Sunday, February 10, 2013

Benefits of Breastmilk for the Baby/Child with Traumatic Brain Injury

The Benefit of Omega 3's - Fats for brain development.

*Breastmilk also contains some very beneficial fats. Mainly, Omega 3 fats such as DHA and AA. These fats are there to help the baby's brain work, ensure that his immune system is functioning, and helps him take in fat-soluble vitamins. The fats that are found in formula are not digested completely by the infant, and formulas also don't contain DHA.  The fat level in mature breastmilk is approximately 4% and is independent of what mom eats.

*Brain injured patients need Omega 3s, not high doses of Omega 6s which is what the Hormel pudding is loaded with! The ratio of 6:3 is what's key and most American diets are overboard on 6's and have zero to limited 3s.

"Omega 3 fatty acids are important for the baby's developing eyes and brain," says Dr. Sheila Innis, the study's principal investigator, head of the nutrition and metabolism program at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children's Hospital, and professor, department of pediatrics, University of British Columbia. 

*Composition of Breastmilk (to combat the argument that Charlotte needed hydration)
Water 88.1%, Fat 3.8% Protein 0.9%
Lactose 7.0% Other 0.2%
Source: Lawrence R. Breastfeeding: A guide for the medical profession. 4th ed. St.Louis: Mosby-YearBook, Inc.1994

*Breastfeeding is best for brain growth and neuromotor development of the babies. Nearly two-third of the brain weight is due to phospholipids and long chain fatty acids. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachi-donic acid (AA) are key fatty acids for growth of the brain. Human milk contains 30 times more DHA than cow’s milk. According to WHO, infants should get 20 mg DHA/kg every day. Human milk is rich in choline, taurine and zinc which are required for brain growth. Human milk contains almost double the quantity of lactose compared with milk of other mammals. Lactose is credited to facilitate the synthesis of cerebrosides and myelination of central nervous system (CNS). Breast fed babies have at least 8 points higher intelligence quotient in later life as compared to formula fed babies (6, 7).
There is enough evidence to suggest that the food we eat influence our memory, concentration, comprehension, judgment, intellect, mood and emotions. There are at least 50 brain chemicals or neurotransmitters that are affected by the intake of food and micronutrients (8).

Physiological effects of nutrients on brain growth
A number of amino acids are recognized as precursors of neurotransmitters. Tryptophan is required for production of serotonin which improves the mood and sense of wellbeing. Choline is required for production of acetylcholine which is critical for our memory. Tyrosine helps in motor coordination by elaboration of dopamine. Taurine is required for maturation of retina.

Micronutrients are required for production of several enzymes and co-factors for a number of metabolic pathways. It is known since ages that pellagra (niacin deficiency) leads to reduced cognition and dementia. A number of other B-complex vitamins especially B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin and folic acid are needed for synthesis of several neuro-transmitters. Thiamin deficiency hampers the ability of the brain to utilize glucose. Deficiency of folate, B6, B12 and choline are associated with elevation of plasma homocysteine level which may lead to thromboembolic complications and stroke (9). Iodine is required for synthesis of tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine. Iron deficiency is associated with reduced physical activity, neuromotor incoordination and reduced cognition (10). Cytochrome oxidase in the mitochondria is an iron-dependent enzyme. Oligodendrocytes require iron to synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol for myelin production and its integrity. Iron is also required for functioning of neurotransmission system such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA. Iron deficiency has been shown to adversely affect brain stem auditory activity and visual evoked potentials which may persist even after correction of iron deficiency anemia. There is some evidence to suggest that excessive tissue concentration of iron may lead to Parkinson’s disease in adults. Zinc is an important component of over 200 metalloenzymes and there is high concentration of zinc in the brain (11). Copper is an important component of cytochrome oxidase and superoxide dismutase in the brain. Copper deficiency is associated with Menke’s disease while copper excess is a recognized marker of Wilson’s disease, familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sea food is eminently brain-friendly food. Fish and fish oils are important sources of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are credited to reduce cellular and vascular inflammation in the brain, promote vasodilatation and ensure integrity of brain cell membranes to keep them soft and pliable(12,13). DHA constitutes almost one-half of the total fat in the brain cell membranes. DHA is the building material for fabrication of synaptic communication centers in the brain. It increases the level of "feel good" neurotransmitter serotonin and the "memory boosting" chemical acetylcholine.
Unlike adults, infants cannot convert a short chain fatty acid alpha- linoleic acid into DHA and they must be provided with this essential nutrient de novo in the diet. Table I lists the essential nutrients required for the development of CNS (1). Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, iodine and zinc. Incidentally, junk food is rich in omega-6 Trans fatty acids which compromise the integrity of the CNS by making cell membranes less pliable and more rigid.

Smart Nutrients for the Brain
• Omega-3 fatty acids, dcosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid
• Vitamin B complex, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E
• Iodine, iron, zinc, selenium
• Essential amino acids including taurine
• Choline
• Antioxidants

Apart from direct adverse effects of nutritional deficiencies on the brain, there are indirect consequences of under nutrition on brain development. Children with under-nutrition are apathetic and listless with poor interest to explore their environment. Because they are small in size, they are treated as "too young" and given inappropriate stimulation by their parents. The altered behavior and mood of the undernourished children often leads to the altered attitude of the caretakers towards them with poor level of interaction and play activity.