Breastfeeding-An Access Issue?

**This blog post was inspired by the 2014 World Breastfeeding Week**

Every minute, 255 children are borne globally. These children are born into families with varying resources, to different household structures, stratified over a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some mothers will be able to materially provide their infant with more while the vast majority will have to make do with what they have. This is the same idea is made further evident when one thinks of mothers and their ability to breastfeed their children.

MALNUTRITION AND ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER                                                                                            

When one in every eight people globally are hungry, it should serve as no shock that 45% of child deaths under the age of five are attributed to poor nutrition and that the mothers of those children make up 60% of that one in eight statistic. These women go on to become mothers and have malnourished children whose health is then dictated by mothers who not only do not have enough to eat; but who do not have access to a diversity of calories, which are crucial for the health of a healthy baby. But, how does breast milk come in?

Some mothers will find themselves unable to even produce breast milk due to poor nutrition and limited access to safe drinking water. But for those who can, they themselves are not producing nutrient rich breast milk for the same reasons listed above for mothers who are unable to even produce breast milk.

12 percent of the global population uses 85 percent of the Earth’s water, with none of that 12 percent living in limited resource economies. So that means that the other 88 percent live in limited resource economies where access to clean water would mean them travelling long distances in order to fetch water that is not necessarily safe or alternatives that they might not be able to afford. However, water and nutrition are half the hurdle when it comes to children accessing healthy breast milk and mothers being able to provide it for them.


Where the knowledge of how and in what way to effective breastfeed ones child is so readily available for one group of mothers, another group is left to rely on knowledge that is steeped in cultural ideas instead of science. A great percentage of mothers in limited resource economies fall into that second category.

They face not having enough milk to feed their babies, to sore and mastitis, which are easily managed with the right processes. But, it all boils down to access. If you are not lactating, that is easily managed by making sure that you breastfeed on time to not feeding the baby any other liquids. However, you would have to know that. If you have sore nipples, the removing the baby from the breast by breaking suction first with your small finger or ensuring that the baby latches on well to the nipple easily manage such a problem. But once again, you would have to know that. Even mastitis is easily managed by increasing a mother’s fluid intake to making sure that she gets enough rest. One again, you would have to know that.

It is really important to make sure that the inequalities that exist in breastfeeding are made known especially when certain schools of thoughts tout breastfeeding as the equalizer in global maternal health. No one can expect breastfeeding to be the equalizer for healthy children when mothers in all corners of the world are living in unequal conditions. The only “equalizer” for good health is education and access to the basic serves that would allow mothers to lead healthy futures so that they can take care of their children.

As the 2014 World Breastfeeding Week comes to an end, let us celebrate the mothers that are feeding the healthy futures of their children by breastfeeding them. However, let us also not forget that their mothers who are unable to do so due to their limited access to things such as nutritious foods, clean water, and education.



The Latest on Vermont’s GMO Labelling Bill

PHOTO CREDIT: Image found on

CAYENNE, FRENCH GUIANA- The state of Vermont’s campaign to become the first U.S. state to label genetically modified foods (GMOs) continues Vermont Senate Appropriations Committee voted, 7-0 yesterday, on a bill (H.112) that would bring Vermont one step closer to the mandatory labelling of all foods containing GMOs.

Now that the bill has received approval by Vermont’s State Senate Appropriations Committee, the bill is headed to the state’s senate floor to be debated upon early next week. The bill came about in early 2013 when it was introduced to Vermont’s House of Representatives in the Committee on Agriculture; and if approved, would go into effect July 2016.

Vermont joins the efforts of 23 other states who are currently in the process of approving legislation that would call for the mandatory labelling of GMOs such as Maine, Connecticut, and California. If the bill is voted upon by Vermont’s Senate, then Vermont will become the first state ever to approve legislation that makes GMO labelling mandatory.

With such progress seen in the Green Mountain State, one would hope that this would be the necessary amount of encouragement to convince the congress of the 23 other states who are in the active process of trying to make GMO labelling mandatory in their respective states to come to a decisive decision. And, the approval of H.112 will trigger the mandatory labelling of GMOs in Connecticut and Maine that already passed respective bills on GMO labelling that both states decided to not put into effect until other states took similar measures.



Goodbye “Happy Hour” ?

Photo Credit: Image by Melanie Lehnen

Photo Credit: Image by Melanie Lehnen

WASHINGTON, DC- Who could ever imagine that those weekly beers with friends after work could intersect with agriculture? Well apparently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found a link, proposing a regulation that could ban the practice of “happy hour.”

Every time you as a consumer enjoy weekly drinks with friends, you are fueling the practice fondly referred to as “happy hour” in the agricultural industry. Whatever leftover grains breweries have, that is what they give to farmers all over the country. This practice that is more than a century old provides breweries and distillers with a way to dispose of leftover grain in a more cost-effective way instead of spending massive amounts to get rid of it; and, the cattle that benefit from these grains (wet grains specifically) are said to enjoy them. Yet, keeping the directive laid down by President Obama’s 2011 food safety reform law, the FDA proposes this regulation in order to increase the safety of animal feed and pet food. However, what seems as a good idea does not go unopposed in Congress.

13 U.S. senators led by Susan Cain (R-MA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are opposing the regulation, labeling it as a means to burden the breweries and distillers. Senators such as Cain and Cardin who oppose said ban come from states whose local economy is driven by breweries and distilleries. Amy monetary increase in the way that their state’s breweries and distilleries have to dispose of their leftover wet grain will have ramifications for their state’s economy, with the FDA’s ban looking to cause an increase of $43 million for breweries. But, these brewers will not be the only ones affected.

Well-known brands such as Anheuser-Busch would incur costs of $11 million to dispose of that waste and $1 million to train employees to test for such pathogens. Even from a non-monetary perspective, opposition comes as breweries argue that there is no reason for the FDA to introduce such a regulation as there is not precedent for it.


If Cocaine is Considered a Drug, then Why Not Sugar?

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Junk Kills. Campaign by University of Delaware Student Marta Shakhazizian Check them out on FaceBook!

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of the Junk Kills Campaign by University of Delaware Student Marta Shakhazizian Check them out on FaceBook!

CAYENNE, FRENCH GUIANA- Anyone who has ever drank soda or eaten any baked-good can identify with the feeling that comes before and after consuming something sweet. Beforehand, you feel as if you just “have” to have it. And once you have done so, there is that temporary feeling of fulfillment that is only offset by the fact that your body tells you, later on, that it wants more. So, what if those feelings can be attributed to more than mere cravings?

A 2013 study by the National Institute of Health explored the relationship between sugar and commonly known drugs such as cocaine and hyper-palatable foods (tasty food on crack). The aim of the study was to review the viability of sugar being a drug as more legislation develops in order to tax sugar or to overall ban it.

On a neurological level, the study found that consuming sugar mimics the reward’s process that is seen when cocaine is consumed; however, on a more natural level. The scientist who conducted the study cited choice experiments, which indicated that: when rats were given the choice to self-administer cocaine or sucrose, the rats developed “a strong and persistent preference for sucrose.” And moreover, the study cites other scientific works which provide evidence supporting the relationship between sugar withdrawal and heroin withdrawal.

A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Bordeaux concluded that the neurological rewards elicited when sugar is consumed can surpass those of cocaine. And, a 2013 Connecticut College study concluded that Oreos (a food high in sugar) can be compared to drugs of abuse in lab rats. It might seem simplistic to make large conclusions about sugar being a drug when tested in rats. However, there is a reason why scientist use rats.

Rats are often chosen in lab experiments due to their small size and short lifespan. But more importantly, they are chose due to their biological and behavioral similarities to human beings. When a rat is given a choice between cocaine and sucrose and they opt for sucrose that should raise red flags in the minds of many. The National Institute of Health study concludes that there is a relationship between brain activities when drugs are consumed in comparison to hyper-palatable foods. Nevertheless, they do say that much more research has to be done in order to back this conclusion on an empirical level.

At the end of the day, even if future results end up not supporting the belief that sugar is a drug, no one can deny the correlation between the foods in our global consumption economy that are often always sweet and the rise of Type II diabetes, obesity, and other tangent illnesses.


The Politics of the School Plate


Photo Credit: Courtesy of

Photo Credit: Courtesy of

WASHINGTON, DC- With skyrocketing rates of Type II diabetes and staggering increases in healthcare costs, one would think that all parties on the Hill would be unified regarding efforts to increase the fruit and vegetable intake of students. However, objections from Republican lawmakers and several organizations to such legislation point out that the health of the nation’s children is not as important as trying to limit the reach of the federal government.

In 2010, the U.S. Congress approved the Healthy , Hunger-Free Kids Act unanimously in the Senate; but, 153 Republicans opposed it. One of the most important aspects of the federal statute is that it hopes to increase the daily intake of fruits and vegetables by the nation’s school children. Since its official roll-out date of 2014, a recent Harvard University study shows that the act has increased school children’s fruit consumption by 23 percent and vegetable consumption by 16.2 percent. This indicates a 5.75% annual increase in fruit consumption; and, a 4.05% increase in vegetable consumption per year since 2010. Metrics such as these indicate that the legislation did the very thing it was approved to do: increase the fruit and vegetable intake of school children. So, why is there opposition?

Rightly so, Republican lawmakers and several organizations have every right to call into question the role of government with any form of legislation. It is such checks that make the American political system a democratic one; and, advocate for limits on the power of politicians and transparency. However with currently 25.8 million Americans suffering from Type II diabetes, 215,000 of that 25.8 million being individuals under 20 years of age; and, a health care system costing $147 billion dollars (as to date) making it the most expensive in the world, what could possibly be wrong with the federal government approving legislation that aims to protect the health of the American people?

The very reason youhave a government is to advocate for and to protect your rights. The Declaration states that all Americans have the right to “liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.” Regardless of one’s position in this world, when your health compromises your ability to live lifeas best as you can especially when your health issues are food induced, then the government is not doing their job. When you have politicians on the Hill advocating and approving legislation that subsidies the cheap and unsafe production of foods such as soy and corn; but, objects to legislation that calls for an increase in the fruit and vegetable intake of our nation’s kids, then that is unjust. And moreover, when politicians fight harder to curtail the reach of the government instead of putting that energy into restructuring a dysfunction and monetarily costly food system, how can one ever hope to pursue happiness?