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Hormones in Your Food --Health Dangers
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November 3, 2011, last updated June 16, 2013
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Dairy cows producing gallons more milk than normal, beef cows
growing to super-sizes, salmon that reach their target weight in
extra-fast time.  

What do these super-sized animals have in common? Hormones.

Today, many animals aren’t left alone to grow up naturally –animals
are injected, given implants or are genetically engineered to possess
artificially high amounts of growth and sex hormones in order to
meet the demands of the food market and a growing population. The
consequences to our health of eating these hormone-injected foods
is unclear. But a growing body of research is starting to raise alarms.

Hormones are chemicals we produce naturally in our bodies. Animals
produce them too. Hormones control important bodily processes and
their action is sensitive to changes in our bodies and in the
environment around us. Messing with hormones in our diet sounds
like it could be dangerous. It’s well known that certain foods alter
your hormones over time. For example, soy increases the levels of
estrogen in your body, according to several studies including a 2000
report from Monash University, Clayton, Australia and a 2011 study
from Beth Israel Medical Deaconess Center, Harvard Medical School.
This extra estrogen in turn can raise your risk for developing breast
cancer and prostate cancers.

What other foods are injected with hormones? What other items in
your fridge are stealthily changing your hormones? Is meat changing
your hormones without you knowing it?

Which foods are enhanced with hormones?

Farmers give hormones to cows and sheep to make them grow faster
and to produce more milk. Hormonally enhanced fish are also on the
menu. Hormones aren’t administered to chickens, turkeys or pigs
because the hormones don’t have the same growth effects on these
animals. Concern about hormones added to our food is increasing
and many people are worried about the effect of these hormones on
our health. Is it safe to eat beef from a cow injected with growth
hormones? What about milk – is milk from cows given hormone
implants safe to drink?

The Food and Drug Administration said in 1993 that injecting dairy
cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a synthetic
cow hormone that spurs milk production, is safe. The manufacturer
of the hormone estimates that up to 30 percent of dairy cows in the
United States are now treated with recombinant bovine growth

What about those super-sized salmon? Genetically engineered salmon
are altered to produce growth hormone all year round, rather than
only in the spring and summer. An 11-member panel of the Food and
Drug Administration failed to reach a conclusion in 2010 on whether
genetic modification of salmon is safe for consumers or the fish. The
panel said there was insufficient data to make a decision. In 2011,
the Food and Drug Administration approved the salmon amid intense

These stamps of approval don’t reduce the fears of campaigners who
say hormones added to our food contribute to early puberty in our
girls, and to cancer and other health problems. Surprisingly, for such
a controversial issue that could potentially affect the health of
millions of people around the world, there has been little research to
tell us if hormones in our food are bad for our health. This is partly
because it is very difficult to separate out the effects of the added
hormones from the natural actions of the hormones we already have
surging round our bodies.

Is growth hormone in meat and milk bad for our health?

Recombinant bovine growth hormone on its own has no discernible
effect on human health or the action of hormones in the human
body. But before you sign up to the “cheap food, genetically
modified” lobby, consider that manipulating growth hormones in
cows and salmon may have knock-on effects and can actually
increase the production of another hormone - insulin-like growth
factor (IGF) – in our bodies. It’s not because insulin-like growth
factor is present in large amounts in hormone-treated milk and meat
(the levels are negligible); the important thing is the hormones
somehow encourage our bodies to produce more insulin-like growth
factor on their own.

Added hormones appears to increase your risk for breast and
prostate cancers. Insulin-like growth factor is thought to mimic the
effect of human growth hormone in a dangerous manner and may
contribute to an increased risk of cancers like breast cancer and
prostate cancer. Research in 2007 from the Institute for Molecular
Bioscience at The University of Queensland, Australia suggests that
growth hormone could be responsible for promoting breast and
prostate cancer and that blocking growth hormone action can reduce
both the size and number of tumors.  

A 2004 study from Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester, UK
found, through a meta-regression analysis of case-control studies,
that high concentrations of IGF-I were associated with an increased
risk of prostate cancer  and premenopausal breast cancer.

A 2005 study from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
found deficiencies of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor
may reduce the risk of cancer and kidney disease later in life. The
study looked at rats and found none of the male animals that were
growth hormone deficient developed kidney disease.

A 2011 study from Harvard School of Public Health, Boston reports
that insulin-like growth factor is positively associated with low-grade
prostate cancer and a 2010 report from the Endogenous Hormones
and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group, UK reported that circulating
IGF1 is positively associated with breast-cancer risk and that the risk
does not depend on menopausal status. Lifetime exposure to
estrogen, a hormone often given to beef cattle, has also been linked
with an increased risk of breast cancer.

While there are a large number of other factors that also contribute
to these deadly cancers, there is a high probability that at least part
of the risk is associated with raised levels of insulin-like growth factor.

Do sex hormones in cows cause early puberty?

Insulin-like growth factor isn’t the only hormone in play. Beef cows
have long been fattened up with sex hormones, particularly estrogen,
via an implant in their ear. Experts think that sex hormones in meat
and dairy may contribute to early puberty in children.

Today girls get their first period, on average, a few months earlier
than girls 40 years ago,
but they get their breasts 1 to 2 years
earlier, according the Breast Cancer Fund

The levels of estrogen in beef are tiny compared to the levels in our
bodies – less than a billionth of a gram of estrogen in a 3-ounce
serving of beef, which is 400,000 times lower than the amount that
occurs naturally in women and 100,000 times lower than that
occurring in men. But could even miniscule amounts of estrogen
affect the body of a pre-pubescent girl who doesn’t make any
hormones herself?

A 2009 study from the Research Institute of Child Nutrition, Germany
found children who ate the most protein from animal sources, such
as milk, cheese and meat, entered puberty on average seven months
earlier than children who consumed the least.

In Puerto Rico, officials alarmed at the seeming early pubescence of
girls carried out studies on the hormonal content of poultry sold on
the island. However, a 1985 study by the United States Department
of Agriculture found no abnormal levels of any hormones in 200
tested samples of chicken and beef tested.

A 2010 study from John Hopkins University, Baltimore confirmed that
the insulin-like growth factor hormone has a key role in coordinating
the start of puberty and that it helps puberty start at a time that
coincides with body development. However, early puberty today
could also be blamed on the wide availability of meat and milk which
are rich in protein, nutrients and calories and that stimulate the
growing body to produce estrogen.

Are hormones in our food dangerous?

No one is really sure whether sex hormones in meat or growth
hormones in milk, meat and fish are dangerous for humans or

It’s not easy to tell if hormones in significant levels remain in the milk
or meat of animals and scientists are attempting to develop more
successful methods to measure hormone residues left in meat from
hormone-enhanced animals.

Farmers have only been using "recombinant bovine growth
hormone" since the mid 1990s and, as breast and other cancers take
a long time to develop, it is difficult to track a link.

Because of this uncertainty, the European Union has banned all
hormones in beef. Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have
banned rBGH.

The only way to conclusively report whether hormone-treated meat
and milk is safe to eat is to carry out a long-term, large-scale study
comparing people eating hormone-treated foods with people eating
the same foods that are not hormone-treated. Even then, so many
other factors would come into play that it would be difficult to say
without a doubt whether hormones in food caused cancer, health
conditions or early puberty.

What should you do? Organic meat and milk is not treated with rBGH
or sex hormones but it is considerably more expensive. Many experts
suggest cutting back on meat and dairy in general, rather than
switching to organic meat and milk.

If you eat only one or two servings of red meat a week, experts say,
it won’t make much of a difference if your meat is organic or not
because the effects of any hormones on your body are so small. A
healthy diet that may outweigh the risks of cancer-causing hormones
includes a small amount of meat along with vegetables, fruit and
whole grains.

Related:   Toxins and Disease -The Body Burden of Chemicals

       Diet Sodas -Bad for Your Health?

       Swollen Ankles -Causes and Cures

       Massage Lowers Your Blood Pressure!-New Study

      Unclog Your Arteries --Top 10 Natural Remedies

      Fainting or Blacking Out-Causes
      and Top 10 Natural Cures

      Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics

      Foods That Lower Your Cholesterol

      Blood Pressure --What It Means

      Ideal Weight for Women

      Normal Waist Size for Men and Women


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