I know what you're thinking; if it's good enough for Kim Kardashian-West it's good enough for me, right? After Kardashian-West gave birth to son Saint in 2015, she reportedly had her placenta freeze-dried into pill form to combat possible iron deficiency. Well, a new study has found that eating placenta has no iron benefit.
According to Science Daily, research by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas found that eating the placenta in capsule form (which is a practice known as placentophagy) did not provide as much iron for postpartum diets as originally suggested. The research tracked 23 women over three weeks, with 10 women taking placenta capsules three times a day for four days after birth and the remaining 13 mothers taking a dummy pill containing dried beef for the same time. The authors of the study concluded:
The current study suggests that encapsulated placenta supplementation neither significantly improves, nor impairs, postpartum maternal iron status for women consuming the recommended daily allowance of dietary iron during pregnancy/lactation, compared to a beef placebo.
After three weeks, there was no difference in blood tests between the two groups of women. This is bad news for advocates of placentophagy, who have long noted that animals throughout history have eaten the placenta (or after birth). While the practice has been around for some time, in recent years it has gained new notoriety, thanks in no small part to celebrity endorsements like Kardashian-West.
Kardashian-West shared the story of her placentophagy on her website, explaining that while she wasn't exactly going to take her placenta and "fry it up like a steak", she was enjoying the extra energy she felt came from the pills:
I had great results and felt so energized and didn’t have any signs of depression. I definitely had to do it again. Every time I take a pill, I feel a surge of energy and feel really healthy and good. I totally recommend it for anyone considering it!
While taking placenta pills aren't going to harm new mothers, using them to combat iron deficiency is probably not wise, according to the study, which was first published online in The Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health. Laura Gryder, lead author of the research and a former UNLV medical anthropology graduate student, noted that the study's findings are of particular importance to women who are iron-deficient postpartum and considering relying solely on placenta pills for their iron intake. The study's authors also noted:
While there may indeed be other benefits for women who eat their placenta after birth, the common practice of consuming the placenta in capsule form in the first few weeks after delivery does not appear to significantly improve iron levels for new mothers.
So feel free to freeze dry your placenta, ladies, so long as you're eating spinach and taking iron supplements. If it's good enough for Kim K...