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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