In progress: Placenta versus Placebo research
The UNLV Placentophagy Research Team is currently in the data analysis phase of the highly anticipated and long-awaited double-blind, controlled research study examining various differences among postpartum women who ingest placenta capsules (prepared according to the "PBi method" of placenta encapsulation) versus a placebo. We are expecting publication at any point now.
UNLV Placentophagy Research Papers:
Effects of Iron Content in Placenta Capsules vs. Placebo
Gryder, L, et al. "Effects of Human Maternal Placentophagy on Maternal Postpartum Iron Status: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study." Journal of Midwifery & Womens Health. 2017 Jan;62(1):68-79. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12549.
Abstract: Seventy-eight percent (18/23) of study participants' hemoglobin concentrations were above the World Health Organization cutoff for gestational iron deficiency (≥ 11.0 g/dL) during the 36th week of pregnancy. Results revealed no statistically significant differences (hemoglobin, P = .603; ferritin, P = .852; transferrin, P = .936) in maternal iron status (including postpartum iron rebound in the first week postpartum) between women in the placenta supplement (n = 10) and placebo (n = 13) groups. Average iron concentrations were considerably higher in encapsulated placenta (0.664 mg/g) compared to the encapsulated beef placebo (0.093 mg/g) but provided only 24% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron among lactating women based on the study's maximum daily intake.
Interesting findings from the study: The purpose of the study was to see if women's reported increase in energy from placenta capsules was due to the level of iron concentration in the capsules. The research showed that there was no significant difference in the women's iron levels in thier system from the placenta capsules compared to the placebo capsules. Therefore, the commonly reported energy boost from placenta capsules is not necessarily due to their iron content. Placenta capsules did contain over 7 times the concentration of iron compared to the beef placebo, but none of the women in the sample were iron deficient. So we still have no idea if placenta capsules would have a significant effect among an iron-deficient population.
Levels of Toxins Not a Concern in Placenta Capsules
Young, S.M., et al. "Human placenta processed for encapsulation contains modest concentrations of 14 trace minerals and elements." Nutrition Research. 2016 Aug;36(8):872-8.
Abstract: Maternal placentophagy has recently emerged as a rare but increasingly popular practice among women in industrialized countries who often ingest the placenta as a processed, encapsulated supplement, seeking its many purported postpartum health benefits. Little scientific research, however, has evaluated these claims, and concentrations of trace micronutrients/elements in encapsulated placenta have never been examined. Because the placenta retains beneficial micronutrients and potentially harmful toxic elements at parturition, we hypothesized that dehydrated placenta would contain detectable concentrations of these elements. To address this hypothesis, we analyzed 28 placenta samples processed for encapsulation to evaluate the concentration of 14 trace minerals/elements using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Analysis revealed detectable concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, rubidium, selenium, strontium, uranium, and zinc. Based on one recommended daily intake of placenta capsules (3300 mg/d), a daily dose of placenta supplements contains approximately 0.018 ± 0.004 mg copper, 2.19 ± 0.533 mg iron, 0.005 ± 0.000 mg selenium, and 0.180 ± 0.018 mg zinc. Based on the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for lactating women, the recommended daily intake of placenta capsules would provide, on average, 24% RDA for iron, 7.1% RDA for selenium, 1.5% RDA for zinc, and 1.4% RDA for copper. The mean concentrations of potentially harmful elements (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, uranium) were well below established toxicity thresholds. These results indicate that the recommended daily intake of encapsulated placenta may provide only a modest source of some trace micronutrients and a minimal source of toxic elements.
Interesting findings from the study: In order to move forward with a double-blind, controlled, placenta versus placebo research study on women, we had to show that placenta capsules would not harm women. Therefore, we tested the placenta capsules using the PBi method of placenta encapsulation. The analyses found that any heavy metal toxins present in the placenta capsules were not in sufficient concentrations to cause harm. The study also showed that while the concentrations of various beneficial minerals were in lower conentrations, that the process we use to prepare placenta capsules does not destroy them.
Survey of Mother's Experiences with Placenta Consumption
Selander, Jodi, et al. "Human maternal placentophagy: A survey of self-reported motivations and experiences associated with placenta consumption." Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 52.2 (2013): 93-115.
Abstract: Maternal placentophagy, although widespread among mammals, is conspicuously absent among humans cross-culturally. Recently, however, advocates for the practice have claimed it provides human postpartum benefits. Despite increasing awareness about placentophagy, no systematic research has investigated the motivations or perceived effects of practitioners. We surveyed 189 females who had ingested their placenta and found the majority of these women reported perceived positive benefits and indicated they would engage in placentophagy again after subsequent births. Further research is necessary to determine if the described benefits extend beyond those of placebo effects, or are skewed by the nature of the studied sample.
Interesting findings from the study: 95% of participants had a "positive" or "very positive" experience with placentophagy, and ALL but two of the participants said they would use placenta again after a subsequent pregnancy.
The effect of the maternal ingestion of desiccated placenta upon the rate of growth of breast-fed infants
Hammett, F. S. (1918). Journal of Biological Chemistry, 36(3), 569-573.
"The effect of the ingestion of the desiccated placenta by the mothers on the rate of growth of the breast-feeding infants is at once apparent. […] the mean increase over the normal percent change in weight on the 13th day being over 60 percent."
Placenta as Lactagagon
Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.
An attempt was made to increase milk secretion in mothers by administration of dried placenta per os. Of 210 controlled cases only 29 (13.8%) gave negative results; 181 women (86.2%) reacted positively to the treatment, 117 (55.7%) with good and 64 (30.5%) with very good results. It could be shown by similar experiments with a beef preparation that the effective substance in placenta is not protein. Nor does the lyofilised placenta act as a biogenic stimulator so that the good results of placenta administration cannot be explained as a form of tissue therapy per os. The question of a hormonal influence remains open. So far it could be shown that progesterone is probably not active in increasing lactation after administration of dried placenta.
This method of treating hypogalactia seems worth noting since the placenta preparation is easily obtained, has not so far been utilized and in our experience is successful in the majority of women.
Placentophagia: A Biobehavioral Enigma
KRISTAL, M. B. NEUROSCI. BIOBEHAV. REV. 4(2) 141-150, 1980.
Although ingestion of the afterbirth during delivery is a reliable component of parturitional behavior of mothers in most mammalian species, we know almost nothing of the direct causes or consequences of the act. Traditional explanations of placentophagia, such as general or specific hunger, are discussed and evaluated in light of recent experimental results. Next, research is reviewed which has attempted to distinguish between placentophagia as a maternal behavior and placentophagia as an ingestive behavior. Finally, consequences of the behavior, which may also be viewed as ultimate causes in an evolutionary sense, are considered, such as the possibility of beneficial effects on maternal behavior or reproductive competence, on protection against predators, and on immunological protection afforded either the mother or the young.
Placenta for Pain Relief:
Placenta ingestion by rats enhances y- and n-opioid antinociception, but suppresses A-opioid antinociception
Jean M. DiPirro*, Mark B. Kristal
Ingestion of placenta or amniotic fluid produces a dramatic enhancement of centrally mediated opioid antinociception in the rat. The present experiments investigated the role of each opioid receptor type (A, y, n) in the antinociception-modulating effects of Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF—presumably the active substance). Antinociception was measured on a 52 jC hotplate in adult, female rats after they ingested placenta or control substance (1.0 g) and after they received an intracerebroventricular injection of a y-specific ([D-Pen2,D-Pen5]enkephalin (DPDPE); 0, 30, 50, 62, or 70 nmol), A-specific ([D-Ala2,N-MePhe4,Gly5-ol]enkephalin (DAMGO); 0, 0.21, 0.29, or 0.39 nmol), or n-specific (U-62066; spiradoline; 0, 100, 150, or 200 nmol) opioid receptor agonist. The results showed that ingestion of placenta potentiated y- and n-opioid antinociception, but attenuated A-opioid antinociception. This finding of POEF action as both opioid receptor-specific and complex provides an important basis for understanding the intrinsic pain-suppression mechanisms that are activated during parturition and modified by placentophagia, and important information for the possible use of POEF as an adjunct to opioids in pain management.
D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation. Blank MS, Friesen HG.: J Reprod Fertil. 1980 Nov;60(2):273-8.
In rats that were allowed to eat the placentae after parturition concentrations of serum prolactin were elevated on Day 1 but concentrations of serum progesterone were depressed on Days 6 and 8 post partum when compared to those of rats prevented from eating the placentae. In rats treated with PMSG to induce superovulation serum prolactin and progesterone values were significantly (P < 0.05) elevated on Days 3 and 5 respectively, after being fed 2 g rat placenta/day for 2 days. However, feeding each rat 4 g placenta/day significantly (P < 0.02) lowered serum progesterone on Day 5. Oestrogen injections or bovine or human placenta in the diet had no effect. The organic phase of a petroleum ether extract of rat placenta (2 g-equivalents/day) lowered peripheral concentrations of progesterone on Day 5, but other extracts were ineffective. We conclude that the rat placenta contains orally-active substance(s) which modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones..
What?! That's it?!? There must be more placentophagy research!
Well, yes, indeed there is! If you're a placenta fan and a research junkie, please check out the all new PBiU Placenta Training Course – it has an incredible amount of research on placentophagy, placentas, hormones, iron, postnatal issues… enough to satisfy even the most avid research fan. Get your fix!