For some years, the consumption of human placenta (whether raw or cooked, shake or in capsules) has become the subject of debate and business in several countries. The people who defend this practice – whose specific term is phallus pharyngism – claim that it helps prevent postpartum depression, increases energy levels and stimulates the production of breast milk. Furthermore, they point out that it is very common among the different species of mammals. Figures from the entertainment world, from Tom Cruise to Kim Kardashian have recognized the taking on of this ephemeral organ. There are also recipe books. Its consumption is also promoted in some alternative medicine environments.
On 27 November, Canada entered the list of countries warning about the risks of its consumption: "Eating the placenta or consuming it in capsules is a personal decision, but the mother must understand that there are potential risks for her. and for the child, as there is no scientific evidence that its consumption has benefits, "says the Ministry of Health. They also warn that the practice can pose health risks. "The most serious are of a bacterial nature (for example, group B streptococci) or related to the viral contamination of the placenta (hepatitis, HIV, among others)", says the document. In this way, the Canadian authorities coincide with those of other countries and with researchers from different academic institutions.
Canada does not authorize any health product containing a human placenta. With a quick Internet search you can find several Canadian forums that recommend the use of this organ, as well as different pages (in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal) that offer support to process the placenta in capsules. The average cost to take the organ and transform it is 250 Canadian dollars (about 165 euros). "Many minerals and hormones that the placenta contains help to fight the symptoms of postpartum depression," says one of these websites, although it does not provide scientific papers to prove it.
Noémie Vanheuverzwijn, spokesman for the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, told this paper that fathers and mothers may request that the placenta be delivered to hospitals, but must write to follow a series of measures to reduce the risks to Health . For example, wear impervious gloves and make sure that the organ does not come into contact with people who do not use protection or animals. The placenta can not be sold or sold to third parties. "In Quebec, these demands are marginal: if they are not claimed, the placenta are treated like the rest of the anatomical waste," emphasizes Vanheuverzwijn. For her part, Johanne Côté, executive director of the Order of Midwives in Quebec, states that her institution does not yet have an official position on the subject. In turn, the Public Health Association of Ontario has called for the risks of infection to be more widespread among medical personnel and residents of this province.
The testimonies expressed in different media on the presumed properties of the placentofagia are numerous. However, the scientific community is more prone to placebo effect, because the results have not been methodologically tested and because they pose health risks. The American Medical Association does not recommend this practice, citing a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of that country on bacterial contagion. The British Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that its benefits are not known. In Australia, the Department of Health's medical products division published a warning in January this year about the possible risks of consuming human placenta.
Other investigations, conducted by renowned institutions, point in the same direction. For example, experts from the University of Austria have concluded that no hormone or nutrient containing the placenta is potentially useful after the capsules have been produced. In turn, a study by researchers from the University of Nevada concluded that there were no significant differences between a group of women taking pills with the human placenta and another that ingested capsules with dehydrated meat. Now it is the Canadian authorities who join these voices for a practice that has not exceeded its anecdotal character.