Why do Afro-American infants have a higher likelihood of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (S.I.D.S)?
"All truth passes through 3 phases: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed, and Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860
Afro-American mothers have the highest percentage of low birth weight and premature infants in the USA when compared to all other ethnic groups. The likelihood of an Afro-American infant dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is three times greater than other ethnic groups. Why?
There have been previous considerations of a dysfunctional interaction between leptin, endocannabinoids and dopamine as the universal link underlying the riddle of SIDS by causing lower neurotransmitter activity and receptors in the infant brainstem and elsewhere in the developing infant Central Nervous System.
Leptin levels are low in low birth weight infants because leptin is synthesized in adipose tissue. Low birth weight infants have much less leptin than normal weight infants because low birth weight infants have a paucity of adipose tissue. Endocannabinoids are higher in low birth weight infants than normal weight infants since endocannabinoids levels are inversely related to leptin levels.
Overstimulation by endocannabinoids, exogenous phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids has been shown to be associated with multiple sites of neuronal receptor down regulation and/or receptor desensitization in the Central Nervous System.
The linking of low leptin levels in Afro-American low birth weight infants with excess endocannabinoids and these excess endocannabinoids effecting dopamine pathways in the Central Nervous System may help solve the riddle of why Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is more common in Afro-American infants.
Male infants, premature and low birth weight infants have a greater likelihood of dying from SIDS as well as infants who are borne to parents who have abused or continue to abuse tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, methadone, and heroin after the infant's birth. These abused substances are associated with pronounced dopaminergic neuronal activity in developing, actively remodeling infant, adolescent and adult brain reward/pleasure, appetite, arousal, and respiratory centers and systems. The number of neurons in the developing fetal and infant brain and peripheral nervous system expressing dopamine likely increases due to repetitive exposure to abused substances and other environmental factors associated with SIDS. The increased number dopaminergic neurons may arise de novo or result from a change in the type of neurotransmitter secreted by pre-existing neurons. As long ago as 1984, Canadian researchers (D.G. Perrin, M.D. Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto) discovered dopamine excess was found in two infants' carotid bodies who died of SIDS.
Connecting the dots between low levels of leptin in low birth weight Afro-American infants, endocannabinoid modulation of signaling pathways, and excess dopaminergic activity may help further elucidate the mystery of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
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L. Barksdale All rights reserved.