Saturday, August 2, 2014

World Breastfeeding Week 2014: More patents to think about..

                     "More than a third of deaths in children under five happen
                      during the first month of life (about four million babies).
                      Breastfeeding within the first hours would save 22% of these
                      babies.  That means 880,000 babies could be saved simply by 
                      not removing them from their mothers, and by supporting
                      early sucking." --by Gabrelle Palmer, "The Politics of          
                      Breastfeeding:  When Breasts Are Bad for Business" 

I decided to pick 3 patents from 3 different infant formula companies and share their statements about breastfeeding/breastmilk.  The industry is trying to imitate human milk to create a safer infant formula.  While laudible, it avoids the really tough questions.  Is it possible to imitate human milk which has thousands of components (many not even known yet)?  Why is the understanding of the value of breastfeeding/human milk so limited in our society?  Why does it sometimes seem like the infant formula industry understands this value more than some breastfeeding advocates?  Of course the value for the infant formula industry is in dollars and cents of profits.  The value is in being able to market their product to be just like human milk.   With the advent of genetic engineering and the lack of regulation and labeling, the industry can claim ownership of the genes of human milk.  And then declare that their product is closer to human milk than ever before without the public understanding how they have done this.  Dissecting human milk and trying to find that magic bullet that will create health and wellness in our babies, is a reductionist viewpoint. A huge error in the understanding of our world. We are a complex web of a variety of life forms that in many cases have symbiotic relationships.  Reductionist thought creates the belief that one can extract a component from human milk, place it an artificial environment and genetically engineer it, add artificial ingredients and create a healthy food for infants.  The distortion of reality means that the world begins to believe that breastmilk feeding is equivalent to breastfeeding.  Yet, breastfeeding is a process not a product.  Its a complex biological behavior that rests uneasily in a technological world, where human interaction is becoming more and more limited.  World Breastfeeding Week is a time to celebrate the miracle of breastfeeding and committ to its very survival.

This is a patent owned by Nestec (Nestle) entitled, "Soluble toll-like receptor," patent #7230078.   It was filed in 2004 and invented by Eduardo Schiffrin and Michael Affolter.  It was "surprisingly" found that the transmembrane protein (soluble toll-like receptor) was found in breastmilk.

"It has been demonstrated that breast-fed newborns have a lower incidence of intestinal infections and inflammatory conditions, lower incidence of respiratory infections, and later in life, less allergic diseases.  A number of human milk components may explain the protective role, among others, immunocompetent cells, antibodies transferring passive immune protection, human milk oligosaccharides, lysozyme, lactoferrin and other factors have been evoked."

Mead Johnson owns this patent filed in 2005 and invented by Erika Isolauri and Seppo Salinines.  It is entitled, "Method for preventing or treating respiratory infections and acute otitis media in infants using Lactobacillus LGG and Bidfidobacterium Bb-12." patent # 7862808.

"Regardless of the cause for the differing bacterial populations [gut flora of infants], it is clear that breast milk has a measurable benefit in the treatment
or prevention of respiratory infections and AOM {Acute Otitis Media]." 


"In the United States, for example, 53% of lactating mothers introduce formula before their babies are a week old.  By four months of age, 81% of infants receive formula on a regular basis."


"Specifically, one study indicated that the feeding of many currently available infant formulas may be associated with a 3.6 fold increase in risk of infant hospitalization for respiratory infection when compared to at least four months of exclusive breastfeeding.  Bachrach, V.,et al, Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med 57:227-43(2003)"

Abbott filed this patent in 2011 entitled,"Nutritional formulations including human milk oligosaccharides and antioxidants and uses thereof," patent # 8703737.  The inventors are Rachael Buck et al. 

"Breastfeeding has been associated with enhanced development and balanced growth and maturation of the infant's respiratory, gastrointestinal and immune systems, thereby providing protection of the infant to infection and inflammatory disease.


"Further, breast milk includes HMO's [Human Milk Oligosaccharides] that not only act as pathogen receptor analogues, but activate immune factors by infant intestinal epithelial cells and/or associated immune cell population.  The function of these breast milk components, functioning as antioxidants and as immune modulators, include not only the protection of breast milk lipids by peroxidation, but may also assist in the regulation of inflammatory responses to infection or other injury."

The infant formula industry recognizes that their product adversely effects infants and the answer is in mimicking human milk components.  The reason for making these products is because some woman can't or won't breastfeed.  Yet these products in the past have created infant morbidity and mortality.  Correcting the defects of a product by adding human milk components, whether real or genetically engineered is thought to create a safer infant formula.  Does it?  The energy, time and money that is used to create a new safer infant formula could be spent on protecting and supporting breastfeeding.  Instead our society's financial investment is in a product that has known risks.
Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain

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