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 it is, the better it is for you. For the most part, this is true. However, there are some scientific advances that make our food much safer to eat and don’t significantly increase 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. The synthetic hormone that is sometimes given to cows is called rBST. While you might think that drinking hormones would increase your bodies level of hormones, this is not true.
First off, rBST is metabolized by the cow just the same as the naturally occurring hormone, BST. Secondly, protein hormones are broken down in your stomach and have no effect on your hormone level. Therefore, there is not an increased risk for cancer or other disease by drinking milk with rBST.
However, 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 for infections. The FDA requires that during and following antibiotic treatment, for 96 hours the cows milk must be discarded.
It is possible that milk containing antibiotics can get into the food supply but we would be unlikely to know because of the difficulty in enforcing the FDA rules. It would be problematic for those who are allergic to antibiotics, or extremely sensitive, neither of which are common. The most common antibiotics used for cows are ampicillin and erythromycin.
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:
FDA regulates milk, but many feel that they do not do enough to keep
our food supply safe. When it comes to milk, 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, there is no significant risk but it is usually more
Stay tuned for Part II where we will look at pasteurization, organic, and “raw” milk.
[Reference: Know Your Milk: It’s Not All Equal. Food and Fitness Advisor]