Are there hormones in milk? Wading through all the fearorism out there about this topic, this article hopes to share the truth and a bit of good ol’ common sense.
Milk has hormones in it… but
Milk is produced by mammals and is a biological product. It’s only natural that milk would have hormones in it.
For some reason, there are people easily grossed out by biology. Perhaps it’s our growing disconnection with reality and our voyeur into augmented realities (aka virtual reality, Facebook, internet, social networks, videogames, ect.) Biology is not gross, it’s natural.
It is easy to view milk simply as milk, but milk is full of bio-active compounds that our body can use for healthy growth and development. Milk provides the building blocks for growth and basic components our bodies need for proper health, it also feeds and nurtures the healthy bacteria in our gut. Everything in it has some value to our bodies.
You won’t elevate your hormones unnaturally from milk
If milk has elevated hormone levels like some people claim, why are athletes who refuel with milk not testing positive for elevated hormone levels. The reason is because milk will not boost your hormones to unnatural levels. You will not get a steroidal effect from milk.
The reason why your body won’t be affected by the natural hormones in milk is because your body will break them down before they can impact your body. (Source)
To get a steroidal effect from hormones you have to inject them. The problem when taking hormones orally is that your body’s digestive system will break them down. Hormones that are eaten will not survive your body’s stomach acids and digestive system. They will be broken down into different components and your body’s liver will further filter and break down any excessive incoming hormones. This is why taking hormones orally doesn’t work well.
If you swallow hormones, only 10-15 percent will eventually reach the target tissues and you will need to take an oral dose that is 500 percent higher than you need. (Source)
Using food to boost your natural hormone levels is also complicated because they often aren’t high enough in concentration to have any effect and are broken down by your digestive system.
Even supplements that may have a positive effect to your body’s hormones are very marginal at making a significant contribution to you bodies hormone levels because they are all passing through your digestive system. Pine pollen is a supposed natural food that can boost testosterone, but people have found that without making it bioavailable through the use of a tincture (an alcohol extraction) so it can be absorbed into your bloodstream, there is very little effect. Eating Pine pollen (a high source of natural testosterone) will not give you the hormonal boosting effect.
If a natural food like pine pollen can’t affect your body effectively when eaten, how can milk, a low source of natural hormones have any effect your body?
Hormones are not Bad
One thing people forget is that hormones are a necessary part of our physiology and without them our bodies cannot function properly. If hormones were bad, you’d have to remove several organs in your body because they are producing hormones like miniature out of control factories.
But hormone production in your body is actually more controlled than you would think. Your body has the ability to turn production on and off and even filter out excessive amounts of hormones. Your body has the ability to bring your hormone levels into balance.
The liver plays a huge role in how your body regulates hormone production and can act as a manufacturer and regulator. Hormone imbalances happen when the body is overloaded with unusually high amounts of hormones that the liver cannot process. (Source)
There’s not much estrogen in Milk
So when you’re drinking milk are you overloading your body with unnaturally high amount of hormones? Many people assume you are because milk is produced by mammals that also produce hormones. What is forgotten is that all food have hormones. Foods are Biological
The main hormone people are concerned with is Estrogen, but when you compare the amount of estrogen in milk to the amount of estrogen in other food, you realize that milk is hardly a food to be concerned with when it comes to eating excessive amount of hormones.
Milk has less estrogen than many other foods
Please don’t force your boys to eat tofu and soymilk
The amount of estrogen in milk is negligible when compared to other foods- Cabbage has 1000x more estrogen than a glass of milk
Many women worry about hormones in milk, but take birth control pills – look at the different contribution level
Milk has insignificant levels of Growth Hormone IGF-1
But are there high concentrations of other hormones in milk? When talking about growth hormones, most people are talking about IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1, a protein). IGF-1 is typically produced and regulated naturally by your liver and is responsible for muscle and bone growth.
Your body produces quite a bit IGF-1. A typical person will produce about 10,000,000ng of IGF-1/day. (Source) Your digestive system of your body has some of the highest concentrations being present in saliva (6.8ng/ml), gastric juices (26ng/ml), pancreatic juices (27ng/ml), jujunal chime (180ng/ml), and bile (6.8ng/ml). Your digestive system will produce 383,000ng/day. (Source)
Production of IGF-1 will vary throughout your life being lowest in a baby under 2 years and then steadily increasing and peaking in teenagers and then dropping off as people get older. The reduction in IGF-1 as we age leads to frailty (Source). In fact, IGF-1 has numerous health benefits and is beneficial for your health, promotes longevity, anti-aging, increase antioxidants, decrease inflammation and autoimmunity, improves memory, anti-anxiety, promotes muscle growth, improves blood sugar balance, prevent heart disease, help bone density, improves gut health, boosts the immune system, clears bacterial infections, prevents your skin (Source). Sounds wondrous, but the point is that your body needs it for good and proper health.
Unfortunately your body will not get a boost directly of IGF-1 by drinking it. It has been shown that IGF-1 is broken down to its original components by stomach acids and proteolysis and cannot be absorbed through the stomach and intestinal walls. Even if it did manage to pass into the bloodstream, the average amount of IGF-1 in cow’s milk is only 4ng/ml. (Less than a ml of your own saliva) So when you drink 3 cups of milk (3,000ng and body producing 10,000,000ng), it would only contribute a boost of <.03% more IGF-1.
Milk doesn’t significantly change your IGF-1 levels –
the concentration is not high enough
Even if milk did have a slight amount of hormones in it, thinking that your body cannot handle a slight imbalance is like thinking that your lungs will not be able to breathe properly on a windy day. Your body is built to handle these subtle changes in the environment.
Thinking that your body cannot handle a slight imbalance is like thinking that your lungs will not be able to breathe properly on a windy day
If you’re really afraid of increasing IGF-1, a sauna will increase production of the growth hormone 142%! (Source). Exercising also will naturally increase IGF-1 production. How much do these other things we do in life contribute to our natural production of IGF-1?
Milk produced using rBST is labeled
Most dairy farmers do not inject their cows with growth hormones – the ones that do use rBST, a hormone that induces cows to produce more milk. The FDA and a multitude of other health organizations say that milk from cows treated with rBST is no different than regular milk.
If you don’t have faith in the FDA, World Health Organization, ect, just buy the milk labeled rBST-free milk. There are dairy farmers that have been working together to make sure you can buy milk that is natural and produced without using any artificial hormones. It is labeled rBST-free.
Interestingly, I talked with someone familiar with the history of rBST in the marketplace. When it was released to the public in the 90s, Body builders tried using rBST for muscle growth, yet found no positive effects. Literally, they injected themselves with rBST, but it did not help these body builders’ increases in muscle growth or size, or provide any other health benefits.
If these hormones are not effective through injection, how could they be effective after passing through the cow’s metabolism and your digestive system. But you can make up your own mind and decide with your purchase.
Where are peoples hormone problems coming from then
It is interesting that people blame milk for hormone problems in America, even when consumption has declined significantly. People are having health problems but they are probably not from drinking too much milk. Americans in the past where healthier, even while drinking more milk than people today.
Being that the liver is responsible for hormone production and regulation, the source of the problem could be linked to our livers not functioning properly. We are toxifying our bodies and causing our bodies to be overloaded with unnatural substances. Our livers are working overtime or even giving up.
According to some studies, nearly 35% of U.S. adults suffer from metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ect.) while 50% of those 60 years or older suffer from metabolic syndrome. (Source). Harvard Medical School notes that about 20-30% of people in the U.S. suffer from fatty liver disease. (Source) (Source). That’s about 63-93 million people suffering from damaged livers in the U.S.
The liver plays a vital role filtering out and regulating estrogen and other hormones in your body. The liver produces sex hormone binding proteins to reduce hormone levels and can signal your body to reduce hormone production if levels get to high. Keeping you liver healthy is key to proper hormone balance in the body. Major Key alert! Read more about your liver here (Source)
So what is causing our liver problems – too much sugar. Read my previous article Are you Poisoning Yourself with Sugar. Every cell in your body can metabolize glucose, but your liver is responsible for processing fructose. When you overwhelm your body with fructose, it stores it in the liver as fat for later processing. (Source). When excess fructose accumulates in your liver, your liver cannot function effectively and keep you healthy.
According to Harvard Medical School, too much fructose in your diet can lead to your liver kicking off a process called lipogenesis (literally fat creation)(Source). The fat that is generated is stored in the liver and can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease causing your liver to experience similar effects of drinking too much. The interesting fact is that people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease often die of cardiovascular problems.
Your liver is responsible for balancing your bodies hormone levels
Interestingly, milk has nearly all the nutrients your liver needs for proper function
Here is a list of negative health effects on your liver from processing too much fructose: (Source)
- Elevated triglycerides
- Increase in visceral fat
- Increased LDL cholesterol
- Increased blood pressure
- Makes tissue insulin resistant, precursor to diabetes
- Increases production of free-radicals (aging)
- Buildup of plaque in arteries
- More likely to die of cardiovascular disease
Don’t these problems sound like common health problems here in the U.S. There is overwhelming evidence now that excess dietary sugar is one of the main causes of many of these rampant health problems in the U.S.
Addressing the Myths
Myth: Milk and dairy products causing children to reach puberty earlier (Source)
The age at which puberty begins in girls has been decreasing since the mid-1800s. It is odd to blame it on dairy products since dairy consumption has actually decreased during the same timeframe. Several things have been cited as causing early puberty in girls:
- Girls are maturing more quickly because they have better nutrition.
- Obesity rate is increasing in this country at a rapid rate and girls are reaching this point much sooner. Ann Macrina, PhD
Prevalence of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and liver problems could have more to do with this…
This myth doesn’t make sense for so many reasons. This myth is untrue, and the result of combining so many fake facts and arriving at a false conclusion. Being a dairy farmer, I have the information literally at my fingertips with our farms health records.
Most of the milk is not from pregnant cows. We keep track of all the cows on the farm, and keep detailed health and production records. Running the numbers, over half the herd is not pregnant at 52% while 48% are pregnant. Pretty close, but then looking at production records, open cows produce far more milk than pregnant cows. The open cows are producing about 90 lbs. of milk per day while the pregnant cows are producing much less – their production declines as they get closer to calving. Most of the milk on the farm comes from cows that are not pregnant.
Interestingly, pregnant cows also go dry in their last trimester of pregnancy and are not milked. Cows are not milking at the time when they would be producing the most hormones. These are good reasons why you can’t find high levels of hormones in milk.
Leave your comments
I think after reading this article, you can feel good about your milk again. Milk doesn’t negatively impact your body’s hormones. Do you agree or disagree, leave your comments below.