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June 15 (foodconsumer.org) - Women who consume dairy products are five times as likely to produce twins, according to research conducted by Gary Steinman, M.D. of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.
Steinman's study, which was published the May edition of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, not only tracked the eating habits of dairy-consuming pregnant women, but also vegan (no consumption of animal products) women as well.
Steinman believes this link between dairy and twins could be due to synthetic growth hormones found in dairy products, namely milk. The hormone is called insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which is secreted from an animal's liver. IGF travels from the animal's liver into its blood stream, and thus can be present in dairy products.
When the IGF makes its way into the female consuming the dairy product, it is known to increase ovary sensitivity. This increase of sensitivity can lead to an increased rate of ovulation, producing more released eggs by the woman.
Other research has pointed to the fact that IGF may help embryos survive in the early developmental stage of pregnancy.
The study found that vegan women had 13 percent less IGF in their blood than dairy-consuming women.
Since 1975, the rate of mothers having twins has steadily increased. Many researchers believe the increase occurred because of the prevalence of assisted reproduction technology.
"The continuing increase in the twinning rate into the 1990s, however, may also be a consequence of the introduction of growth-hormone treatment of cows to enhance their milk and beef production," Steinman said, according to Medical News Today.
Prior to Steinman's study, it was believed that older mothers had an increased likelihood of producing twins. However, Steinman's work is the first of its kind to link a mother's diet with the chance of producing twins.
In addition, before Steinman's study, black women were found to have the highest rates of producing twins. Steinman believes this increased rate among black women is due to their overall higher levels of IGF.
Additionally, Steinman believes Asian women have the lowest IGF rates and thus the lowest incidence of producing twins.
"Because multiple gestations are more prone to complications such as premature delivery, congenital defects and pregnancy-induced hypertension in the mother than singleton pregnancies, the findings of this study suggest that women contemplating pregnancy might consider substituting meat and dairy products with other protein sources, especially in countries that allow growth hormone administration to cattle," Steinman said, according to Reuters.
Steinman pointed to the unusual increase in twins in the United States between 1992 and 2001. Steinman states that the rate of twins increased by 32 percent. However, in European countries like Great Britain, the twin rate only increased 16 percent during that time period.
One possible explanation for the increase in the United States is the adding of bovine recombinant growth hormone (rBST) to dairy products. This hormone is banned in both Europe and Canada.
"This study shows for the first time that the chance of having twins is affected by both heredity and environment, or in other words, by both nature and nurture," Steinman said, according to Medical News Today.
Previous studies conducted by Steinman have found that women who are breast-feeding at the time of conception have a higher rate of producing twins.
Other studies conducted by Steinman point to the increase of producing twins when the pregnant mother used in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Steinman believes that increased rates of twins can be dangerous, since the female body is constructed to produce one single child at a time. There is much added stress and health concern when multiple babies are born.
Thus, Steinman recommends to females to consume soy or organic milk, which does not have IGF.
Steinman even pointed to the fact that during periods of history when malnutrition was the on the rise, the rates of producing twins was on the fall.
"During periods of malnutrition � for instance during the second world war � the twinning rate decreased, perhaps because of a fall in maternal concentrations of the insulin-like growth factor," Steinman said, according to Earthtimes.org.
The latest statistics show that in 2003 the United States had three sets of twins for every 100 births (3 percent).
In addition to working for the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Steinman also works for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
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