Young celeb mothers are fuelling a pop-health phenomenon where women are being encouraged to eat their own placentas after childbirth.

On many esoteric and alternative medical websites, you even find cooking recipes for the preparation of the allegedly healthy placenta.

This tissue rejected after birth is currently stylised as a "superfood" in a mixture of mythological and pseudo-medical arguments.

Due to its high levels of nutrients and hormones, it is said to improve the milk production of breastfeeding mothers, to have a preventive effect against puerperal depression and to bring new energy and a faster recovery after pregnancy.

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The only thing is; none of these alleged effects are scientifically proven - and physicians are increasingly expressing concerns about it.

"Medically speaking, the placenta is a waste product," said Austria-based gynaecologist Alex Farr, who recently published research on the oddity.

"Most mammals eat the placenta after birth, but we can only guess why they do so. After the placenta is genetically part of the newborn, eating the placenta borders on cannibalism."

Farr also sees no evidence of medical benefits.

On the contrary, the presumed nutrients such as iron, selenium and zinc are not present in sufficient concentrations in the placenta.

And above all, the consumption, which usually takes place in the form of processed capsules or globules, also carries a risk of infection.

Another piece of the Easter Island puzzle solved

We've long been eager to understand just how and when Easter Island became inhabited. Photo / 123RF
We've long been eager to understand just how and when Easter Island became inhabited. Photo / 123RF

Scientists have just shed a little more light on the lingering mystery of Easter Island, famous for its remoteness and intriguing ancient carved statues.

We've long been eager to understand just how and when the island became inhabited.

Now new research has ruled out the likelihood that its residents intermixed with South Americans prior to the arrival of Europeans on the island in 1722.

The international team of researchers analysed bone fragments from the ancient skeletal remains of five individuals that were excavated in the 1980s, finding that three lived before European contact, and two lived after.

"We found no evidence of gene flow between the inhabitants of Easter Island and South America," said study leader Lars Fehren-Schmitz, an associate professor at the University of California.

"We were really surprised we didn't find anything.

"There's a lot of evidence that seems plausible, so we were convinced we would find direct evidence of pre-European contact with South America, but it wasn't there."

The mystery continues.

Turbo-charge for your brain?

Scientists have found a promising new technique that might enhance brain function. Photo / 123RF
Scientists have found a promising new technique that might enhance brain function. Photo / 123RF

Hollywood movies like 2011's Limitless have suggested we can unlock 90 per cent of our brains to become instant geniuses: a baseless myth that should remain confined to science fiction.

But that's not to say we can't enhance normal brain function.

Two brain regions - the medial frontal and lateral prefrontal cortices - control most executive function.

In a new study, researchers used a new technique called high-definition transcranial alternating current stimulation (HD-tACS) to synchronise oscillations between them, improving brain processing, and found de-synchronising did the opposite.

"These are maybe the two most fundamental brain areas involved with executive function and self-control," said Robert Reinhart, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University.

Reinhart and his colleagues used HD-tACS to stimulate these two regions with electrodes placed on a participant's scalp.

Improving the synchronisation of brain waves, or oscillations, between the regions enhanced their communication with each other, allowing participants to perform better on laboratory tasks related to learning and self-control.

Conversely, de-synchronising or disrupting the timing of the brain waves between them impaired participants' ability to learn and control their behaviour, an effect that Reinhart could quickly fix by changing how he delivered the electrical stimulation.

The researchers say their findings might someday lead to tools that can enhance normal brain function, and possibly help treat disorders from anxiety to autism.