I know there is a lot of talk about milk.
- Do the added hormones cause kids to start puberty early?
- Should I drink unpasteurized milk, and what about antibiotics?
- What about organic milk?
It can be very confusing, especially as the prices of food go up and you’re trying to keep your budget.
WHAT ARE THE FACTS? HORMONES AND ANTIBIOTICS
Many people feel that the more natural something is, the better it is for youIn some cases, this is true. However, there are some scientific advances that make our food much safer to eat and don’t increase the risk for disease. It all comes down to weighing out the benefits and the risks.
Hormones: There is no such thing as hormone-free milk. All milk contains some BST, which is a hormone that cows naturally produce (just like us humans produce our own hormones!). The synthetic hormone that is sometimes given to cows is called rBST and is used to increase milk production in dairy cows.
First off, rBST is metabolized by the cow just the same as the hormone their body produces, BST. Secondly, protein hormones are broken down in your stomach and are not absorbed by your body intact. Therefore, they are not biologically active in our bodies and have no effect on our hormone level. This means that there is not an increased risk for cancer or other diseases because of drinking milk from cows treated with rBST.
While you might think that drinking hormones could increase your body’s level of hormones, this is not true.
Some people say that milk from cows treated with rBST has higher levels of other hormones (specifically, IGF-1) that have been linked to increased cancer risk. The data on whether or not this is true is mixed. What is clear, however, is that drinking milk does not raise blood IGF-1 levels by any significant amount and therefore does not increase cancer risk.
To learn more about the use of rBST in cows and cancer risk, check out this article by the American Cancer Society.
If you’re still not sure, there is no risk in drinking milk from a cow that was not treated with rBST.
Antibiotics: Many cows are treated with antibiotics when they get infections. I would feel bad for a cow that was sick and couldn’t be treated with antibiotics when they were needed! For conventionally produced milk, The FDA requires that for 96 hours during and following antibiotic treatment, the cows milk must be thrown out.
Milk cannot be sold commercially in the US that contains traces of antibiotics. Testing occurs several times throughout production to ensure that the milk is antibiotic-free. If any traces are found, the entire batch of milk must be thrown out. Farmers don’t want to waste milk so they take care to ensure that this doesn’t happen. It is not in anyone’s best interest to have antibiotic-contaminated milk!
The chief risk in drinking milk from a cow that was not treated with antibiotics is if that cow had an untreated infection, which can taint the milk, yuk!
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The FDA regulates milk. When it comes to milk, the evidence so far suggests that there is not an increased risk for cancer or other diseases by drinking pasteurized milk with rBST or from cows treated with antibiotics. However, if you prefer to drink milk without hormones or antibiotics, that is a perfectly fine choice but it is usually more expensive.
Stay tuned for Part II where we will look at pasteurization, organic, and “raw” milk.
Let’s all say “Moo!”