You may have come across conflicting information about what additives can be found in dairy and meat products and what effect they have on us and our wellbeing. It’s tough to sort through all of the noise and there really aren’t any clear answers that can explain the exact effect of hormones that are added into our food. It’s a well-known fact that farmers inject their livestock with growth hormones and sex hormones to increase their yield, and eventually these hormones and related residue can end up in the food that you purchase and consume, which can also have an effect on your body.
Hormones can be found in all animal products regardless of whether the animals were treated with hormone supplements. Regulatory systems like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other committees say that the hormones that make it into food products are safe for consumption. Farmers give hormones and steroids to livestock to help improve the production of dairy and beef, some of these hormones may include growth hormones, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone.
We know that high levels of hormones in the human body can cause negative effects in our bodies, but can hormones that we ingest in meat and dairy alter our hormone levels? Surprisingly little research has been done on the health effects of these hormones in humans, in part because it’s difficult to separate the effects of added hormones from the mixture of natural hormones, proteins and other components that are found in meat and dairy products. Let’s take a look at how hormones in food are used and whether you should worry or not.
Artificial Growth Hormone
The goal of injecting animals with artificial growth hormones is to create more productive animals – it is predominantly used in cattle farming and it helps to increase milk production by at least ten percent. If you consume a diet that is rich in dairy products, especially milk, then you could be affected with an increase in hormone levels from the artificial growth hormone. Most of the effects you can experience are positive including enhanced muscle mass, body weight and size, which is very beneficial for children and adults who are deficient in growth hormone. Some of the unwanted changes that can be expected include an increase in insulin-like growth factor that is correlated with an increase in cancer risk and a decrease in life expectancy.
Insulin-Like Growth Factor
Insulin-like growth factor is naturally occurring in both cattle and humans, and it plays an important role in milk production, bone growth and cell division. Evidence shows that extra artificial growth hormone can cause higher levels of insulin-like growth factor in milk, which is associated with an increased risk for certain cancers.
Reading conflicting information about the effect of hormones in food can be enough to encourage most of us to make the switch to organic foods, but does it make a difference? Organic beef and dairy products that are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) come with a guarantee that the cows were not treated with artificial growth hormones or sex hormones. But they are also available at a much higher price – so you have to ask yourself if having peace of mind that your food is safe is worth the extra cash. Some will tell you that “organic” labels are a marketing strategy, while others will tell you that in order to protect your health you should completely lower your intake of red meat and dairy or cut it out altogether.
The best way to approach hormones in your food is to take the time to educate yourself on the laws and regulations and decide how you want to approach your diet and nutrition. You need to be aware of your exposure to animal products that may have been treated with hormones and keep an eye out to see if you react to it. Some other facts worth noting include the welfare of animals who are injected with artificial growth hormones and how this impacts the environment. There are various ethical issues that come up when researching hormones in your food and depending on your personal views this may impact your decision on how much meat and dairy you will include in your diet.
The best way to live a healthy lifestyle and achieve your personal wellness goals is to exercise on a regular basis and consume a diet full of fiber, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. For more information on health trends, tips on leading a healthy lifestyle or weight loss programs make sure to follow along with our blog, which we keep updated on a regular basis.