The use of growth hormones in the dairy industry: How it might affect your supplement

Bovine Somatotropin (BST), or Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), is a hormone produced naturally in the pituitary gland of cows. BST increases growth in young cattle and milk production in cows. The artificial production of this exact hormone is called Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), or Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Since rBGH increases milk production, the hormone is injected in dairy cows, making each cow more efficient. This is legal in the US and has been widely used since it was approved in the nineties. However, it is not permitted in the European Union or Canada.

So what’s the big deal?

For many years, some concerns have reached about the possible health effects in people consuming dairy products from cows injected with rBGH. One of the main issues that has been discussed, is the fact that milk from cows injected with rBGH contains higher levels of IGF-1; a hormone that helps cells grow. Some studies have found that elevated levels of IGF-1 may affect the development of tumors. There are also indications that high levels of IGF-1 in the blood may relate to the development of certain types of cancer, although this is not confirmed.

Another issue is that cows injected with rBGH develop udder infections more frequently compared to cows that are not. This leads to an increased use of antibiotics on cows treated with rBGH, raising the question if it will lead to more antibiotic resistant bacteria. So far it is found that it does lead to more antibiotic resistant bacteria, but it is not determined whether, or to what extent, it is transmitted to humans.

There are many discussions on this exact topic, and the opinions of experts vary. Instead of wondering if it is dangerous or not, would it not be easier to avoid it all together? It is important to be critical about supplements and what they contain. If you are looking for a milk based protein powder or mass gainer, look for products made of milk from cows that have not been injected with growth hormones. That way you know exactly what’s going into your body!