By Zachary Shahan
Yes, this is as disturbing as it sounds — infants in China really have started growing breasts.
This may not be a big shocker for those who have followed the effects of bovine growth hormones over the years. But it is certainly very sad news. And a wake-up call to us all, especially those living in the United States.
Medical tests on these 4- to 15-month-old babies that are growing breasts found that estrogen levels in them were as high as in adult women, according to China Daily. And the evidence clearly pointed to that being due to the infant formula.
Synutra, the company that makes the baby formula, however, says: "no man-made hormones or any illegal substances were added during the production of the milk powder."
A Chinese dairy association says there is no reason to doubt them, because the hormones probably came from the cows (which were fed hormones to make them grow faster).
"Since a regulation forbidding the use of hormones to cultivate livestock has yet to be drawn up in China," says Wang Dingmian, the former chairman of the dairy association in the southern province of Guangdo, "it would be lying to say nobody uses it."
This is what they do in China, and… this is what they do in the U.S.
History of Extremely Early Breast Growth from Bovine Growth Hormones
This is not the first story about extremely early breast growth and puberty arising from the use of bovine growth hormones. John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, writes this on The Huffington Post:
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.
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."
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.
I remember hearing about this story as a kid. My mom told me about it to explain why we got organic milk and dairy. Unfortunately, the U.S. (unlike most other countries) hasn't learned much since then.
"Along with China, the U.S. is today one of the few countries in the world that still allows bovine growth hormones to be injected into dairy cows. Though banned in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe, the use of these hormones in U.S. dairy is not only legal, it's routine in all 50 states."
If you're interested in avoiding problems associated with bovine growth hormone consumption, and you live in the US, you may want to avoid non-organic dairy. Or, here's another reason to eat vegan altogether.
Personally, I wonder if this is part of the reason why there is such an obesity epidemic in the U.S.
If you're interested in reading more on the scientific studies around bovine growth hormones, visit Robbins' post, "Female Infants Growing Breasts: Another Disaster From Hormones in Milk Production."
Photo Credit: Wesley Oostvogels via flickr