According to a study carried out by a team from the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the National University of Córdoba and the Conicet, the consumption of yerba mate during the lactation period “is beneficial for health”, since it provides nutrients, has antioxidant effects and neuroprotective benefits. In this line, based on the new evidence, it is possible to question some of the most common myths that question drinking the most emblematic infusion of Argentina while breastfeeding. The research, carried out by specialists in nutrition, medicine and biology, was published in the Medical Journal of the Mexican Institute of Social Security.
“We have been researching breastfeeding and women’s nutrition for nine years. One of the things that most caught our attention when interviewing them is that, during the postpartum period, they suspended food consumption based on false beliefs. They stopped drinking mate because it gave them colic, they didn’t eat onions or broccoli because they thought it changed the flavor of the milk,” says Valentina Cortez, nutritionist and doctor of Health Sciences from the UNC and postdoctoral doctor from Conicet. And she continues: “To top it off, mate is a drink that invites socialization, that reinforces the bond. Women who, in general, were on leave and did not share it because, when in doubt, they preferred not to take. We verified that not only is it not bad, but it is good to drink mate”.
The group, which carried out the study from the Health Sciences Research Institute (Inicsa), evaluated what was happening with 279 adult lactating women between 2013 and 2020 during the first six months after delivery. During the process, they themselves took their milk samples (10 milliliters), placed them in a sterilizing bottle and transported it to the laboratory. As a complement, an analysis of the frequency of food consumption was carried out that examined both the intake of mate and the rest.
The team of experts examined the biochemical characteristics of milk through the analysis of biomarkers: nutrients, oxidants, enzymes and interleukin –which indicates inflammation–, among others. As a result, a total of 18 polyphenols (compounds that come from vegetables) present in the yerba infusions were characterized and the good news is that they all have beneficial aspects. The most prominent: hydroxycinnamic acids and flavonoids (vegetable pigments), which act as antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories respectively. This data is especially relevant to highlight since oxidizing agents are capable of damaging the mammary gland, milk compounds and causing oxidative stress in the newborn.
The group from the National University of Córdoba and Conicet concluded that an average consumption of mate during this period provides 382 mg/day of polyphenols. A figure that would be enough to promote positive effects on women’s health, without the need to ingest any other food or drink that has them or that performs a similar function.
“Contrary to what was believed, mate provides many benefits, linked to plant-based compounds with antioxidant benefits,” describes Cortez. Antioxidants are commonly incorporated into the body through fruits and vegetables, as well as in yerba mate. “Its consumption is key for two reasons. On the one hand, it is essential for the person’s own health because, in the lactation stage, they are in a state of oxidative stress due to childbirth, cesarean section, recovering the body. On the other hand, to provide these compounds to the newborn, through their milk”, expresses the scientist.
According to the specialist, it should not be underestimated that the baby will also have all the nutrients that its mother consumes. In fact, it will be a factor to consider more carefully in the event that the newborn is premature, to the extent that they are the ones that “suffer the most from oxidative stress”, which explains various diseases such as intestinal necrosis.
In addition, neuroprotective
“Except for those cases in which people experience acidity or other negative effects and must suspend it, there is no reason to ban mate. It has clear neuroprotective effects, by improving the neuronal connection of lactating women”, says Cortez. They have observed how the woman’s brain is restructured around the function of caring for the newborn. Pure biology: the state of alertness, the detachment in relation to other previously important links and the insomnia caused by the instinct to protect the young.
However, the contribution made serves as a clue to demystify the harmful effects of drinking mate (either cooked or primed) during lactation. On the contrary, from the perspective of the study, it contributes unique benefits that prevent oxidative processes. Finally, an additional advantage: this infusion, for the domestic culture, implies the possibility of socializing in times when many women face pressure from the family and work spheres. Drinking mate is good for you. So says science.