Health Scan: Mother's milk improves in long-term nursing

The nutritional value of mother's milk much higher during long-term breastfeeding.

The nutritional value of mother's milk has been found to be much higher during long-term breastfeeding (for more than a year) than when it is only for up to six months. This finding was disclosed by a research team headed by Dr. Dror Mendel and Dr. Ronit Lubetzky, pediatricians at the Lis Obstetrics Center at Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center. They studied 61 women, 27 of whom breastfed for up to half a year and the rest between 12 and 39 months. The percentage of fat in mother's milk during long-term breastfeeding averaged at 11 percent and reached as high as 28%, while breast milk of women who nursed their babies for only several months averaged 7.4% and went as high as 12%. Not only was the fat level higher, but also the number of calories in milk during long-term nursing 880 kilocalories per liter compared to 741 in short-term nursing. In any case, the latter figure is significantly higher than that of baby formulas. Infancy is not a time for weight-reducing diets, as newborns need a lot of healthful calories to develop, thus the added fats and calories are considered very beneficial. Mendel, who worked on the study with Prof. Francis Mimouni, Prof. Shaul Dolberg and Dr. Shimon Barak, said the findings constituted the first scientific-academic study comparing the nutritional value of mother's milk in shortterm and long-term breastfeeding. It counters a myth among pediatricians that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the less nutritious her milk. GOOD THING ABOUT STRESS? Although some cancer patients blame the development of their tumor on high levels of stress, counterintuitively this has actually been found to help protect against breast cancer. Nevertheless, Danish researchers wrote in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal that too much stress and anxiety may put women at risk of other serious illnesses The study involved more than 6,500 women in Copenhagen. At the start of the study, researchers asked the women what levels of stress they experienced routinely in their lives and classified the results into low, medium and high levels. Stress was defined as tension, nervousness, impatience, anxiety or sleeplessness, but actual physiological stress levels were not measured throughout the study. In calculating the effects of stress, researchers also adjusted the results for other factors, such as whether they had children or whether they were menopausal, which would have an influence on developing breast cancer. They did not account for risk factors such as family history of the disease, however. Of the 251 women diagnosed with first-time breast cancer over the study period, researchers found that women reporting high levels of stress were 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women reporting low levels of stress. The study further found that, for every increased level of stress on a six-level scale, women were 8% less likely to develop breast cancer. One explanation for the findings may be that sustained levels of high stress may affect estrogen levels which, over time, may have an influence on developing breast cancer. But this theory has not been tested, and research in this area so far has mainly been restricted to animals, caution the authors. Despite the findings, the authors warn that stressinduced changes in hormonal balances are not a healthy response, and continued stress may play a damaging part in other illnesses, especially heart disease. MUSHROOMS AGAINST LEUKEMIA Gleevec, developed by the Novartis pharmaceutical giant, is a well-known but very expensive drug for treating chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which is relatively rare but still accounts for about a fifth of adults diagnosed with leukemia. Now a startup company called MyCure, based in Kiryat Shmona, is on its way to developing drug CML based on two types of mushrooms that will compete with Gleevec. The MyCare drug is the result of research initiated by Dr. Jamal Mahajna of the Upper Galilee Knowledge Center (Migal Ltd.), based on work on medicinal mushrooms conducted by Prof. Solomon Wasser of the University of Haifa. Wasser, a senior investigator at the university's institute of evolution, is one of the world's leading experts in the medicinal and other traits of the mushroom and holds several patents resulting from his work with fungi. The anti-cancer agent resulting from this particular research breakthrough is protected by a US patent held jointly by Carmel-Haifa University Economic Corporation and Migal. The two researchers identified active substances in two types of mushrooms that, they claim, have the potential to combat CML "with more endurance" than Gleevec. MyCure was set up within the Meytav technological incubator, considered one of the country's leading incubators in the field of the life sciences. The company is now defining the chemical structure of the two mushrooms' active molecules and will then proceed to improve their other biological qualities. The company has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Migal and Carmel for use of the patent to develop and market drugs that will overcome CML. Rx FOR RESPECT Many doctors are disheartened by the relatively low level of their patients' compliance with taking prescribed drugs and making lifestyle changes aimed at improving their health. But now researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who write in a recent issue of Annals of Family Medicine have found a clever way to get patients to follow doctors' advice treat them with dignity. In a national survey of more than 5,000 Americans, those who said they were treated with dignity during their last medical encounter were more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction with their care, adhere to therapy and get preventive services. Hopkins researcher interviewed 5,514 Americans who reported having a medical encounter within the previous two years and who were white, African American, Hispanic or Asian. Most respondents were female, had at least some college education, brought home incomes of more than 200% of the poverty level and spoke English as their primary language. Overall, 76% said they had been treated with a great deal of respect and dignity, and 77% that they had been involved by their doctor in decisions to the extent that they wished. Being treated with dignity was more linked to compliance when it involved people of racial and ethnic minorities, whereas being involved in decisions was significantly associated with adherence for whites. "Although involving patients in decisions is an important part of respecting their autonomy, it is equally important to respect patients more broadly by treating them with dignity," said lead author Dr. Mary Beach.