When Milk Does a Body Bad

Why hormone-free milk is catching on.

Getty Images
Getty Images

But is it due to the hormones in milk? That link isn’t clear at all. Precocious puberty, as it’s called, may have more to do with weight than milk. The number of overweight children and teens has grown dramatically over the last two decades, particularly among African American girls. And early menstruation—before age 12—is most common among girls who are overweight. So if 25 percent of African American girls are now overweight, then it makes sense that more of them are developing breasts and starting their periods earlier.

But still! Until we know more about hormones and the effect on our health, and particularly the health of growing girls, it’s best to stay away from them whenever possible. Exposure to hormones—though not the ones in milk per se—is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. That’s why droves of women over 50 have given up hormone replacement therapy. And hormones also fuel the growth of fibroids, which have reached near epidemic proportions, especially in black women.

Until dairy farmers, manufacturers, food chains and the federal government work together to rid our milk supply of hormones like rBST, why expose yourself and your children to excess hormones?

Also, understand there’s a distinction between plain milk, milk that contains no rBST, and organic milk —in both the product and the cost. In the grocery store closest to my house, I only have two options: plain or organic, $4.79 a half gallon versus $1.98.

Organic milk is much more expensive, because, according to government standards, it must come from cows that meet four criteria:

–Cannot have been treated with rBST.

–Cannot have been given antibiotics while in a herd. (If a cow is that sick, she must be separated from the group and treated.)

— Must be fed grass or feed that has not been treated with pesticides or grown from genetically modified seeds

— Must be allowed “access to pasture;” in other words, they can graze without being confined in feed lots.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking, I understand the first three rules, but what does that fourth one have to do with me? Isn’t that more about cows than kids?