There’s been a lot of talk about the hormones that are given to animals and the genetically engineered foods that are reaching the market. This brings a concern to people who are trying to eat healthy. One of the principles of eating organic or consuming products from free range chickens or grass fed beef is that the animals are eating more naturally. After all, people are consuming what the animal eats and along those lines, being affected by the hormones they’re given. Should you worry about hormones in food? It’s time to take a look.
Are recombinant bovine growth hormones—rBGH—safe?
This hormone helps to increase the milk production. That’s a good thing. The more milk, the lower the price should be. There is no danger of this hormone in humans and it has no effect. What it does do, however, is increase a second hormone, insulin-like growth factor—IGF. That hormone mimics the effects of human growth hormone and is linked to an increase in risk factors for prostate, breast and other forms of cancer. Milk from cows given rBGH have ten times more IGF than milk from cows not treated with it. However, the amount is still minimal compared to what your body makes daily.
The rBGH has another effect on the cows that receive it.
Studies show that cows that receive rBGH have more mastitis—udder infections—than cows that don’t receive it. That means more antibiotics must be used to clear those infections. Whether or not the increase use of antibiotics increases the amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria that could ultimately affect humans.
Cattle is often given estrogen to fatten them for market.
This hormone is given to most beef in the US, unless the meat specifically is labeled organic. The cow receives an implant that provides a combination of hormones with the primary one estrogen. While the amount in the meat is minor compared to the amount of the hormone in the adult male and female body, it may affect children differently and be responsible for the earlier onset of puberty by an average of about seven months.
- One study showed that foods with IGF-1 can increase the risk for several diseases, including diabetes.
- The demand for milk from cows given rBGH is lower, so there’s now being used far less. According to a study in 2007 only one in cows received it.
- A review in the Medical Hypotheses in 2009 stated that drinking the milk from cows treated with rBGH might later adversely affect the health of the infact when he or she reached adult years.
- There is no firm conclusion on whether or not rBGH can actually harm you. I have always found it best to error on the side of safety.