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Are the Hormones in Milk Bad for My Health? — an article on the Smart Living Network
December 2, 2012 at 10:17 AMComments: 8 Faves: 1

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">American Cancer Society.

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  • Great Blog Jessica, everyone, and I mean everyone should know and understand this if they are milk drinkers and our family is! Milk and water is all we offer the kids and their friends :-)

  • almond milk ftw!

  • Broken. 'Innocent until proven guilty' does not work in matters of public safety. Shouldn't the burden of proof of safety be placed on the {insert favorite profiteering 'agricultural' business here} dairy industry, then verified by independents, then reviewed and approved for use in the community food supply? Or, we can just pay a king's ransom for dairy marked as organic non-rBGH. Shouldn't it all be that way anyway?

  • Thank-you for your feedback, Victoria. And good for you in sticking with water and nutrient-rich milk rather than sugary beverages - your children's bones and teeth (and waistlines) will thank you later!

  • thanks for the insight - I've never thought about it before but the next time I go to the store I'm going to buy some Almond Milk (I heard it's really good).

  • What alarms me the most is hearing how those who choose to go rBGH-free are the ones being punished. I often buy dairy products that are rBGH-free but contain additional labeling stating "FDA states: No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones." From what I can gather from a quick bit of research, this stems from legal intimidation from the producer of such artificial hormones toward Dairies that wanted to include such labeling. On the one hand, it's great to see the use of such products dwindling, but it's also very sad how flawed our legal system is to have such ridiculous bullying tactics be used.

  • Almond milk is delicious (and my hubby's favorite!), though it is essentially fortified flavored water... so, Nancy, if you are in need of the protein, be sure to opt for soy milk or organic dairy instead.

  • Dave, I hear your frustration. Money does buy power...

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