MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Daniel C Benyshek, PhD
Professor, Department of Anthropology
Adjunct Professor, UNLV School of Medicine
Co-Director, Metabolism, Anthropometry and Nutrition Lab
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Maternal placentophagy is ubiquitous among nearly all terrestrial mammals, but is rare to non-existent among humans in the historic and cross-cultural records. Recently, however, human maternal placentophagy has emerged as a popular trend among a small but growing number of women in many industrialized countries. Most women engaging in the practice today consume their processed placenta in capsule form, taken daily, over several weeks postpartum. While human maternal placentophagy advocates claim many maternal health benefits from the practice, including improved postpartum mood, increased breast-milk production, and improved energy, among others, no carefully designed, placebo-controlled studies have evaluated these claims.
Our randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study (N=23) investigated some of these claims. Our study found that the postpartum iron status of participants who consumed their own encapsulated placenta (based on the three week daily intake recommendation of one prominent placenta encapsulation service), was no different from those women who consumed the same amount of beef placebo.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: With respect to postpartum iron intake, women may not want to rely solely on encapsulated placenta to meet their dietary iron needs. This is especially true if they are iron deficient postpartum. Other purported benefits of maternal placentophagy may be born out by scientific research.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Our findings were based the placenta processing techniques and recommended daily intake of one prominent placenta encapsulation service. It is possible that other placenta processing protocols or intake schedules could result in enhanced postpartum iron rebound compared to a placebo.
There are several other commonly purported benefits of human maternal placentophagy, including improved postpartum mood and lactation, that should also be evaluated using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research design. Data relating to some of these other purported benefits of placentophagy, and collected over the course of the above pilot study, are currently being analyzed by our research group. We hope to publish these results in the near future. Given the apparent increasing popularity of maternal placentophagy around the world, more carefully designed scientific research on the practice is certainly warranted.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Gryder, L. K., Young, S. M., Zava, D., Norris, W., Cross, C. L. and Benyshek, D. C. (2016), Effects of Human Maternal Placentophagy on Maternal Postpartum Iron Status: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12549
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