Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moose, Arthritis, and Prenatal Nutrition

So, what's the link here, eh?  Almost sounds like the punchline to a joke.  Except, as you probably guessed, it's not funny.

Turns out that a 50+ year study of moose that migrated to an island on Lake Superior a hundred years ago are dying of arthritis.  Wolves take down arthritic moose quickly, so while the arthritis itself doesn't kill them, it makes them very easy prey.  By studying the moose and the wolves, the "moose guy", Rolf Peterson, a Michigan Technological University scientist, has linked moose arthritis to poor early nutrition.

Osteoarthritis is a serious problem for humans, even though we aren't attacked by wolves.  More than 27 million Americans are affected by osteoarthritis, the most common kind of arthritis in humans.  It affects about one out of seven Americans who are older than 25.  These rates have risen significantly in recent years, and I'm not the only one wondering why. 

"Moose Offer Trail of Clues on Arthritis", published in the New York Times a few days ago, reported on the link between moose, arthritis, and prenatal nutrition:
"The moose work, along with some human research, suggests arthritis’s origins are more complex, probably influenced by early exposures to nutrients and other factors while our bodies are developing . . .

Nutrients, experts say, might influence composition or shape of bones, joints or cartilage. Nutrition might also affect hormones, the likelihood of later inflammation or oxidative stress, even how a genetic predisposition for arthritis is expressed or suppressed . . .

'It would be helpful to know if we want to make sure pregnant moms are taking certain vitamins or if you need to supplement with such and such nutrition,' said Dr. David Felson, an arthritis expert at Boston University School of Medicine."
Helpful, indeed.  There are some clues, though:
"For people, several historical cases may suggest a nutritional link. Bones of 16th-century American Indians in Florida and Georgia showed significant increases in osteoarthritis after Spanish missionaries arrived and tribes adopted farming, increasing their workload but also shifting their diet from fish and wild plants to corn, which “lacks a couple of essential amino acids and is iron deficient,” said Clark Larsen, an Ohio State University anthropologist collaborating with Dr. Peterson. Many children and young adults were smaller and died earlier, Dr. Larsen said, and similar patterns occurred when an earlier American Indian population in the Midwest began farming maize."

What do you think?

It makes me think of Michael Pollan.  Like "We Are What We Eat":
"During the last year I've been following a bushel of corn through the industrial food system. What I keep finding in case after case, if you follow the food back to the farm — if you follow the nutrients, if you follow the carbon — you end up in a corn field in Iowa, over and over and over again.
Take a typical fast food meal. Corn is the sweetener in the soda. It's in the corn-fed beef Big Mac patty, and in the high-fructose syrup in the bun, and in the secret sauce. Slim Jims are full of corn syrup, dextrose, cornstarch, and a great many additives. The “four different fuels” in a Lunchables meal, are all essentially corn-based. The chicken nugget—including feed for the chicken, fillers, binders, coating, and dipping sauce—is all corn. The french fries are made from potatoes, but odds are they're fried in corn oil, the source of 50 percent of their calories. Even the salads at McDonald's are full of high-fructose corn syrup and thickeners made from corn."
Is there a connection here?  I wonder when we'll know.  Until then, I think I'll keep making a lot of my food from scratch, eating local as much as possible, and dosing us all with the Omega 3's...
Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Free Webinar: Supporting New Dads

Lamaze is offering a free webinar on Tuesday, September 7th from 11am to 1pm, Eastern time.  The webinar is called "The Alchemy of Supporting Fathers During the Perinatal Time".  The focus is:  Discover How to Reinforce Fathers' Relationships with Themselves, Their Partners, and Their Babies.  Sounds great, doesn't it!  For more information and to register, visit the Lamaze webinar page.  I'm hoping to catch as much of it as I can, but I'll also need to run to the bus-stop to get my new kindergartner off the school bus! 

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
 Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Circumcision Waning in the US?

When I found out that my second child was a boy, in 2005, I started researching circumcision.  At the time, I remember that the rates of circumcision were lower than I had anticipated.  While it's true that the majority of adult men born in the United States are circumcised, around 80%, it's also true that the percentage for new babies has been sliding downwards for a while.  If I remember correctly, the research I did suggested that my son's peers would be about 60% circumcised and 40% intact here in New England.  Out West it was 60% intact and 40% circumcised.   

Not that this was my deciding factor, but I was interested to know what the percentages were.  One part of me wondered:  Would my little guy look different from almost everyone else?  Would he care?  But I also kept going back to that old parental question my dad was (in)famous for asking:  "If everyone else jumped off the bridge, would you do it too??"  They wanted me to resist peer pressure way back then, and make my own decisions! 

The New York Times recently published an article indicating that the rates of circumcision may be dropping more precipitously than people thought:  "Steep Drop in Circumcisions in U.S."  Although measuring the circumcision rate was not the objective of the study, the research suggests that
"the rate had fallen precipitously – to fewer than half of all boys born in conventional hospitals from 2006 to 2009, from about two-thirds through the 1980s and ‘90s. . . Opponents of circumcision hailed the trend as a victory of common sense over what they call culturally accepted genital mutilation. For federal health officials, who have been debating whether to recommend circumcision to stem the spread of AIDS, the news suggests an uphill battle that could be more difficult than expected. "
Further into this article, the author mentions that it seems possible that the C.D.C and the American Academy of Pediatrics are considering changing their current, neutral, stance toward circumcision.  However, the author concludes:
"Yet even advocates of circumcision acknowledge that an aggressive circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact on H.I.V. rates here, since the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk, men who have sex with men."
To read more about circumcision, including information about the procedure, caring for an intact baby's penis, and circumcision and AIDS, check out NOCIRC's publications.  There are more links in one of my past posts, Circumcision Information, including some in the comments section. 

I also found this video, The Prepuce to be helpful.  Don't worry - it doesn't actually show the procedure.  Because you might not want to watch that, right?

I don't talk much about circumcision during my classes.  If the couple is expecting a boy, or may be having a boy, I ask them if they have questions.  I offer the resources that I listed here.  And then, if they are planning to circumcise, I ask them who is going with the baby?  "...Hmmmm..." is usually the answer I get.  And you know what, I leave it at that.  Well, unless that opens up more questions - which let me tell you, it sometimes does.  For example, here are the thoughts of a blogging dad I worked with, in a series of three Circumcision Decision posts - scroll down to read them in order.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

ADHD Linked to Pesticide Exposure

No, this post isn't directly about birth, but I believe it's important to spread the word about a new study in the journal Pediatrics: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. The most heavily used pesticide in the United States is an oraganophosphate, and it is rated for use at schools and on playgrounds. Organophosphate pesticides are also commonly used on fruits and vegetables. 

I highly encourage you to check out the study for yourself; the entire text is availabe for free at the link above.  Here's the meat of it:

Methods Cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2000–2004) were available for 1139 children, who were representative of the general US population. A structured interview with a parent was used to ascertain ADHD diagnostic status, on the basis of slightly modified criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.

Results One hundred nineteen children met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Children with higher urinary dialkyl phosphate concentrations, especially dimethyl alkylphosphate (DMAP) concentrations, were more likely to be diagnosed as having ADHD. A 10-fold increase in DMAP concentration was associated with an odds ratio of 1.55 (95% confidence interval: 1.14–2.10), with adjustment for gender, age, race/ethnicity, poverty/income ratio, fasting duration, and urinary creatinine concentration. For the most-commonly detected DMAP metabolite, dimethyl thiophosphate, children with levels higher than the median of detectable concentrations had twice the odds of ADHD (adjusted odds ratio: 1.93 [95% confidence interval: 1.23–3.02]), compared with children with undetectable levels.

Conclusions These findings support the hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence. Prospective studies are needed to establish whether this association is causal.
In case you're wondering about organophosphates, Wikipedia has a good article that offers more information. Even better is this factsheet on the National Resources Defence Council's website:

"Almost 25,000 of these incidents [acute poisoning] involved children under 6, who are particularly vulnerable to organophosphate poisoning, and at least 482 resulted in hospitalization.

More alarming, studies in animals now show that even a single, low-level exposure to certain organophosphates, during particular times of early brain development, can cause permanent changes in brain chemistry as well as changes in behavior, like hyperactivity. Chlorpyrifos (the chemical in the insecticide Dursban), for example, decreases the synthesis of DNA in the developing brain, leading to drops in the number of brain cells. If these findings pertain to humans, it may mean that early childhood exposures to chlorpyrifos can lead to lasting effects on learning, attention, and behavior -- just as were seen with another environmental neurotoxin, lead.

Even with these factors in mind, many people may not consider organophosphate poisoning a serious worry, assuming they can avoid exposing their children to these chemicals by keeping them away from the lawn and garden after insecticides have been applied. But in addition to outdoor exposure, people, children included, also receive exposure to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides indoors and through food."
This factsheet goes on to discuss indoor exposure and offers a list of fruits and vegetables that are commonly treated with organophosphate pesticides.

Finally, with all this in mind, you may be interested in the list the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled of The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen to help you prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Constellation of Baby

I read a really great book last week, called Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, by Michael Perry. I laughed out loud, and got teary too - both from sweetness and tragedy.

I absolutely loved what he wrote about the homebirth midwife checking on his baby:
“But what really keeps circling my head was the phrase Leah [the midwife] used to describe the landmarks of our child: the constellation of baby. What a gorgeous image – the infant afloat in the universe of mother, identifiable but unknowable” (39).
That's an image that will live in my mind from now on.

I also appreciated the section he included about the childbirth educator who visited him and his wife:
“A woman recommended by our midwife has come to the house to give us birthing instructions. It is a cold day, but the sun is shining warmly through the window and spotlighting the carpet of the living room floor, where we are pretending to have a baby. The instructor has been very thorough, and it is neat to receive instruction right here in our home. At one point she puts Anneliese on all fours in a stance intended to relieve lower back pain during labor. Then she rotates me around back in a massage position, and Anneliese and I get the giggles because, without putting too fine a point on it, the maneuvering reminds us of how we wound up in this situation in the first place. . . what she [the instructor] may not realize is that this hour on the carpet has been the best date Anneliese and I have had for months” (102).
That's the thing: birth classes can be one more appointment, kept amongst a crowd of nervous parents-to-be, impersonal, of dubious help, and even scary.

Birth classes can also be fun, interactive, helpful, thought-provoking, and supportive!

I won't tell you too about the part that literally made me laugh out loud but it's about piggy cannibalism. Which as I type this, I realize might not sound funny... But trust me, it is.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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