Tag Archives: rBGH

Steroids in Our Milk and Disease Connection


Concerned about steroids in our dairy products? What to do about it.

    Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBSH) are naturally occurring hormones found in dairy cows.  These hormones are also genetically engineered and were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FSA) in 1993.  It is a lab engineered technology that is produced by scientists and of great concern to consumer watchdogs.  These manmade steroids are used in the dairy milk industry by injecting them into dairy cows to increase milk production by 20%; decrease consumer dairy product costs while increasing profits throughout the sales distribution channels.  Scientific and industrial data shows increased residual contaminants are found within consumer products that have been produced using this genetically engineered steroid and may cause disease in humans.

     Monsanto is a chemical food engineer that produces many other products approved by the FDA that seem to litter our food supply.  They are also major chemical producer of artificial sweeteners that have been connected to obesity, illness and disease. Prior to FDA approval of this dairy cow hormone; in 1990 Monsanto revealed a study that showed significant evidence of the growth promoting effects of rBGH.  It revealed that systemic effects at low doses in mature rats increased body weight, liver weight and increased bone length.  Regardless, after the product was approved for dairy cow production the FDA was reluctant to mandate labeling practices that showed consumers whether or not dairy milk products were produced using cow injected rBGH.  There were also many lawsuit attempts by Monsanto to stop producers and/or retailers from listing this information on product labels.

     What is the controversy all about?  Here’s what’s going on.  American farmers inject rBGH steroid into dairy cows which appear to stimulate increased production of another type of hormone within the cow body, known as Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1).  The hormone over stimulates the cows liver to increase the pituitary gland production of IGF-1, ten-fold.  Data shows there is an 80% incidence of mastitis [inflammation of the cow breast (udder)] and infection caused by these injections from this genetically engineered material.  These contaminants are then said to reside within the finished consumer dairy product.  IGF is not destroyed or made neutral in the dairy milk pasteurization process.  Instead pasteurization of raw milk actually increases the IGF-1 values causing it to easily be absorbed by our digestive system and enter our blood stream.

     In order to ensure humans don’t get sick from cow mastitis during milk production, the use of antibiotics to counter the inflammation is also a consumer concern.  These contaminants not only include rBGH and increased IGF-1 steroid, but also the antibiotics used to neutralize the bacteria in the pus produced during cow udder infection.  These combined residue contaminants are shown to be passed through the milk production and end up in the final consumer product.    It is presumed the consumer then receives this pass-through of antibiotics that could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.  This impact on human health has not fully been examined within scientific studies.

     Inconclusive studies on rBGH and influence on human health will continue to be of great concern for some time.  This is because even untreated dairy cows have rBGH and rBSH in the milk.  That’s right; cows produce their own growth hormones that are similar to humans.

     From Monsanto and the FDA perspective rBGH/rBSH shouldn’t be of a health concern for the consumer.  This is because there is a lot of scientific data that minimizes the risks on human health opposed to studies that prove increased risk.  However, earlier animal studies showed influence of tumor growth and development of colorectal, breast, prostate and other cancers from increased elevation of IGF-1.  It’s the consumer safety expectation that expects proponents for steroid supplementation and elevated IGF-1 levels in dairy milk production to prove there is no risk to human health.  Data that shows steroid elevations over a normal acceptable range is hard to relate to when it’s not necessary and potentially harmful to human health.

     Another consumer concern is for those genetically susceptible to genetically-engineered bovine growth hormones in milk may have an increased risk to cancer.  The most susceptible risk is to healthy human breast cells turning into unhealthy mutated ones.  When this occurs these malignancies can spread throughout the body.  Animal studies showed increased levels of IGF-1 in the blood appear to have a distal correlation and association with colon and prostate cancer.

     Although the data shows a “questionable” connection of cancer with high IGF-1 blood levels, the exact mechanism of this IGF-1 link remains scientifically unclear.  For example, other studies show us those that drink non-treated milk or soy milk have been reported to have 10% higher levels of IGF-1 in their blood, just like those that drink treated milk production.  So it is possible that the mechanism causing the increase in IGF-1 within the blood is not specific to treated cow milk.  It is entirely possible this increase could be the cause of a protein, minerals or something other than steroids injected into our dairy cows causing the increased IGF-1 blood elevations.

     Prenatal and infant breast tissue is highly susceptible to these hormone influences.  The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association stated,

 “Further studies will be required to determine whether the ingestion of higher than normal concentration of bovine insulin-like growth factor is safe for children, adolescents and adults.”

 These studies never gained traction.  This statement was made by the association in 1991.

     Until there are studies that make a direct comparison between people who drink treated vs. untreated milk it is hard to make a definitive statement that a 10% normally produced IGF-1 hormone in our body, or one that is elevated up and beyond that point through rBGH contaminants is going to lead to cancer or any other type of health risk.

     The FDA approved the use of this synthetic hormone in 1993 and stands by its decision based on animal research that shows little if any connection to increased IGF-1 elevation in humans that were caused by supplemental steroid treated cows.  The FDA will continue to stand by Monsanto’s synthetically engineered product as safe for human consumption in our dairy foods until a significant study proves otherwise.  But this does not mean other countries believe the data, nor do they have to purchase American dairy products for lack of health risk proof.

      Europeans, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada do not purchase American milk that has been produced using rBGH synthetic steroids because of the suspected breast, prostate and colon cancer risk associated with its use.  It is banned in these countries unless clearly marked, or labeled “NO rBGH and does not contain IGF-1.”  American cheeses are also considered contaminated with these hormones unless “indicated their not” and labeled like milk.  Imported European cheeses are safe since Europe bans the practice.

     Although rBGH is still approved for use within dairy cow production in the United States, many store chains no longer carry products from treated cows unless labeled appropriately.  The Dept. of Agriculture survey confirms as of 2007 that less than 1 in 5 cows (17%) at that time were being injected with a synthetic hormone.  Monsanto stands to lose billions of dollars if this chemical becomes banned from our dairy milk producers.  These producers and retailers are now allowed, “but not mandated” to label foods that have been produced using this dairy cow steroid.  In the recent past this was not the case.  Consumers now can identify milk and other dairy products produced with, or without rBGH steroid treated dairy milk.


 To ensure you purchase milk without rBGH or rBST (Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin “same thing”], take the following precautions:

 Do not purchase milk unless it is labeled No rBGH and/or rBST, otherwise assume the milk is contaminated with Growth Hormone.  Today many health and retail food stores sell labeled rBGH/rBST-free milk and other dairy foods.  Organic milk can cost 20% more then rBGH treated milk, but well worth it as a preventative measure against possible ill-health.

 Let your retail store know you’ll be back when they provide appropriate labeled dairy products if they don’t have them.  Until that time, shop at a store that has your health’s interest at heart.


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 Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2015 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.