Are the Hormones in Milk Bad for My Health?
Dairy farmers have been injecting cows with artificial growth hormones since the early 1990’s - a practice used to boost animal growth and milk production, thereby boosting monetary profits as well. But, is it safe? And what exactly is it doing to the health of both humans and animals?
What Is It?
The most common artificial growth hormone used is recombinant bovine growth hormone, often referred to as rBGH; the artificial version is modeled after the natural hormone BGH. Both work by stimulating another hormone, insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1, which, in turn, stimulates milk production. The increase in hormones is certainly working, as cows are producing more than ever.
How Does It Impact Health?
The cows suffer the most, as they are the ones directly impacted by the artificial additives. Often times, the artificially-induced milk production results in mastitis (utter infections), foot problems, and injection-site infections, all of which create the need for more antibiotics and cows, who become increasingly sick and in pain.
When it comes to our own health, thankfully, rBGH are inactive after being ingested, due to the process of digestion. According to the American Cancer Society, hormone levels are not significantly higher in milk produced by rBGH treated cows. However, what I was surprised to find is that, although rBGH may not bring cause for concern in humans, the resulting increase in IGF-1 may. IGF-1 can actually increase cell production, serving as a potential tumor stimulant – this is the aspect that causes me to stick with organic dairy whenever possible.
The artificial hormones commonly being used in dairy farming in the U.S. have already been banned in Canada and the European Union (a decade ago!), and the American Nurses Association has even taken a stand against the practice. Anytime something is able to warrant a legal exclusion, I begin to wonder about its safety.
How Can I Avoid It?
If you decide that you would like to exclude artificial hormones from your diet, you're in luck, as it is becoming easier to do than ever, especially when it comes to milk and yogurt. All it takes is to seek out dairy products that are certified USDA Organic or labeled as being rBGH-free. You can also get to know your local farmer and ask them, as smaller farms tend to follow more historic practices, which are largely free of artificial additions.
Visit Sustainable Table to find an artificial-hormone-free dairy near you.
To learn more, please visit the http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/recombinant-bovine-growth-hormone">American Cancer Society.