Maternal Diet Affects Offspring's Longevity
I came across this article in Google Reader a few weeks ago, but it looks like it’s actually from January 2004. It’s probably not going to blow your mind, but here goes: Maternal diet linked to offspring’s longevity.
Minor manipulations of a mother’s diet can hugely affect the lifespan of her children, suggests a new study of mice. If the conclusions of the animal study turn out to be applicable to humans, it would have implications for women who choose not to breast feed, Ozanne believes.
Formula milk is often richer than human milk and mothers also tend to over feed bottle-fed babies. If this were combined with a baby being premature or under-weight, the situation would resemble that of the shortest lived mice pups.
So now I’m going to run off on a tangent about breastfeeding. It is imperative for a mother to breastfeed. Breast milk is THE natural food of an infant, hence why all mammals produce milk for their offspring. The word mammal is from the Latin “mamma,” meaning breast, and is closely linked to the term “mammary gland,” the very fountain of milk in the female body. It is one of the main things that separates mammals from non-mammals.
Here’s my obligatory comment about dairy. Mammals produce milk specifically for the young of their own species. Humans produce milk specifically for the nutritional needs of human babies, horses for cute little ponies, and kangaroos for joeys in pouches. Going on the assumption that none of my readers are of the family Bovidae (that’s “cows and the like” in science speak), you can see where I stand on dairy.
The quality of breast milk changes depending on the mother’s food supply (so eat a good Paleolithic diet) and other factors. For instance, the first milk during a feed is lower in fat and higher in carbs. As the feed progresses, the milk gets creamier. The first milk produced by a newly lactating mother is called colostrum and is high in nutrients and antibodies. Formula and dairy products cannot mimic exactly these evolutionarily perfected compositions, nor do their compositions ever change, nor do they contain the specific antibodies that a mother passes to her child.
So what is the composition of human milk?
Human milk contains 0.8% to 0.9% protein, 3% to 5% fat, 6.9% to 7.2% carbohydrates and 0.2% ash (minerals)
Looking only at macronutrient composition, that equates to 6.8% fat, 38% protein, and 55% carbohydrates on the high end. Nestle Good Start on the other hand has 27.5% fat, 11.9% protein, and 60% carbohydrates. Enfamil is close to those same ratios. As you can see, formulas supply much more fat, a bit more carbohydrates, and significantly less protein to the growing baby.
Correction (Nov 30, 2007) – Jen (2nd comment below) pointed out that I forgot to convert to calories to get the percentage contribution. Given that, I work out that breast milk has a caloric contribution of 4.65% protein, 58% fat, and 37% carbohydrate. Nestle clocks in at ~9% protein, 46% fat, and 45% carbohydrate. So the formula is double the protein, less fat, and more carbohydrate. I guess that makes more sense given that formula-fed babies are more likely to be overweight. Thanks for setting me straight Jen!
And let’s compare some ingredients, shall we?
Carbohydrates are mainly lactose; several lactose-based oligosaccharides have been identified as minor components. The principal proteins are casein homologous to bovine beta-casein, alpha-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, IgA, lysozyme and serum albumin. Non-protein nitrogen-containing compounds, making up 25% of the milk’s nitrogen, include urea, uric acid, creatine, creatinine, amino acids and nucleotides. Mother’s milk has been shown to supply a type of endocannabinoid (the natural neurotransmitters which marijuana simulates), 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol.
Nestle Good Start:
Enzymatically Hydrolyzed Reduced Minerals Whey Protein Concentrate (From Cow’s Milk), Vegetable Oils (Palm Olein, Soy, Coconut, Safflower), Lactose, Corn Maltodextrin, and less than 1.5% of: Potassium Citrate, Potassium Phosphate, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, M. alpina Oil*, Vitamins (Sodium Ascorbate, Inositol, Choline Bitartrate, Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Acetate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12), C. cohnii Oil**, Taurine, Nucleotides*** (Cytidine 5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5′-Monophosphate, Adenosine 5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5′-Monophosphate), L-Carnitine.
Hmmm….I wonder which is preferable to the baby. The ingredients are largely similar between brands, so no need to show them all.
So the gist of all of this rambling is that you (for the ladies) should breastfeed if you can and your diet affects the quality of your milk and the health of your baby. So eat plenty of the natural foods we talk about here: meat, vegetables, nuts, good oils, fruit, tubers, and squashes.
Disclaimer: I didn’t pick and choose specific products to prove a point. I googled for “ingredients Nestle Good Start” (etc) and grabbed the first information I could find. There may be better or worse formulas out there.