Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Placenta on toast? Could we derive benefits from ingesting afterbirth?

Date:
March 27, 2012
Source:
University at Buffalo
Summary:
Almost all non-human mammals eat placenta for good reasons. Are we missing something? Neuroscientists now suggest that ingesting components of afterbirth or placenta -- placentophagia -- may offer benefits to human mothers and perhaps to non-mothers and males.

Almost all non-human mammals eat placenta for good reasons. Are we missing something? A paper by neuroscientists at the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State College suggests that ingestion of components of afterbirth or placenta -- placentophagia -- may offer benefits to human mothers and perhaps to non-mothers and males.

They say this possibility does not warrant the wholesale ingestion of afterbirth, for some very good reasons, but that it deserves further study.

Mark Kristal, PhD, professor of psychology and neuroscience at UB, directs the graduate program in behavioral neuroscience, and has studied placentophagia for more than 40 years. He is recognized as a principle expert in the field.

Kristal's article "Placentophagia in Human and Nonhuman Mammals: Causes and Consequences," will be published in the March 30 issue of the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition, which will be devoted to the subject of placentophagia.

Kristal's co-authors are Jean M. DiPirro, PhD, associate professor, Department of Psychology, Buffalo State College, and Alexis C. Thompson, PhD, research associate professor, UB Department of Psychology and a research scientist in the UB Research Institute on Addictions.

They point out that the benefits of placenta ingestion (as well as the ingestion of amniotic fluid) by non-human mammalian mothers are significant. It provokes an increase in mother-infant interaction, for instance, and increases the effects of pregnancy-mediated analgesia in the delivering mother. It also potentiates opioid circuits in the maternal brain that facilitate the onset of caretaking behavior, and suppresses postpartum pseudopregnancy, thereby increasing the possibilities for fertilization.

"Human childbirth is fraught with additional problems for which there are no practical nonhuman animal models," says Kristal, citing postpartum depression, failure to bond and maternal hostility toward the infant.

He says ingested afterbirth may contain components that ameliorate these problems, but although there have been many anecdotal claims made for human placentophagia, the issue has not been tested empirically.

"If such studies are undertaken," he says, "the results, if positive, will be medically relevant. If the results are negative, speculations and recommendations will persist, as it is not possible to prove the negative."

Kristal says there is a current fad of ingesting encapsulated placenta, which mirrors unverified reports in the 1960s and 1970s of people in back-to-nature communes cooking and eating human placentas. The upsurge in recent anecdotal reports of the benefits of taking placenta by new mothers, irrespective of dose, method of preparation, or time course, suggests more of a placebo effect than a medicinal effect.

"People will do anything," Kristal says, "but we shouldn't read too much significance into reports of such exceptions, even if they are accurate, because they are neither reliable nor valid studies. My own studies found no evidence of the routine practice of placentophagia in other cultures, findings supported by a recent extensive study by anthropologists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"The more challenging anthropological question is," he says, "'Why don't humans engage in placentophagia as a biological imperative as so many other mammals apparently do?' because we clearly do not do this as a matter of course today and apparently never have. Perhaps for humans, there is a greater adaptive advantage to not eating the placenta." The paper discusses some possibilities in this regard.

"Whether or not we learn why humans do not do this, it is important for us to search for the medicinal or behavioral benefits of components of afterbirth for the same reasons that we search for plant-based medicinal substances," Kristal says.

"The outcome of such a quest need not be an exhortation for women to eat afterbirth, but for scientists to isolate and identify the molecule or molecules that produce the beneficial effect and use it to design pharmacological tools," he says.

He adds, "In the case of Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor or POEF and enhanced opioid-mediated analgesia, for instance, we have determined through earlier studies that not only is the effect nonspecific in regard to species, but it is also nonspecific in regard to sex.

"That means that although males, who in all probability do not make the molecule, have the ability to respond to it," Kristal says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University at Buffalo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mark Kristal et al. Placentophagia in Human and Nonhuman Mammals: Causes and Consequences. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, March 30, 2012

Cite This Page:

University at Buffalo. "Placenta on toast? Could we derive benefits from ingesting afterbirth?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120327152826.htm>.
University at Buffalo. (2012, March 27). Placenta on toast? Could we derive benefits from ingesting afterbirth?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120327152826.htm
University at Buffalo. "Placenta on toast? Could we derive benefits from ingesting afterbirth?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120327152826.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins