Breast milk is beneficial a number of ways. For example, it provides some micronutrients to the baby that formula doesn't provide. It also transmits hundreds of microbial species from the mother to the baby - thus important for the baby's microbiome.
Additionally, recent research found that breastfed babies are 33% less likely to die in the first year of life. This is a huge difference! The researchers looked at data for nearly 10 million infants born in 2016 to 2018, and who were then followed for 1 year after birth.
Studies also find that breastfeeding protects against sudden infant death syndrome and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.
Bottom line: Breastfeeding should be supported and encouraged. As the study researchers point out: "breastfeeding confers a protective benefit during the first year of life".
Among nearly 10 million US infants born between 2016 and 2018, breastfed babies were 33% less likely to die during the post-perinatal period (day 7-364) than infants who were not breastfed, reports a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier. The findings build on previous US research with smaller datasets, which documented the association between the initiation of breastfeeding and the reduction of post-perinatal infant mortality by a range of 19% to 26%....continue reading "Large Study Finds That Breastfed Babies Less Likely To Die In Their First Year"
Another new micronutrient has been discovered in breast milk. This is a sugar molecule called myo-inositol that promotes brain development in infants.
Researchers found that this sugar molecule is most abundant in human breastmilk early after birth when neuronal connections are rapidly forming in the infant brain. Three weeks after birth the levels found in breast milk slowly start to decrease.
This micronutrient was found in breast milk from women at all three study sites (Mexico City, Shanghai, and Cincinnati) - and at similar levels. The researchers stated that this could be one of the reasons why breast milk is so beneficial for a baby's brain development.
Interestingly, adults get myo-inositol from foods, with an adult eating a Western diet getting about 1 gram per day. It is also produced in the brain and other organs. It is especially abundant in fruits (e.g., cantaloupe and oranges), beans, grains, and nuts.
Recent studies suggest that "vaginal seeding " of a newborn is effective and also has beneficial health effects for the baby. Vaginal seeding is transferring some of a mother's vaginal fluids (which contain beneficial microbes) onto newborns delivered via C-section.
The reason for doing this procedure (using gauze pads) is because during a vaginal birth the baby picks up the mother's microbes as it moves through the birth canal (this is good!). Babies delivered by C-section don't pick up all these beneficial microbes - instead they get what is floating around the delivery room.
Rutgers Univ. researchers found that infants that received vaginal seeding hosted a different microbial population in their stool and skin (more like the mother's) than those who didn't in the first month after birth. The vaginal seeding had worked - the mother's microbes had become part of the baby's microbiome.
It absolutely makes sense that a good diet before and during pregnancy is associated with better pregnancy outcomes, including the risk for miscarriage.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham reviewed 20 studies (for a total of 63,838 women) and found that a good diet with healthy foods (both preconception and during pregnancy) is linked to a lower chance of miscarriage. On the other hand, a diet high in processed foods was associated with a doubling of miscarriage risk. Interestingly, higher intake of fried foods and a lower intake of chocolate is also associated with higher miscarriage odds.
What is a "good diet" linked to lower risk of miscarriage? One that is rich in fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, and seafood. A high intake of fruits was linked to 61% reduction of miscarriage risk, high intake of vegetables had a 41% reduction, dairy was linked to a 37% reduction, and consumption of eggs had a 19% reduction. Seafood (fish) had a 19% reduction.
Hmmm.... overall the results sound like Mediterranean-style or healthy Nordic foods diets are beneficial. By the way, the researchers were unable to draw any conclusions regarding meat, red meat, white meat, fat, and oil.
There are many reasons for the lower rate of miscarriage with a healthy, whole foods diet: from an increased intake of all sorts of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, flavanols, etc.), rich in anti-oxidants, less oxidative stress, lower rates of inflammation, boosts the immune system, to feeding beneficial microbes in our gut microbiome.
Fun fact: the developing fetus can taste the foods the mother eats.
The CDC reports that autism (autism spectrum disorder) rates are still increasing in the US, from 1 in 150 twenty years ago to 1 in 36 children in 2020. That's huge!
It's not just better screening and diagnosis. Rates are increasing so rapidly that researchers agree that there are environmental factors going on. But what are they?
The researchers of the report point out known factors (e.g., age of parents, multiple gestation birth, prematurity, genetics), but what is not discussed are all the chemical toxins in our environment that people are exposed to both prenatally and after birth (postnatally). Studies find that pregnant women are exposed to more harmful industrial chemicals nowadays than ever before.
For example, lead, heavy metals, and pesticides. People use pesticides in the home, on home exteriors, in their gardens and lawns, on pets, on crops, they're in foods we eat, in water we drink, even in rainfall (!). Millions of pounds are used each year in the US. Many of them have neurological effects.
This means that babies and young children are also exposed to more pesticides than ever before. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been warning about the dangers of pesticide exposure in children for years.
More children have been diagnosed with autism than at any time since monitoring began more than two decades ago, according to new federal studies. About 4% of 8-year-old boys and 1% of 8-year-old girls, in the United States have autism, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ...continue reading "Autism Spectrum Disorder Rates Hit New High"
A number of studies in the past decade found that exposure to furry pets (e.g., cats, dogs) in the first year of a child's life is important for preventing later allergies (animal, food, pollen). A recent large study from Japan found that exposure to pet cats and dogs during pregnancy (developing fetus) and the first year of life confirms that furry pet exposure is important in reducing the risk of food allergies until at least 3 years of age.
While pet dogs kept inside had a protective effect, pet dogs kept outside did not. Also, the type of pet was important. Indoor pet dog exposure reduced the number of children with egg, milk, and nut allergies, while cat exposure was associated with fewer egg, wheat, and soybean allergies. However, these beneficial results did not apply to pet hamsters, birds, and turtles.
Why is this happening? It's thought that early in life exposure to furry pets (dander, microbes) helps train the developing immune system. Their gut microbes also have differences. By the way, other studies found that exposing a child in the first year of life to potential problem foods (e.g., peanut butter, eggs) reduces the incidence of that specific food allergy.
In an analysis of over 65,000 infants from Japan, children exposed to pet cats or indoor dogs during fetal development or early infancy tended to have fewer food allergies compared to other children, according to a study published March 29, 2023 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Hisao Okabe from the Fukushima Regional Center for the Japan Environment and Children's Study, Japan, and colleagues....continue reading "Reduce the Risk of Food Allergies By Having Pet Dogs or Cats"
Whether a developing baby (the fetus) has a microbiome or whether it is sterile during pregnancy and only gets "seeded" by microbes from the mother during birth is still being hotly debated. For years it was thought that the fetus and placenta were sterile (no microbes), but then several studies said there is evidence for the fetus and placenta having a microbiome (community of microbes).
Recently an international group of researchers stated that NO, there is no fetal microbiome. They reviewed current evidence, and according to their opinion - a healthy fetus is sterile. Instead, they suggest that the microbes some researchers found were due to contamination when the samples were taken or during analysis.
We'll see how this all develops. Science is always evolving, with new findings, and lots of debate and controversy.
A very interesting study found that some chemicals found in cosmetics and hygiene products are strongly associated with preterm birth. Specifically, when these chemicals are found in a pregnant woman's vagina during the second trimester - then there is a higher risk of preterm birth.
The study identified these chemicals (DEA, ethyl glucoside, tartrate, and EDTA), but did not pinpoint the exact products they came from. They are all ingredients in hygiene and cosmetic products. Tartrate and EDTA are also used as food additives.
It is unfortunate that the researchers did not identify exactly which products the pregnant women had used/were exposed to with these chemicals. They did find that the black women in the study were exposed to more of these chemicals. When the cosmetics and hygiene products are identified, then women need to be warned to avoid them to lower their odds of a premature birth.
Note: the researchers referred to these chemicals as xenobiotics, which means "substances that are foreign to the body". Yup, they definitely are.
Oh no... Back in 2017 a large study found that male sperm counts had dropped over 50% since the 1970s in North America, Europe, and Australia. Declining every year, year after year, for over 40 years. This has serious implications for fertility - if sperm counts drop too low, it's very difficult to conceive a baby.
Now those same researchers have published data from 53 countries showing that the sperm count decline is also occurring in Asia, South America, and Africa. And that the decline in male sperm counts is actually accelerating in North America and Europe. Yikes!
Note that this is in men who weren't being screened for fertility problems issues. In other words, random healthy men. Some had already fathered a baby.
Globally, the decline was about 1.16% per year from 1973 to 2018 (resulting in a 52% decline). When the researchers reexamined the data and looked at many more studies, they realized that since 2000 the decline accelerated at 2.64% per year.
Average global sperm concentration was 49 million per milliliter of semen in 2018. The researcher Dr. Swan pointed out that when sperm count drops below roughly 45 million per milliliter, the ability to cause a pregnancy begins to plummet dramatically, and at 40 million and lower the chances of conception are very low without reproductive assistance (e.g., IVF).
Interestingly, sperm counts are not just a male fertility issue, but also an indicator of men's health. Low levels of sperm are associated with increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer, and a shorter lifespan. With a decline in sperm numbers there is also a decline in testosterone and male genital anomalies - thus a decline in male reproductive health.
Why is this happening? Several possibilities are probably contributing: mainly lifestyle and also all the chemicals and plastics in our lives (environmental chemical exposure). Endocrine disruptors, phthalates, pesticides! Yes, they are all around us - in the air, the water, consumer products, and our bodies.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE SPERM COUNT AND HEALTH:
Lifestyle: Don't smoke. Don't drink or drink very little. Don't do drugs. Don't sit in hot tubs or saunas. Get exercise or physical activity. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts. Avoid canned foods, minimize fast food take-out. Eat as much organic as possible. Lose weight, if needed.
Chemical exposure: We can't totally avoid all the chemicals, but we can minimize our exposure. For starters, stop using non-stick cookware, avoid pesticides in the home and yard (look for nontoxic alternatives and view weeds as wildflowers), don't use dryer sheets, buy unscented products (and avoid fragrances). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.
An international team led by Professor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, with Prof. Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, along with researchers in Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Israel and the USA, published the first meta-analysis to demonstrate declining sperm counts among men from South and Central America, Asia and Africa....continue reading "Sperm Counts Are Still Dropping Throughout the World"