Saturday, February 8, 2014

Food Chemistry: Lactation, Infancy... is it important? {Week 5}

Now, that i'm a senior, I literally need two hands to count the amount of classes that have stressed the importance of lactation on infancy growth and development. This Food Chemistry class, tops off the list for now. In addition, two years ago, I was involved in a research project with a fabulous investigator from Harvard who studied the lactation nutrients and its correlation to behavior in primates. Coming from that study and my extensive background in lactation, this week in Food Chem (and in this blog post) we will touch on the topic of Lactation.

This topic of Lactation was brought up because toxicity and food safety, as talked about in the previous post, has the potential to affect all stages of life and causes problems in within each phase. So what do I mean by "phases"? What I mean is: conception, fetal life, infancy, early childhood and adulthood. There are many levels of biological programming that goes into each of these levels that can heavily affect long term health. For example, in each of these phases, the body needs to worry about: metabolism, altering growth rate, immunocompetence, reproduction ability, adult health and longevity and brain development.

It was hypothesized that a higher milk energy a more active infant. Therefore, the thought is that the energy found in milk can shape infant behavioral development. What is very interesting, is that during this class a graph of infant behavior and available milk energy was shown. The graph was from the researcher who I use to actually work fo. Seeing how the two connected in this way, means I might have actually picked the right internships to be a part of for my major! Woo! Here's a look at the graph:
This shows how there is a linear correlation between available milk energy and an increase in infant activity. Therefore, the more energy available in mothers milk, the more active their child is. For example, the primates in this lab that I worked at showed higher levels of confidence, playfulness, exploratory behavior and were always walking around curious of their behavior. As an intern, my job was to "code" the behavior. So I would walk out to the primate corridors and look for the specific primate and start tracking if they were playing, searching for food, stuck to their parent/partner, eating, sleeping, fighting, etc.

Just like how milk (specifically lactation) can provide an early means to socialization and appropriate behaviors, the same is true for inappropriate behaviors. Your environment is likely to shape your behavior both in a good and bad way. This makes sense right? Like, everyone is raised differently and by default everyone also acts differently than one another.

I know i'm only a senior in college, so I have plenty of time to worry about lactation vs. formula but I already have my mind made up. There are just too many nutrients that are immiscible in formula. The body actually depletes the mothers nutrients in order to provide a dense nutrient profile in breast milk. Thats why it is projected that a nursing mother should eat ~ 500-700 calories more per day. This also means, new mommies out there, this might be the quickest way to lose that extra baby fat! So if i'm not directly worrying about nursing right now, why am I even mentioning this, especially on a Paleo -friendly blog!

Well, truth be told, it's because Paleo and Lactation are centered around one key foundation, nutrient-density. My followers should know, "the denser-the better". No, i'm not talking about that german chocolate cake vs. angel food cake at Safeway right now. I'm talking about eating real, wholesome, nutrient-dense foods and not wasting time on empty calories. That right there is the success of the Paleo diet. Why don't you try eliminating all the processed junk, "calorie-free sodas", chips, cookies, random hydrogenated oils made in a lab and see if you start feeling better! Do you doubt me? Try it!

Lactation is much of the same, why not feed your baby a complete, nutrient-dense, wholesome, natural meal instead of a processed powder which claims "to have all your baby needs". So in the process of writing this post, I had to do a little research on breast milk vs. formula. One interesting thing I found that ties in well with my last post about food safety and gut flora is that human milk contains lysozyme, an anti-microbial.

When comparing three different formula brands: Enfamil Pregestimil, Similac Advanced Organic and  Enfamil Premium Infant, neither of these contained the same antimicrobe. Uh oh, there's 1 main reason to nurse right there, baby's gut flora! Can't start too early building that army (have to read my last post to understand this analogy!) But also, get these all new-mothers out there, human milk also contains sleep-inducing proteins. Yeah, bet you all nursed now don't you! A little more shut eye for you, would have been nice! ;) Plus, now that we are on the topic of gut help, human milk also provides digestive enzymes such as lipase and amylase.

So after my food borne illness post last week, and my lactation post this week, it got me thinking. Could a child get a foodborne illness through lactation, from the mother? So say, the mother got food poisoning or salmonella which doesn't surface for 8-72 hours after infection and she had been breast feeding. Could the child possible get salmonella as well? Then that begs another question, do babies have the same gut flora to combat Salmonella/ food borne attacks when they are that young? Is this just something that is innate to us?

A study done by Pediatric Clinics of North America in 2001, claim that

"Maternal infections of the genitourinary or gastrointestinal tract do not pose a risk to infants except in the rare circumstances when septicemia occurs and bacteria might reach the milk. Even in this event, continued breastfeeding while the mother receives appropriate antibiotic therapy that is compatible with breastfeeding is the safest course for the infant. If the infecting organism is especially virulent or contagious (e.g., an invasive group A streptococcal infection causing severe disease in the mother), breastfeeding should continue after a temporary suspension during the first 24 hours of maternal therapy. Prophylactic or empiric therapy for the infant, against the same organism, may be indicated."  

Well there you have it, my question is answered! But you do have to be very careful when breastfeeding, but that gives you (mom) an excuse to be more careful for what you (mom) eat. Sometimes when we need to care for others we are more attentive than when it only concerns ourselves.


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