Are there real health benefits from eating placenta?

In today’s society, cultural trends spread fast while publicity figures have become news sources that go relatively undoubted by their followers. Its no surprise now that so many women are defending the presumed health benefits of placenta eating to help alleviate the difficulties of afterbirth. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian as well as Hollywood actors have spoken out in support of placenta eating, making it trend that everyone is willing to follow. Me being very in the know of pop culture, I wanted to look into how legitimate these health benefits are, since so many people follow these media figures for lifestyle tips without looking into scientific reasoning or even checking to see if media figures practice what they preach.

Stated in a Science News article by Laura Sanders, supporters of placenta-eating claim quickened healing in afterbirth, better mood, and helps lactation production, the alleged mechanism being the hormones and vitamins in the placenta. In most articles found, a woman named Jodi Selander was used as a source in discussing the supposed benefits of placenta consumption. Selander has a business based in Nevada in which she dehydrates womens’ placentas and puts them into pills for easier consumption (Sanders). Her website, which has an advertisement for a placenta emporium on its homepage, can be found here.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/06/04/411990944/placenta-pills-gain-fans-among-new-moms-but-benefits-are-elusive

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/06/04/411990944/placenta-pills-gain-fans-among-new-moms-but-benefits-are-elusive

From researching this, I found in an article by Marla Paul that the lack of scientific support in the benefits of placenta-eating is still an issue, but that an even bigger issue is the newly publicized finding of its possible risks and dangers. Paul, writing an article for Northwestern University’s website, cites a major study published by the Archive of Women’s Mental Health. Researchers gathered information on studies done examining the benefits of placenta-eating and created this overview, which as of June 4th of 2015 seemed to be the only major scientific research looking into this new health-craze. The study found that research into the effects of placenta eating had only been evaluated with animals, which had statistically significant results, but which cannot carry over to human females (Coyle et al.). The study also makes note of the large issue that the placebo effect may have in these perceived benefits of the placenta consumption preventing postpartum depression; animal tests would not be able to validate these variables (Coyle et al.).

This publication prompted articles from Science News (referenced earlier) and NPR, amongst others, warning of the lack of support for the trend’s benefits and introducing the risks of the trend.

In the NPR article written by Tara Haelle, quotes and information are provided by supporter Daniel Benysheck, an anthology professor who has studied the benefits of placenta-eating. In this article written about the publication of the overview of studies, Beysheck stated that he would be wrapping up a random trial experiment in 2016 in which the placebo pills made by Selander would be administered (Haelle).

The experimental trial done by Beysheck was recently published just last month, which itself was originated in a conflict of interest, due to it being a research study done by both the study’s authors and Selander’s placenta pill business (Benyshek et al.). The study analyzed the composition of a daily dose placenta pill from 28 different women’s processed placenta (Benyshek et al.). 14 elements, including vitamins such as zinc and possible toxins such as mercury, were measured by part per million (ppm) in these 28 different women’s processed placenta pills (Benyshek et al.). The results show the amount of healthy vitamins/minerals found present were small percentages under 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lactating women. The toxins measured were seen to have even more minimal amounts in the placenta pills that were nowhere near harmful levels (Benyshek et al.). The only element of the 14 studied found to be higher than 1 PPM was the percentage of iron at just 24% RDA for lactating women. From this scientific study, there is provided evidence that the placenta pills are likely more of a placebo than its current status of an all-healing ailment.

Sources

Young, Sharon M., Laura Gryder K., Winnie David B., Yuanxin Teng, Shawn Gerstenberger, and Daniel Benyshek C. “Human Placenta Processed for Encapsulation Contains Modest Concentrations of 14 Trace Minerals and Elements.” Nutrition Research 36.8 (2016): 872-78. Web.

“Should You Eat Your Baby’s Placenta?” by Laura Sanders 

“EATING THE PLACENTA: TRENDY BUT NO PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS AND UNKNOWN RISKS” by Marla Paul

“Placentophagy: therapeutic miracle or myth?” study overview

1 thought on “Are there real health benefits from eating placenta?

  1. Margaret Eppinger

    I had honestly never heard of this fad before this blog post, and the thought of it makes me feel a little bit sick. Although if it has benefits, I suppose it could be good? I am always wary of any kind of health fad because oftentimes a lot of them are actually pretty dangerous, particularly fad diets, so this placenta eating raises some skepticism in me. The fact that a study touting the positive impacts of it was done by a woman who makes her living selling these placenta pills gives the results an undeniable bias. I think the best course of action for anyone considering this would be to wait and see if there is more evidence released about the positive effects of the placenta pills.

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