Following the Web from “organic foods” to “hyperbilirubinemia”

What does it tell you about eating “conventionally grown” foods if your own health insurance plan includes in its newsletter a short article about eating “organic”?

Harvard Pilgrim’s Winter 2009 mini-magazine includes a brief feature titled “Eating Organic on a Budget.” (see page 11)

Now, if you read the “fine” print (the paragraph titled “A Guided Tour of the Supermarket”), this feature seems to be just somewhat of an ad for one of the Harvard Pilgrim programs called “Supermarket Shopping” which

includes an aisle-by-aisle supermarket tour, led by a registered dietitian, that teaches you how to make informed decisions about the food you buy for yourself and your family.

Too bad they do it only on Cape Cod! I’m quite a long way from the Cape.

But the article also includes “Tips to avoid pesticides” and provides a link to a pdf of the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” released by the Environmental Working Group. I especially like the page titled “Reducing Exposure is Smart” on the EWG site, which has a section “Tiny Doses Can Be Toxic to Children” and a list of references at the end.

I took a peek at Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children and what really got me interested was a quote that’s actually not related to pesticides or organic food at all.

Chapter 2, “Special Characteristics of Children” says

Because of the dependence of behavioral development on physical and functional development, toxic effects occurring before maturation may permanently alter behavioral development. The most commonly encountered and well-known toxicants that can permanently change all four of the components of behavioral development are bilirubin toxicity in the newborn and lead toxicity in the infant or young child. All four aspects of behavioral development are important in studies of developmental toxicology, but much more attention has been given to the first two because they are easier to measure.

The four aspects of behavioral development that they’re writing about are:

(a) gross motor and fine motor activities; (b) cognitive ability; (c) emotional development; and (d) social development.

And apparently:

Alteration in one of these domains can affect the development of each of the other three.

Interestingly, both of my children had neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, which was caused by our blood type incompatibility.

My son’s hyperbilirubinemia was severe enough that he had to get phototherapy. (if I remember right, when he was two days old his levels were at 17 or 18 mg per dL).

My daughter also had hyperbilirubinemia but didn’t receive phototherapy because supposedly her levels were never high enough to warrant that. I do not remember what they were and I do not have these records at home, and now I wonder, because her jaundice hung around for much longer. In fact, she is quite yellow in the pictures from the first days of her life.

Now, I knew that one of the effects of hyperbilirubinemia might be “mild mental retardation.” But if I understand the paragraph I cited correctly, hyperbilirubinemia might also influence the other aspects of “behavioral development” such as gross motor and fine motor activities; emotional development; and social development.

I wonder if anyone has done studies what percentage of people with autism and ADHD had neonatal hyperbilirubinemia as compared to “control group.”

Another thing to add to my “things to research” list…

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