat, such as potato chips, French fries and grilled meats. Processed foods are generally high in AGEs.  Hard pretzels, cereals, and crackers are also serious offenders.  The best action we can take to avoid AGEs is to eat as many unprocessed, natural foods as possible.  Fruits and vegetables are naturally very low in AGEs as are foods cooked using water, such as soups and stews.

Pregnant mothers, non-pregnant mothers, non-mothers and males, take heed! Turn down the heat, use water and eat mostly natural plant-based foods at home.  Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of AGEs and we have the power in our hands to make sure our children are not harmed from the get-go.   


References:

1. Mericq V, Piccardo C, Cai W, et al. Maternally Transmitted and Food-Derived Glycotoxins: A factor preconditioning the young to diabetes? Diabetes Care. 2010; 33(10): 2232-2237.

2. Uribarri J, Cai W, Ramdas M, et al. Restriction of Advanced Glycatioin End Products Improves Insulin Resistance in Human Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2011; 34(7): 1610-1616.

3. Yamagishi S, Maeda S, Matsui T, et al. Role of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) and oxidative stress in vascular complications in diabetes. Science Direct. 2011. Available online before printing 25 March 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbagen.2011.03.014

Children may 'inherit' their mothers' diets

Recent studies suggest that a mother’s food habits during pregnancy have an impact on her child’s future food preferences.

Photo of a group of pregnant women

More and more often, we are seeing reports from scientists that high-sugar and high-fat foods influence the reward pathways in the brain – in essence, these foods have addictive properties.  Human brain imaging studies have confirmed that overeating and addictive eating behaviors are associated with abnormal brain activity in dopamine reward circuits, and this is similar to the activity characteristic of drug addiction.1-3

One recent study has taken this data a step further – they have shown that consumption of a high-sugar, high-fat diet (junk food diet) by pregnant rats actually affected the development of the reward system in the brains of their pups.  When given a choice between standard food and junk food, the pups whose mothers were fed junk food chose to consume more junk food than other pups.4

These food preferences may be learned by the fetus through its developing sense of smell.  The development of the smell-processing area of the mouse pup’s brain (called the olfactory bulb) is influenced by scents that are concentrated in amniotic fluid, and these scents are determined in part by the mother’s diet.  In another recent study, a more flavorful diet containing stronger scents given to pregnant and nursing mice resulted in enhanced development of the olfactory bulb in their pups.  Also, when given a choice of food, these pups had a strong preference for the same diet their mothers had, whereas other pups had no preference.5

These studies suggest that a mother is actually able to “teach” her babies which foods are desirable based on what she eats during pregnancy and nursing.

Earlier studies found additional detrimental health effects on rat pups whose mothers ate a junk food diet (a diet composed of high-sugar, high-fat foods designed for human consumption) during pregnancy and nursing: these pups were more likely to be obese, were subject to more oxidative stress, were more likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and had impaired muscle development.6-9 Human studies have shown that parental obesity is associated with obesity at 7 years of age, and gestational weight gain is associated with body mass index at 3 years of age.10, 11  The overall message is that the eating habits of parents significantly affect children.

Of course, we cannot extrapolate the results of animal studies directly to humans.  However, these results do highlight the simple fact that the health of a developing baby is closely linked to the health of its mother.  Women do require extra calories when pregnant and nursing – we have all heard of the phrase “eating for two.”  These studies suggest that if the extra caloric requirement is met with oil-rich processed foods and sugary desserts instead of calorie dense whole plant foods, the baby’s food preferences and long-term health may be affected.  

Fetal development is a crucial time – it is common knowledge that pregnant women shouldn’t drink alcohol or smoke, because these things could harm the baby.  We know that unhealthy foods are damaging to the health of adult humans, so they are likely also damaging to a developing fetus. 

Every expectant mother wants a healthy baby, and in addition to the standard advice to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoke, it would be prudent to avoid unhealthy foods.

 

References:

1. Stice E, Yokum S, Burger KS, et al: Youth at risk for obesity show greater activation of striatal and somatosensory regions to food. J Neurosci 2011;31:4360-4366.

2. Stice E, Yokum S, Blum K, et al: Weight gain is associated with reduced striatal response to palatable food. J Neurosci 2010;30:13105-13109.

3. Gearhardt AN, Yokum S, Orr PT, et al: Neural Correlates of Food Addiction. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2011.

4. Ong ZY, Muhlhausler BS: Maternal "junk-food" feeding of rat dams alters food choices and development of the mesolimbic reward pathway in the offspring. FASEB J 2011.

5. Todrank J, Heth G, Restrepo D: Effects of in utero odorant exposure on neuroanatomical development of the olfactory bulb and odour preferences. Proc Biol Sci 2010.

6. Bayol SA, Farrington SJ, Stickland NC: A maternal 'junk food' diet in pregnancy and lactation promotes an exacerbated taste for 'junk food' and a greater propensity for obesity in rat offspring. Br J Nutr 2007;98:843-851.

7. Bayol SA, Macharia R, Farrington SJ, et al: Evidence that a maternal "junk food" diet during pregnancy and lactation can reduce muscle force in offspring. Eur J Nutr 2009;48:62-65.

8. Bayol SA, Simbi BH, Fowkes RC, et al: A maternal "junk food" diet in pregnancy and lactation promotes nonalcoholic Fatty liver disease in rat offspring. Endocrinology 2010;151:1451-1461.

9. Bayol SA, Simbi BH, Stickland NC: A maternal cafeteria diet during gestation and lactation promotes adiposity and impairs skeletal muscle development and metabolism in rat offspring at weaning. J Physiol 2005;567:951-961.

10. Reilly JJ, Armstrong J, Dorosty AR, et al: Early life risk factors for obesity in childhood: cohort study. BMJ 2005;330:1357.

11. Oken E, Taveras EM, Kleinman KP, et al: Gestational weight gain and child adiposity at age 3 years. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2007;196:322 e321-328.


 

Folic Acid Pills Reduce Risk of Preterm Birth?

New findings in the journal PLoS Medicine claim moms who take folic acid supplements for one year prior to getting pregnant are 50% less likely to have a premature baby. Experts analyzed self-reporting of folate supplementation by 38,033 mothers and found premature delivery rates were cut up 70%. The drop was most profound for resulting in cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease and blindness. Here are Dr. Fuhrman’s thoughts on the study:

The need for folate is reflective of the inadequacy of the Americans dietary practices. The medical profession and everyone else it seems translate all these findings into the need to take a pill, instead of the lack of green vegetables in the diet.

Taking a pill is permission to eat the same crummy diet that causes child to get cancer, as well as moms. If instead, we stated the truth that a low-folate diet is dangerous and you must eat your greens every day. Then we would really see childhood cancers plummet.

Via EurekAlert!

Image credit: minwoo

Breastfeeding Cuts Moms' Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Good news mommies. New findings in the upcoming May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology claim mothers who breastfed were 10% percent less likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke than women who had never breastfed. The study, which involved nearly 140,000 postmenopausal women, also showed women who breastfed for at least one month had less diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol; from EurekAlert!

The benefits of breastfeeding are innumerable. Previous reports pin breastfeeding to breast cancer prevention, less likelihood of children becoming obese and reduced risk of allergies. Last year, it was reported 77% of new moms are breastfeeding. Not too shabby.

But some breastfeeding news can be icky. A Swiss restaurant was told no, they can’t serve human breast milk. Although, the story about the Chinese cop who breastfed infants in need during the rescue effort following last year’s deadly earthquake is heartwarming.

Image credit: HypeBeast

Infant Fat Linked to Childhood Obesity

Don’t put the baby on the treadmill just yet, but a new study in the journal Pediatrics claims gaining weight as an infant might foreshadow obesity later in life. A group of 559 mother and child pairs were examined after three years. For example, two infants with the same birth weight, but after six months differed in weight by 1.5 pounds, the larger being 18.4 pounds, puts the bigger child at a 40% higher risk of being obese at age 3; from EurekAlert!

Actually, other studies have linked a baby’s weight-gain to high blood pressure, saying babies who put on weight too rapidly can develop hypertension as adults. So don’t be like this idiot and only feed your toddler French fries. The woman needs her head examined.

In February, research found obese women are more likely to give birth to children with congenital anomalies, like cleft palate, and obesity can give kids heart disease too.

Image credit: Sappymoosetree

Obese Moms Increase Infant Mortality Risk

New research Epidemiology claims babies born to obese moms are more likely to die in the first weeks of life than infants of normal-weight mothers. Scientists examined medical records of more than 4,000 babies who died in infancy and records of over 7,000 surviving babies and found among the babies who died, 8.8% had obese mothers, compared to 5.9% of surviving infants. And women who gained the most weight during pregnancy had the highest rate of infant mortality; Reuters reports.

A previous study determined a mother’s diet can actually influence the gender of her baby and gaining too much weight during pregnancy can increase a child’s likelihood of becoming overweight, even into their teenager years. Wow, good thing my mom ate like a bird when she was spawning me.

So, be careful when you’re pregnant! Dr. Fuhrman suggests avoiding things like cat litter, paint thinner and smoking and not eating foods like deli meat, sushi and alcohol.

Image credit: TheDrunkenClam.com