Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Here we are debunking yet another inaccurate Instagram post. Recent research suggests that the endogenous cannabinoids (“endocannabinoids”) and the cannabinoid (CB) receptors have a major influence during pre- and post-natal development. But you can find several posts throughout social media making inaccurate claims regarding the type of cannabinoids that have been found in breast milk. The following post found on Instagram claims the following...
"Study confirms Cannabinoids Occur Naturally in Human Breast Milk ...According to the findings of several major scientific studies, human breast milk naturally contains of the same cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, which are vital for proper human development."
While most informed scientists cringe at the inaccuracy of this post, with a simple Google search you can find several articles inaccurately claiming that human breast milk naturally contains the SAME cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
In order to debunk this widespread inaccuracy, it is important to explain the difference between phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids.
"Phyto" is a prefix meaning "of a plant" and is used in the formation of compound words. Thus, the term phytocannabinoid is used to describe cannabinoids derived from a plant.
"Endo" is a prefix from the Greek word endon (ἔνδον) meaning "within, inner, absorbing, or containing" and is often used in the formation of medical compound words referencing nomenclature defining compounds with origins from within a biological body. Thus, the term endocannabinoid is used to describe cannabinoids synthesized from within a biological body.
Because phytocannabinoids are NOT the same as endocannabinoids, we decided to recreate the Instagram post to reflect an accurate statement derived from current scientific research.
"According to scientific research, endocannabinoids are present in breast milk, 2-AG levels being much higher than those of anandamide, suggesting that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in human development."
For those unfamiliar with endocannabinoids, two of the most studied endocannabinoids are 2-AG and anandamide (anandamide being nicknamed "the bliss molecule"). Subsequently, two of the most studied phytocannabinoids are CBD and delta-9 THC.
While anandamide structurally resembles delta-9 THC, they are two completely different molecules, having different effects on the body. Additionally, CBD does not resemble any endocannabinoid found in the human body. In fact, it doesn't even bind directly to the cannabinoid (CB) receptors. Instead, CBD changes the shape of the receptors, increasing the binding affinity of endogenous molecules found inside our bodies.
Anandamide acts as a chemical messenger between the embryo and uterus during implantation in the uterine wall. Therefore, anandamide is one of the first communications that occurs between mother and child. Due to the structural similarity between delta-9 THC and anandamide, scientists have raised the possibility that delta-9 THC may interfere with signaling between the uterus and the embryo. Experiments involving mouse embryos exposed to THC-like compounds have shown them to have a significantly lower survival rate than normal, as well as exhibit a number of abnormalities. Thus, consumption of cannabis during pregnancy is strongly advised against.
In women accordingly, an association has been reported between fatty acid amide hydrolase (the enzyme that breaks down anandamide) in human lymphocytes and the occurrence of miscarriages. It is important to note that a reported association is not sufficient evidence to make any scientific conclusions. Additionally activation of CB1 receptors appears to be critical for milk sucking by newborn mice, apparently activating oral–motor musculature. This animal study observation has not yet been conducted in humans to see if the correlation translates from animals to humans.
While the medical implications of these novel observations suggest a promising future for cannabinoids in medicine for a variety of conditions, it is important that misinformation does not become misperceived as common knowledge.
Have a Cannabis post you'd like for us to debunk? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!