Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Milk Myth

"Milk is filled with hormones. Who knows what evil they're wreaking on your body." Have you heard that one? Or how about, "Milk is causing girls to hit puberty sooner."? Sounds terrible.
If it were true.
I'm curious, though, how many of you have heard this? What is your impression of the current safety of milk? Has it been influenced by statements that trickle down from the fearmongering media like these?

Folks, I'm here to tell you the concern over hormones is all a myth. An example of how grassroots misinformation spreads like wildfire. What's the real story here?

Milk, a wholesome way to get many of our daily essential vitamins, does contain hormones. They're naturally occurring. Always have been there. The hormone in question with these issues is rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) or BGH (bovine growth hormone). Cows naturally make BGH, which causes them to produce milk. Lo and behold, scientists discovered that if cows are given more BGH, they produce more milk. While this may marginally affect the health of the cow, it does NOT affect the milk. The milk produced still has IGF1 (insulin growth factor), which is produced via BGH in the cow, in the same proportion as a normal cow. Thus, the milk is as good to drink as any milk. The concern had come when certain people claimed that the hormone levels were also elevated in milk. They said it caused an increased risk for some cancers, particularly colon and breast cancers, as well as premature puberty in females. Studies seemed to back it up. However, a closer look at the variables in the latter study seems to show that early puberty is much better predicted by obesity. The other data did show that an elevated level of IGF1 in blood may be linked to cancer, but there was not any correlation with milk as the source for it. A good rundown of the rBST issue can be found here.

Therefore, milk is safe to drink. I have seen absolutely no study that causes me to think otherwise. But alas, the grassroots rumors continue to spread. I have talked to many friends, especially girls, who have heard from their friends (who heard from their friends who read scary articles) that we should not give our kids milk, that they shouldn't drink milk while pregnant, and that in general milk was dangerous.
Unfortunately, the story spreads, true or not.


lisa :) said...

I'm glad that you actually did a little research into this. It bugs me when people make drastic decisions about their health based on rumors or inconclusive single group studies. My thoughts on milk go back to the old-school ad campaign from the 80's -

"Milk: It does a body good. Pass it on."

Chairman said...

I heard that Floyd Landis drank too much hormonally enhanced milk during his stage 17 ride at the Tour de France. All of that BGH must have gotten into his blood stream and affected his testosterone counts.