The news doesn’t surprise me. Female infants in China have been growing breasts. “According to the official Chinese Daily newspaper, medical tests performed on the babies found levels of estrogens circulating in their bloodstreams that are as high as those found in most adult women. These babies are between four and 15 months old. And the evidence is overwhelming that the milk formula they have been fed is responsible.” (source)
When I first read that headline, I thought that soy formula was to blame because of its high estrogen content. But no, further investigation revealed that the biggest culprit is actually milk-based formulas. You see, like the US, China has no laws prohibiting the use of bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in dairy cows. Isn’t it wonderful to be part of such a large biological experiment without your consent?
The dairy industry wants you to believe that milk from cows administered growth hormones is safe — that there’s no difference between rBGH milk and regular milk. As such, the labels on milk and cheese and other dairy products aren’t even required to tell you the products are made using rBGH milk. In fact, the only way you’ll know if your dairy comes from cows raised without the hormones is if it’s labeled as such. But guess what? The dairy industry has even fought (unsuccessfully thus far) to keep labels such as “rBGH-free” or “growth hormone free” off of dairy products.
Yet there’s plenty of evidence from around the world implicating growth hormones, not just the recent findings in China:
In the 1980s, doctors in Puerto Rico began encountering cases of precocious puberty. There were four-year-old girls with fully developed breasts. There were three-year old girls with pubic hair and vaginal bleeding. There were one-year-old girls who had not yet begun to walk but whose breasts were growing. And it wasn’t just the females. Young boys were also affected. Many had to have surgery to deal with breasts that had become grossly swollen.
Writing a few years later in the Journal of the Puerto Rico Medical Association, Dr. Carmen A. Saenz explained the cause. “It was clearly observed in 97 percent of the cases that the appearance of abnormal breast tissue was…related to local whole milk in the infants.”
The problem was traced, and found to stem from the misuse of hormones in dairy cows. When Dr. Saenz was asked how she could be certain the babies and children were contaminated with hormones from milk rather than from some other source, she replied simply: “When we take our young patients off… fresh milk, their symptoms usually regress.”
In light of just how much of the infant formula in the U.S. is imported from China, the recent news ought to scare you.
So, what are your alternatives? Of course, the obvious first solution is to breastfeed your babies. If, for whatever reasons, that’s not possible, then there are still better alternatives to commercial formula out there. Check out these life-saving recipes developed by the Weston A. Price Foundation. That page even includes a recipe for how to fortify store-bought formula to make it more nutrient-dense and more easily absorbed.
And, if you want to know how to prioritize your dairy purchases, check out this post on Healthy Milk: What To Buy.
(photo by seandreilinger)