Rising numbers of new mothers breastfeeding

Baby. Flickr: storyvillegirlAugust is National Breastfeeding month, and the CDC has released some encouraging news: between 2000 and 2010 the percentage of new mothers who chose to nurse their babies has climbed. In 2000, 35 percent of new moms nursed for six months, and 16 percent nursed for at least one year; in 2010 those numbers rose to 49 percent and 27 percent.1 This is excellent news for the health of our nation’s children, as it is well known that breastfeeding is associated with a multitude of health benefits for both the child and mother.2 Breast milk is the ideal food for infants, a naturally complex combination of nutritional and immunologic factors that cannot be replicated by formula.

 

Benefits of breastfeeding for the child:

  • Development of the immune system:

The immune system is not yet fully active upon birth, and children are especially vulnerable to respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections during the first two years of life.  Breast milk has a “programming” effect on the immune system, providing antibodies that protect the baby from infection, antimicrobial compounds, and a variety of immunomodulatory substances that promote the maturation of immune function. Also there is new evidence that breast milk also contains healthy bacteria that may help to populate the baby’s gut flora.3 The immune benefits of breast milk translate into a reduced risk of allergies, asthma, eczema, diarrhea, respiratory conditions and ear infections in early life.

  • Reduced risk of overweight in childhood:

Breast-fed infants grow more slowly and are leaner during the first two years of life compared to formula-fed infants, likely due to the lower protein content of breast milk compared to formula.4 This early slow growth may exert a long-duration protective effect, since the risk of overweight in childhood and adolescence is reduced by 22% in breast-fed infants.5

  • Reduced risk of childhood leukemia.2
  • Reduced risk of type 1 diabetes in childhood.4
  • Enhanced cognitive development and school achievement, likely due to the DHA content of breast milk. The first year of life is a crucial time for brain development, and DHA-rich breast milk provides the building blocks for the baby’s brain.5\
  • Adults who were breast-fed as infants have a reduced risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premenopausal breast cancer.2, 5-8

Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother:

  • Reduced risk of breast cancer, possibly due to the reduced exposure to ovarian hormones. A large-meta-analysis found that the risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3 percent for every year of breastfeeding.9
  • More favorable lipid, glucose and insulin levels.4
  • Longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Nurses’ Health Study, there was a 14-15 percent decrease in risk for each year of breastfeeding.10
  • Reduced weight retention after giving birth.4

Optimal duration of breastfeeding

I agree with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which are for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, with continued supplemental breastfeeding to two years. Two years is likely the appropriate age because it is the time at which the spaces between the cells lining the baby’s gastrointestinal tract close; before that time, those spaces allow the mother’s protective antibodies from breast milk to be absorbed. The new data from the CDC, although the trend is promising, suggest that breast feeding in the U.S. is not adequate – three-quarters of infants are no longer being breast-fed by their first birthday.

Proper nutrition is vitally important to health during all stages of life, and especially during the rapid cellular growth that occurs during fetal development and infancy. Early nutrition is a significant determinant of long-term health, and it starts with a woman’s nutritional status even before she becomes pregnant, followed by good nutrition throughout pregnancy and nursing, and then setting a good nutritional example for children. Breastfeeding is most protective of a child’s health when the mother is in good health. 

 

References:

1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding Report Card. United States/2013. 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013BreastfeedingReportCard.pdf. Accessed
2. Hoddinott P, Tappin D, Wright C: Breast feeding. BMJ 2008;336:881-887.
3. M'Rabet L, Vos AP, Boehm G, et al: Breast-feeding and its role in early development of the immune system in infants: consequences for health later in life. J Nutr 2008;138:1782S-1790S.
4. Gunderson EP: Breast-feeding and diabetes: long-term impact on mothers and their infants. Curr Diab Rep 2008;8:279-286.
5. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses. World Health Organization; 2007.
6. Owen CG, Martin RM, Whincup PH, et al: Effect of infant feeding on the risk of obesity across the life course: a quantitative review of published evidence. Pediatrics 2005;115:1367-1377.
7. Owen CG, Whincup PH, Kaye SJ, et al: Does initial breastfeeding lead to lower blood cholesterol in adult life? A quantitative review of the evidence. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:305-314.
8. Martin RM, Middleton N, Gunnell D, et al: Breast-feeding and cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort and a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1446-1457.
9. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast C: Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease. Lancet 2002;360:187-195.
10. Stuebe AM, Rich-Edwards JW, Willett WC, et al: Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA 2005;294:2601-2610.
 

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.


 

Does omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy prevent postpartum depression? Improve baby's brain development?

Omega-3 fats are essential – we must take them in from our diets because our body cannot synthesize them. These fats are extremely important for many facets of our health, especially the health of the brain and cardiovascular system.[1] Omega-3 fat is a major structural component of brain cell membranes and the retina – about 60% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of fat, and DHA is the most abundant fat in the brain. [2]
 

As such, DHA is an essential factor in early brain development, and maintaining adequate levels during pregnancy is believed to benefit the child’s cognitive development.[3] The current consensus is that pregnant women should consume at least 200 mg DHA each day to promote normal fetal brain development. Pregnant women are also urged to limit fish consumption because of mercury contamination, which is harmful to the brain of the developing baby.[4] Fish oil or vegan DHA supplements are therefore an attractive option for pregnant women.

Pregnant woman
In 2009, the results of three randomized controlled trials were pooled and showed that babies given supplemental DHA in formula scored higher on a problem solving test at 9 months of age than babies given control formula. However, there is some disagreement in the literature as to whether DHA supplementation during pregnancy and infancy actually improves cognitive development in the child.[5]


A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported an unexpected finding: Pregnant women who took fish oil capsules (800 mg DHA and 100 mg EPA per day) compared to vegetable oil placebo capsules did not have lower incidence of postpartum depression, and their children did not have improved cognitive development at 18 months of age.[6]
Of course, this does not mean that pregnant women shouldn’t bother taking DHA. The developing baby’s only source of DHA for beginning to build its brain tissue is its mother’s dietary intake. DHA supplementation also reduces the risk of preterm birth – a factor known to be associated with compromised cognitive development in the infant and maternal depression.[7]
In reference to the lack of effect on symptoms of depression, the therapeutic effects of omega-3 supplements on depression are due mostly to EPA rather than DHA, according to a recent meta-analysis. [8] I recommend omega-3 supplementation including 1,000 mg of EPA to treat depression – the relatively low dose of EPA used in this trial may therefore be responsible for the lack of effect on depression in this study.


An editorial published in response to the study stated potential reasons why this outcome occurred – these comments also shed light on why there seem to be discrepancies in the medical literature on this subject. One possibility is that the criteria used to measure infant brain development in this study were not sufficiently sensitive to detect small but important differences in cognition in 18-month olds. The criteria used were based on global measures of cognition, and are not designed to detect differences in specific processes such as memory, attention, and problem-solving.[7] As mentioned above, previous studies have seen differences in problem solving in infants given supplemental DHA.[5] Furthermore, there are several cognitive functions that cannot be accurately measured until children reach preschool and school age – the editorial cites a smaller study of fish oil supplementation during pregnancy that found enhanced IQ scores in 4 year olds.[9] I agree that it isn’t possibly to reliably measure intelligence in an 18-month old, and that better results would come from studies that measure cognitive function once the children are in school.


DHA is a vital component of brain tissue, and pregnant women should take at least 200 mg each day to prevent preterm birth and support normal fetal brain development to assure maximum intelligence.

 

References:

1. Yurko-Mauro, K., Cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of docosahexaenoic acid in aging and cognitive decline. Curr Alzheimer Res, 2010. 7(3): p. 190-6.
2. Muskiet, F.A., et al., Is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) essential? Lessons from DHA status regulation, our ancient diet, epidemiology and randomized controlled trials. J Nutr, 2004. 134(1): p. 183-6.
3. Ryan, A.S., et al., Effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on neurodevelopment in childhood: a review of human studies. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2010. 82(4-6): p. 305-14.
4. Koletzko, B., I. Cetin, and J.T. Brenna, Dietary fat intakes for pregnant and lactating women. Br J Nutr, 2007. 98(5): p. 873-7.
5. Drover, J., et al., Three randomized controlled trials of early long-chain polyunsaturated Fatty Acid supplementation on means-end problem solving in 9-month-olds. Child Dev, 2009. 80(5): p. 1376-84.
6. Makrides, M., et al., Effect of DHA supplementation during pregnancy on maternal depression and neurodevelopment of young children: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 2010. 304(15): p. 1675-83.
7. Oken, E. and M.B. Belfort, Fish, fish oil, and pregnancy. JAMA, 2010. 304(15): p. 1717-8.
8. Martins, J.G., EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr, 2009. 28(5): p. 525-42.
9. Helland, I.B., et al., Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics, 2003. 111(1): p. e39-44.

 

Pregnant women are not getting enough vitamin D

Research on vitamin D is exploding, and we are learning that sufficient blood levels of this vitamin are crucial to our health, and also that a significant proportion of the population, including pregnant women, is deficient. Vitamin D is a key factor in fetal bone growth during the third trimester. For pregnant and nursing women, vitamin D insufficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia and also puts their children at risk of impaired growth during infancy and autoimmune diseases during childhood.1

Pregnant womanDespite these dangers, vitamin D deficiency is common, affecting up to 50% of pregnant women and breastfed infants.1 Most prenatal vitamins, similar to other conventional multivitamins, contain only 400 IU vitamin D, an amount that is known throughout the scientific community to be inadequate for maintaining sufficient blood levels of vitamin D.

The National Institutes of Health considers 2000 IU to be the daily tolerable upper limit of vitamin D intake, but scientists wanted to know whether higher doses would be safe for pregnant women, and more importantly, whether using higher doses to attain sufficient blood levels of vitamin D would reduce the risk of pregnancy complications.

Researchers tested 400, 2000, and 4000 IU doses of vitamin D in pregnant women starting at 12 weeks gestation. They saw significant differences between groups in blood levels of vitamin D (25(OH)D). In healthy adults, a minimum of 30 ng/ml 25(OH)D is thought to be required for vitamin D to properly exert its many vital functions in the body.2 Consequently, I recommend that levels be maintained in the range of 35-55 ng/ml. The 400 IU group maintained 25(OH)D levels of only about 30 ng/ml, and the 2000 IU group reached 25(OH)D of 42 ng/ml by the end of their pregnancies. The 4000 IU group’s levels reached the optimal range earlier on in pregnancy and remained between 40 and 50 ng/ml for the duration of the study. Since there were no differences in any safety measures, and no adverse events were attributed to the supplements, the researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation of up to 4000 IU is safe for pregnant women.3

The researchers then looked at pregnancy outcomes – whether the vitamin D affected pregnancy complications such as pre-term labor, pre-term birth, and infection.

The risk of these pregnancy complications overall was 50% lower in the 4000 IU group than the 400 IU group. Women who had complications on average had lower 25(OH)D levels than women who did not have complications. Importantly, neonatal serum 25(OH)D correlated with maternal 25(OH)D, confirming that the additional vitamin D helped to insure that babies were born with sufficient vitamin D levels.4

As mentioned above, I recommend that 25(OH)D levels be maintained in the range of 35-55 ng/ml. These authors recommend serum 25(OH)D levels of at least 40 ng/ml, and therefore supplementation level of 4000 IU according to their results. However, the level of supplementation necessary for individuals to reach optimal serum 25(OH)D levels may vary. Vitamin D needs of individual pregnant women should be assessed by blood test and supplementation should be adjusted accordingly. For some women that may be 2000 IU, but others may require more. I will continue to monitor these studies, and update my recommendations accordingly. 

 

References:

1. Mulligan ML et al. Implications of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and lactation. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences.Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(suppl):1080S– 6S.

3. Wagner CL et al. "Vitamin D supplementation during Pregnancy Part I NICHD/CTSA Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT): Safety Considerations" PAS 2010; Abstract 2630.7.

4. Wagner CL et al. "Vitamin D supplementation during Pregnancy Part 2 NICHD/CTSA Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT): Outcomes" PAS 2010; Abstract 1665.6

MedPageToday: PAS: Vitamin D Cuts Risks of Pregnancy. Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today May 01, 2010

http://www.medpagetoday.com/tbprint.cfm?tbid=19847

Obesity during pregnancy puts the child in danger

Pregnant woman

Over 50% of women of childbearing age in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. In the U.K., the percentage of obese pregnant women has doubled in the past 19 years, from 7.6% to 15.6%.1 Obesity is closely linked to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and evidence is now mounting that excess maternal weight can have dangerous effects on fetal development.2

Obesity contributes to infertility, making it more difficult to become pregnant. Obese women who do become pregnant are at risk for serious complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, and are more likely to require Caesarian section and labor induction.

The pregnancy of an obese women itself is at risk – obese women are more likely to experience early miscarriage or spontaneous intrauterine demise.3

The children of obese women are at increased risk of excessive birth weight, neural tube defects, and congenital heart disease.

Maternal overeating during pregnancy is even thought to produce adaptive cues that may predispose the developing fetus to obesity during childhood or adulthood.4

This is a serious issue that needs to be brought to women’s attention. All women want to have healthy pregnancies and to give their babies the healthiest possible start. Achieving a healthy weight prior to becoming pregnant can help to prevent devastating complications for mother and baby. Obesity is not benign, and it is not just a cosmetic issue – it is a serious health hazard, especially during pregnancy.

 

References:

1. Heslehurst N, Rankin J, Wilkinson JR, et al. A nationally representative study of maternal obesity in England, UK: trends in incidence and demographic inequalities in 619,323 births, 1989–2007. International Journal of Obesity (2010) 34, 420–428

2. Wiley-Blackwell (2010, January 26). Pregnant women who are overweight put their infants at risk, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/01/100120121558.htm

Walters MR, Taylor JS. Maternal obesity: consequences and prevention strategies. Nurs Womens Health. 2009 Dec;13(6):486-94; quiz 495.

3. Satpathy HK, Fleming A, Frey D. Maternal obesity and pregnancy. Postgrad Med. 2008 Sep 15;120(3):E01-9.

4. Wax JR. Risks and management of obesity in pregnancy: current controversies. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Apr;21(2):117-23.

USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2010, March 15). Baby's obesity risk: What's the mother's influence?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315125551.htm

Dr. Fuhrman warns: DO NOT take multivitamins or prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid

Folic acid supplementation is dangerous – especially for pregnant women

In a 10-year study,1,2 scientists found that women who take multivitamins containing folic acid increase their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.

Even more alarming are the associations between supplemental folic acid during pregnancy and death from breast cancer,8 and asthma and respiratory tract infections in children.5-6

Read full article

broccoli

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin, which is abundant in green vegetables. Folate protects against birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Pregnant women could safely increase their folate status and prevent NTDs by eating green vegetables, but instead they are instructed to take folic acid supplements, putting them and their children at risk. Folic acid supplements are not a substitute for folate-containing green vegetables – there are inverse associations between maternal vegetable intake and childhood cancers.12-13

Unlike synthetic folic acid, folate obtained from food sources – especially green vegetables – protects against breast and prostate cancer.

There is inverse relationship between dietary folate intake and breast and prostate cancer.14,3 Chemical differences between folate and folic acid translate into differences in uptake and processing of these two substances by the cells in the intestinal wall – excess folic acid in the circulation can occur. Luckily, folate from food comes naturally packaged in balance with other micronutrients and the body regulates its absorption.9

Rich sources of food folate

As a reference point, the U.S. RDA for folate is 400μg. Below is the approximate folate content for a 100-calorie serving.8

Spinach, raw

843 μg

Romaine lettuce

800 μg

Asparagus, cooked

750 μg

Mustard greens, raw

700 μg

Collards, raw

550 μg

Broccoli, cooked

300 μg

Edamame

225 μg

Chickpeas

150 μg

Papaya

90 μg

Orange

70 μg

Blackberries

55 μg

Avocado

50 μg

Sunflower seeds

40 μg

Quinoa, cooked

35 μg

Additional foods listed in full article

Clearly, we do not need synthetic folic acid supplements to meet our daily folate requirements.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Care Formula Multivitamin does not contain folic acid

Supplemental folic acid has also been linked to prostate cancer3, colorectal cancer4, and overall cancer mortality.7 Because folate is abundant in the nutritarian diet, and synthetic folic acid is so potentially dangerous, folic acid is not included in Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Care multivitamin.

Dr. Fuhrman does not recommend prenatal vitamins because of the potentially harmful ingredients, such as folic acid.

Dr. Fuhrman’s special recommendations for pregnant women:

(See full article for references)

 

Antibiotic overuse is a danger to public health, and especially dangerous for pregnant women

 The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is warning the public that antibiotic overuse has the potential to cripple the entire modern medical system.1

spilled pills

Despite public awareness campaigns about responsible use of antibiotics, antibiotics continue to be prescribed for colds, flu, sinusitis and bronchitis. Medical authorities continually warn doctors that antibiotics should NOT be prescribed for routine bronchitis and sinusitis. The scientific studies show that they do not improve outcome.  These are infections that, except in rare instances, are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Plus, these infections resolve by strengthening the immune system with excellent nutrition, not weakening it and creating more serious future infections that can develop as a result of antibiotic use

As inappropriate use of antibiotics continues, more and more resistant microbes will spread, and antibiotics will consequently become less effective. Drug-resistant bacteria emerge from mutations – microbes are constantly mutating, and these mutations eventually cause resistance to antibiotics.

Drug-resistant infections kill about 19,000 people each year in the U.S., and are a significant cost to the healthcare system.1 Drug-resistant bacteria have the potential to compromise our ability to perform procedures for which antibiotics are crucial.

"If this wave of antibiotic resistance gets over us, we will not be able to do organ transplants, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and neonatal care for premature babies."

- Dominique Monnet, ECDC scientific advice unit1

The dangers of antibiotic overuse extend further than infection alone – all drugs have side effects, and antibiotics are especially toxic, and their side-effects are significant. . Antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately – therefore they disrupt our microbial balance, killing the beneficial flora that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients and keep other microbes at bay. Children who are prescribed more antibiotics in the first year of life are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma and allergies during childhood.3  Antibiotic use has even been linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer.4   

Antibiotics are one of the most common medications taken by pregnant women, and a new study has made connections between antibiotics use during pregnancy and incidence of birth defects. Sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins were each associated with several birth defects – women who took these classes of antibiotics while pregnant were 2-4 times as likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect. The more commonly used penicillins, eythromycins, and cephalosporins were each associated with at least one birth defect.2  

Antibiotics are not harmless medications and should be reserved for severe (and carefully documented) bacterial infections - infections that would seriously threaten the health of the patient if left untreated. We have powerful immune systems which, when supported by excellent nutrition, will clear the more moderate infections without help from drugs. 

 

References:

  1. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE5A927820091110
  2. Crider KS et al. Antibacterial medication use during pregnancy and risk of birth defects: National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Nov;163(11):978-85.
  3. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
  4. Velicer CM et al. Antibiotic Use in Relation to the Risk of Breast Cancer. JAMA. 2004;291:827-835.

 

Breastfeeding Cuts Breast Cancer Risk

According to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, mothers reduce their risk of breast cancer—even if they have family history—by breast feeding. However, researchers aren’t sure why.

Why breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer is unknown. The authors suspect that when women do not breastfeed, inflammation and engorgement shortly after birth causes changes in breast tissue that may increase risk for breast cancer. Breastfeeding followed by weaning may prevent this inflammation.

When the researchers compared data about women who breastfed and those who did not, there was a 25 percent total reduction in incidence of premenopausal breast cancer. But, Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and lead author of the study, says, that statistic was accounted for by women without a family history of the disease.

“We did not find an association between breastfeeding and premenopausal breast cancer among women without a family history of breast cancer,” Stuebe says. “This could be because there’s something about genetically caused breast cancer that’s affected by breastfeeding, or it could be because rates of breast cancer were so low in women without a family history that we couldn’t see an association in this data set.”

Dr. Fuhrman is a big advocate of breastfeeding, but—in regard to recent news about children’s lack of vitamin D—he suggests breastfeeding mothers still give their kids a vitamin D supplement.

Via Newswise.

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Omega-3s: Healthy Fats You May Not Be Getting Enough Of...

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer development and protect our blood vessels. There are long-chain and short chain fatty acids. Short-chain omega-3 fats are found in some green vegetables, walnuts, and flax, chia, and hemp seeds. The basic building block of short-chain omega-3 fat is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies are only capable of converting a small amount of these short chain fats to long-chain omega-3 fats, called docoshexanoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Studies show that people have varying ability to convert ALA into DHA and EPA. Apparently, some people eating sufficient ALA from greens, seeds and walnuts can achieve adequate levels while others cannot. Men generally convert less than women. Conversion of ALA by the body to these longer-chain fatty acids is inefficient: < 5-10% for EPA and only 2-5% for DHA.1

DHA is one of the crucial building blocks of human brain tissue. It has been shown to protect against dementia, depression, inflammatory diseases, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, and to offer significant benefits for overall cardiovascular health.

Early in life, DHA is supplied via the placenta and from breast milk. While adequate DHA is particularly important for pregnant and nursing women and young children, it is beneficial for all ages!

  • Improves your child's intelligence
  • Aids depression and Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Improves memory
  • Important for brain and eye development
  • Promotes smoother skin; prevents wrinkles
  • Helps prevent heart disease and arthritis
  • Lowers risk of Alzheimer's and senior dementia
  • Lowers "bad" cholesterol

These long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are also produced by marine algae which serve as the source of DHA and EPA in fish. Although, fish is a good source of EPA and DHA, unfortunately, it's one of the most polluted foods which we eat. Therefore, it can not be considered a safe source of these healthy fats.

Fish have been shown to contain fat soluble petrochemicals, such as PCB's and dioxins as a result of the dumping of toxic waste and raw sewage into our oceans. Fish also contains mercury. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 12 women of childbearing age in the United States have unsafe mercury levels (and the CDC's threshold for safety is high). Multiple studies have illustrated most of the body's mercury load comes from the consumption of fish.

For these reasons, I recommend consuming little or no fish. If you choose to consume fish, try to stay away from those high in fat and known to be high in mercury such as shark, swordfish, mackerel, pike, tuna, snapper, lobster, grouper, sea bass and bluefish. Instead, use the lower fat (less polluted) fish such as flounder, sole, haddock, scallops, squid, trout, hake, ocean perch, shrimp and tilapia.

Some nutritional advisors encourage consuming high amounts of flax seed oil to promote the conversion of enough DHA. I do not agree. First of all, flax seed oil is an empty calorie food with little or no vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and flavonoids that were present in the original seeds. Furthermore, we have a significant collection of data that indicates that the consumption of high doses of ALA from flax oil may increase, not decrease the risk of prostate cancer.1 In contrast, flax seed consumption has been shown in multiple studies to lower the risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.3

I prefer people not consume much fish to assure sufficient consumption or conversion of omega-3s. Since the ability to self-convert short chain ALA into long-chain DHA is so variable from person to person, I recommend a mixture of natural omega-3 containing plants plus some extra plant-derived DHA. I advise people obtain their omega-3 fats by consuming the cleaner, plant sources such as walnuts, flax, chia, and hemp seeds and by also taking a daily DHA supplement like my DHA Purity. My DHA Purity is a laboratory cultivated DHA product made from microalgae. It is a pure form of DHA without environmental contamination or unnecessary disruption of our ocean life. 

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