Dr Miriam Stoppard says some 'health' fads take hold quickly and can be dangerous
There are all sorts of fads out there, but something bizarre can take hold in a frighteningly short time, especially with supplements and food. And that’s irrespective of whether said fad is good for you or not.
One that’s caught on is breast milk. Human breast milk. It’s the latest craze to entrap the unwary built on the ¬ supposition that what’s good for a baby is good for adults.
Wrong. Very wrong.
There are even ¬questions over milk banks supplying milk for babies, let alone adults. One mother’s breast milk isn’t necessarily good for a baby that isn’t hers.
The miracle of breast milk is that every mother produces milk bespoke for her baby and their particular needs. These aren’t automatically the needs of other babies.
Then there are the questions of hygiene, sterility and what else might be in the milk. If a mother has HIV, that will appear in her milk. The same goes for hepatitis and syphilis.
Breast milk has attracted a serious reputation among bodybuilders and gymnasts as a superfood improving performance and muscle mass, immune system health, even curing erectile dysfunction and cancer.
None of this is true. It’s not a superfood for general consumption. So how has it achieved this status? Just go online. The first thing you’ll probably see is “How I made money selling breast milk” or “Liquid gold, the booming market for breast milk”. And at £15/oz, it really is liquid gold.
Researchers from the University of London were so alarmed by their initial findings that they wrote an editorial in the British Medical Journal to warn of the dangers of buying breast milk online before their study was even completed.
It says that breast milk sold online should be screened for diseases such as hepatitis, HIV and syphilis.
Lead author Dr Sarah Steele said she feared that babies would die from unscreened milk sold online if the market wasn’t regulated.
And in one of the studies she cited, more than 90% of breast milk purchased online was found to have bacterial growth. Some of the sellers interviewed included intravenous drug users.
Dr Steele, a public health lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said they’d been surprised by the burgeoning breast milk market.
“The online marketplace is growing because there has been this promotion with claims that it’s a clean, natural superfood,” she said.
“Breast milk can actually pose quite a risk if you’re buying it online off an unidentified supplier.”