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The first study done on consuming the encapsulated form of human placenta has shown no benefit to those taking it to increase serum iron levels.

A placebo-controlled study, done at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, U.S.A, has shown that consuming the encapsulated form of human placenta is neither beneficial nor detrimental for elevating the iron levels of post-partum mothers. The placenta capsule was compared to a beef placebo.

The practice of consuming encapsulated placenta - which is placenta that is steamed, dehydrated and then ground to be placed in capsules - has become a growing trend in the western world and has been used in traditional eastern medicine for many decades. 

Impact of the study on placenta consumption 

An expectant mother's body requires iron supplementation since this important metal is not only utilised by the growing fetus, but the physiological changes that occur in the mother result in increased plasma production which leads to a dilutional anaemia. Increased iron supplementation is then needed during and after pregnancy to build the mother's iron stores up so that the fetus can use the element to develop, and for the increased production of red blood cells to counter the increased plasma production from causing a physiological anaemia.

The idea behind using encapsulated placenta as a source of iron came from the fact that placenta does indeed contain a high amount of iron. The issue was that no clinical studies were done to confirm whether the practice of placenta consumption actually offered any benefit to increasing iron levels. The evidence was anecdotal at best from those who used the product, and this spurred the need for conducting the clinical study.

23 women completed the 3 week study of which 10 women were given the encapsulated placenta and 13 were given the dehydrated beef placebo. Blood tests to monitor changes in iron levels were done before and after delivery of the baby and also at 1 and 3 weeks post-partum. It was then found that no major differences in serum iron levels were detected between the 2 groups of test subjects.

The summary of the finding would then be that consuming encapsulated placenta isn't a better source of iron supplementation than normal dietary portions of beef.

Suggestions based on the study

Since the practice of consuming human placenta hasn't shown any evidence of elevating iron levels in mothers who are pregnant or who have given birth, it is then suggested that these individuals should rather discuss using adequate iron supplementation with their healthcare professionals.

This is especially important since iron deficiency in pregnancy can lead to medical problems such as irregular heartbeats and decreased oxygenation of vital organs and, also especially, the unborn fetus. 

Further research into placenta consumption

Individuals consuming encapsulated placenta have described experiencing changes such as an elevated mood and decreased post-partum depression and reduced fatigue, when compared to a placebo.

Changes in hormonal levels during and after pregnancy result in the mentioned experiences. Therefore, a larger study is currently being done where encapsulated placenta is compared to a placebo to ascertain whether these products will affect changes in hormonal levels in pregnant and post-partum women. 

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