Hilary Duff drinks ‘delightful’ placenta smoothies, but should she?

One of the most “delightful” smoothies Hilary Duff ever had was made with her own placenta.

The actress recently opened up to Informed Pregnancy podcast host Dr. Elliot Berlin about her new smoothie recipe, People magazine reported. But the 31-year-old mom-of-two said she was hesitant to eat placenta at first.

“It was the most delightful smoothie I’ve ever had,” she told Berlin. “I haven’t had a smoothie that delightful since I was 10. It was calorie-filled with juice and fruit and everything delicious.” Duff claimed she felt “great” since drinking her own placenta.

The singer had read theories that consuming placenta could prevent post-partum depression, as well as stop post-birth bleeding. After drinking it the first time, Duff started freezing leftovers into cubes and adding them to smoothies on the go.

By the time the podcast was published, Duff had already consumed three placenta-filled smoothies.

“I did research and none of it’s, like, totally proven, but I don’t know — I’ve already gone down this road of doing all this different stuff,” Duff explained. “I’m like, I might as well.”

Are there actual benefits?

Duff isn’t the only celebrity to join placenta-eating bandwagon — stars like January Jones, Gabby Hoffman, Alicia Silverston and some of the Kardashian sisters have all talked about the so-called benefits of placenta consumption.

But there is very little evidence to suggest eating placenta (or placentophagy) is actually benefiting new moms. Although previous studies from decades ago indicated mothers who ate placenta had better milk flow, other studies have said quite the opposite.

One study in the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition added there was no reason to eat your own placenta and it could even be harmful.

“Placentophagia, particularly if the afterbirth materials are raw, may have negative biological effects for some humans. Therefore subjecting participants to placentophagia may incur harm and yield few meaningful data.”

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Placenta-eaters have argued other mammals eat their own placenta, so humans should, too. But obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter, who wrote an op-ed on the topic in the New York Times, said this statement simply wasn’t true.

“It’s true that many mammals eat their placenta. But there are a lot of differences between us and other mammals: Other mammals often have litters,” she wrote. “Or differently shaped uteri with less invasive placentas. They also mostly have estrus — not menstrual — cycles, meaning they typically only have sex when in heat.”

She continued, “most mammals have entirely different reproductive physiology. Not to mention entirely different behaviours.”

Others, like Wisconsin-based gynecologist Dr. Sara Swift, said the benefits people like Duff claim happen, are nothing but placebo effects. 

“There is no proven scientific evidence that placentophagy is beneficial — no increase in breast milk production, as it can actually have the opposite effect, and no benefit in mood, etc. — all the benefits are thought to be placebo effects,” she told People magazine.

So why do people do it anyway?

And whether it’s in a smoothie, raw, in pill form or even as a meat substitute, some women still swear by eating placenta.

In 2015, placenta capsule business owner Tatiana Plechenko told Global News placentophagy fixed her low energy levels and mood swings post-birth. The former doula runs Ottawa Placenta, a service that turns placenta into capsules for consumption.

“Placenta capsules are a potent supplement that supports postpartum healing,” her site noted. “Expect 70 to 200 capsules depending on the size of your placenta. Capsules should be taken with a glass of juice and a meal to help the powder settle and reconstitute in your stomach. Capsules should be stored in the fridge, and can keep indefinitely.”

In 2017, after a baby in Oregon contracted group B Streptococcus agalactiae after his mother consumed placenta capsules with the infection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a statement warning new moms to avoid eating their placenta and taking capsules.

“No standards exist for processing placenta for consumption … Placenta ingestion has recently been promoted to postpartum women for its physical and psychological benefits, although scientific evidence to support this is lacking,” the statement said.

“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided.”

— with files from Tania Kohut, Carmen Chai

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