Monday, October 3, 2016

Doctors - pay attention. Humans aren't affected by bovine hormones & mammals drink milk.

After very wet Agri-Fit Challenge race!

I got an email from my friend -

"I took my son to the dermatologist yesterday. It was his first time ... trying to help his skin out. The doctor said that he needs to drink skim milk at the very least - and he would prefer organic milk due to the hormone content.  We drink skim from Moo-ville (which tastes more like 1/2% to me) or 1% from Meijer.  I thought I remembered you saying in a blog that it wasn't true that organic was better, but I wasn't sure if that was due to hormones or antibiotics.  Can you clarify this?"

Rest assured!

First of all, in Michigan, farmers don't give their cows hormones to help them produce more milk.  (We never have on this farm, either.)  When farmers did it in the past, there was no way to tell the synthetic hormone from the natural hormone, because cows already produced it.  (So there was no test for it.)  But when consumers didn't want it, farmers stopped using it.  In Michigan, that happened in 2008.

All milk - organic and conventional - has hormones in it, because it is coming from a lactating mammal.  Organic and conventional have the same.  BUT!  And here's the important part that the dermatologist didn't know ...

Humans do not have receptors for bovine hormones.

It's not me saying it - it's scientists.

Dr. Terry Etherton: “There are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have any biological activity." Best Food Facts

Another way to put it, from Science Blogs: Aetiology by Tara C. Smith, is:

“Studies have shown that human and bovine milk normally contain small amounts of growth hormone. After ingestion, growth hormone as any other protein in milk: it is digested into its constituent amino acids and di- and tripeptides. There is no data to suggest that BST present in milk can survive digestion or produce unique peptide fragments that might have biological effects.

Even if BST is absorbed intact, the growth hormone receptors in the human do not recognize cow BST and, therefore, BST cannot produce effects in humans. … Overall studies show recombinant growth hormone cannot be absorbed intact through intestine and even if small amounts get absorbed, there is no receptor for bovine growth hormones in humans.”

Or from the American Cancer Society:

"Neither natural nor synthetic BGH has been found to affect human growth hormone receptors."

Let me also add that these are naturally-occurring hormones, which all milk has, because it comes from lactating animals.  Hormones aren't just present in milk - they're present in all types of food. For instance, look at this chart about estrogen from Allen Young, Utah State University Extension dairy specialist and associate professor:


So, my answer to my friend was that skim and whole have almost exactly the same amount of hormones, but it didn't really matter anyway, because humans aren't affected, since they're digested. This obviously is not a hot topic in dermatology classes.


Second!  A pregnant (and ag) friend texted me, "Just had OB tell me I don't need to drink milk ... ever.  That it had as many calories as ice cream and we're the only mammals to drink it after weaning ... it was all I could do to smile and nod."

(She is obviously much more agreeable than I am, since I would have to switch doctors after that.)

First, milk does not have as many calories as ice cream unless you're eating super crappy ice cream. Get the full fat ice cream.  It tastes a lot better. (Scan in my house - Calories: cup of skim milk 83, cup of whole 148, cup of ice cream 286.)

Second, the whole 'humans are the only mammals to drink milk' makes me laugh every time I hear it.  Anyone who says this has never seen cats waiting in the milk house for the waste milk.  I've seen cats drink milk my entire life.  If you look online, you read things about the "red billed oxpecker, a bird that can perch on the udders of an Impala and drink its milk.  Elsewhere, in Isla de Guadalupe, feral cats, seagulls, and sheathbills have been observed stealing the milk directly from the teats of elephant seals."

But what I find humorous even more is ... we're doing things lots of mammals don't do.  Like farming fields.  Should we all only forage for food?  Shopping in grocery stores.  I NEVER see a tiger at the checkout.  Making pies out of fruit and vegetables like rhubarb that are only tolerable when sugar is added that a human grew in a field of sugar beets, packaged it, and sold it in a store in a bag. Using the internet, writing books, driving cars ... I NEVER see mammals doing these things.

Why aren't other mammals doing these things?  Because they would find it very difficult to hook up the milker.  These opposable thumbs are amazing.


Of course, we all know and love and need doctors, but it doesn't mean that they are all experts on everything all of the time.  It's always nice to do your own research.  I wrote this while eating ice cream AND drinking milk.  My skin is clear, my stomach feels great, and I am one happy mammal.

Previous blog posts on these topics:
Does milk make girls develop faster?  No.

What's the difference between organic and conventional milk?  Process, not product.

Why does organic milk have a longer expiration date?  It's heated up hotter.

American Cancer Society
Best Food Facts
Dairy Council of Utah & Nevada
Science Blogs

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