Dear Friends,

Can you name this Beautiful Creature?

What makes food therapeutic?

The 50s was a heady time for the hard sciences of chemistry, physics, pharmacology and the beginnings of industrial agriculture. We were beginning to “feel our oats,” chemistry was to make our lives better, antibiotics were going to eliminate all diseases, industrialization of agriculture, along with the use of herbicides and pesticides was going to create a world of food abundance—enough to feed all the world’s people. There would be no hunger. Add to this imprudent progress, the giant food processors and their highly processed food—nature was under our thumb. Or so we thought. Doctors even recommended that babies should be fed on formulas as technology could do as well or better than breast milk.

When we look at the question of what makes food therapeutic, it makes sense to start with our first food, breast milk or the bottle, and ask the question: Which is better for the neonate—the formula or mother’s milk?

In 2008, Harvard Professor Allan Walker MD was the Macy-Gyorgy Award Lecturer at The International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation meeting in Perth, Australia. This award, given every other year at the international meeting, honors senior scientists who have made outstanding original scientific contributions to the study of human milk and lactation, and whose papers have appeared in excellent peer-review journals.

Dr. Walker’s talk was entitled, Breast-Feeding: A protective Link Between Mother and Child. His hypothesis was:

Breast milk provides a protective link from mother to newborn in the extra-uterine environment and helps to prevent age-related clinical diseases.

His research evidence was fascinating and convincing. Regarding clinical disease protection, he focused on two conditions: inherited disorders and neonatal infections. In the first condition, inherited disorders, Dr. Walker lectured about acrodermatitis enteropathica and congenital hypothyrodism.

Acrodermatitis is a congenital genetic disease characterized by a lack of an absorptive receptor in the intestines for zinc. Therefore neonates become zinc deficient and develop dermatitis and bloody diarrhea. This occurs if they are formula fed, but if breast fed, there is no evidence that the defect exists because the mother’s milk contains the zinc and the receptor, both of which are transferred to the baby.

With congenital hypothyroidism there is an absence of the hormone thyroxin which is central in the early development of the brain. There is no evidence of this condition in breast-fed infant as the milk contains thyroxin.

In regards to neonatal infections, children who are breast-fed have less diarrhea than bottle (formula) fed babies. In a large study in the Philippians (J. Pediatrics 1990; 16: 707-710), where the government mandated over a three year period, to exclusively breast feed. Comparing then to formula feed, the breast-fed babies had 4.35% complications, whereas the bottle-fed babies had 89% complications. If we look at mortality—100% of the babies who died with this condition were formula fed.

Amazingly, the composition of breast milk changes as needed as a function of age. The neonates intestines turns cells over very slowly compared to an adult, and this condition is prolonged in formula-fed babies. However, when the neonate is breast-fed, the breast milk causes a maturation of their epithelial surface.

All infants lack IgA producing plasma cells. As a result, antigens crossing the epithelium are not contained, and therefore enter into circulation causing a systemic immune response—an IgE mediated allergic response. However, in breast-fed babies, antigens and bacteria are handled through the maternal gut, passed into the mother’s blood stream as IgA producing plasma cells, and the IgA is then secreted into the breast milk and thereby protects the neonate’s gut.

The breast-fed neonatal GI tract membrane is further protected by the colonization of good bacteria. Breast fed infants have a strikingly different gut flora than bottle fed infants. Breast milk contains high levels of non-digestible oligosaccharides. When ingested they pass into the intestines and stimulate the growth of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera. Breast-fed infants have very high levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, while bottle-fed babies have high levels of Enterobacter and Enterococcus. The pH of the gut of milk-fed babies, due to the lactic acid producing Lacto and Bifido, has an acidic milieu, whereas the bottle fed babies gut is alkaline. The colonization of the GI membrane by these lactic acid producing organisms and the acidification of the membrane provides protection from GI tract pathogens—enabling a pronounced reduction diarrheal diseases.

Much more could be said, but is there any question today as to which is more beneficial for the neonate—breast milk or formula? Medical science clearly acknowledges today the benefits of breast milk over formulas. Mother nature has given us life and has provided what we need to be healthy.

Sincerely yours,

Seann Bardell

Clinical Note:

The Original Synbiotic Formula is wonderful for the neonate. It provides organic oligosaccharides in the soluble inulin fiber derived from organic chicory root, and it provides the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera of lactic acid producing bacteria. For the young neonate just a little on the end of your finger in sufficient. As they get old mix 1/4 teaspoon in a glass of water. They will even eat it by the spoon. It takes good. Babies love it.

The Last Quiz Answer:

The Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is the only living species of the order Tubulidentata&mdash. It is nocturnal, feeding almost exclusively on ants and termites. Its keen hearing warns it against lions, wild dogs, hyenas and pythons. The Aardvark excavates burrows in which to live. Their main burrows are deep and extensive. Their old burrows are inhabited by warthogs and wild dogs. Aardvarks only pair during the breeding season; after a gestation period of 7 months, one cub weighing around 2 kg is born, and is able to leave the burrow to accompany its mother after only two weeks, eating termites at 14 weeks, weaned by 16 weeks. At six months of age it is able to dig its own burrows. Aardvarks live for up to 24 years.

The TEDxManhattan Seminar, on February 12th, 2011, was a fantastic event. It was entitled, Changing The Way We Eat. The speakers were excellent and in next weeks Forward Thinking I will share some of the highlights. Click on this link and you can download the talks.