31 Days of Prevention
Diet and Lifestyle Strategies to Combat or Prevent Breast Cancer
Strategy 7 – All Meat and Dairy Are Not Created Equal
Today I will address a sensitive issue, but one which is so important. The media constantly bombards us with messages about the necessity for our children to drink milk for good health. Milk is advertised to be an important source of calcium and vitamin D. I spoke about the importance of vitamin D and its role in the prevention of breast cancer in an earlier blog.
I need to stress that the opinions expressed in today’s blog, although based on fact, is that…my opinion. I no longer eat meat that is not labeled “grass-fed” and frankly I no longer drink or consume dairy products. As a cancer survivor, I feel more vulnerable than others to the effects of hormones in my food so my decision may be a bit extreme for others.
When I was teaching 5th grade, it became a topic of discussion and a concern among teachers as to why young girls were reaching puberty so much earlier than past generations. There are theories that our food source is the culprit. Puberty starts when excess amounts of chemicals called hormones start to be produced in the body. What about the hormones being ingested from food?
A decision in 1991 by the FDA to approve the use of growth hormones in dairy cows and beef cattle was of monumental consequence to the human diet. Traditionally, all beef was grass-fed, but in the United States today what is commercially available is almost all grain fed. The reason...it’s faster, and so much more profitable. In the past, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter. Today, they are slaughtered at 14 or 16 months. You can’t take a beef calf from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year on grass. It takes enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, soy, antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones to accomplish in a few months what used to require years.
These growth hormones are commonly known as rGHB & rBST?
Somatotropin is a naturally-occurring protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of animals; Bovine Somatotropin (BST or bST) triggers nutrients to increase growth in young cattle and lactation (milk production) in dairy cows. Artificial BST is produced using recombinant DNA technology (biotechnology), and called rBST for short. rBST is commonly known as Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH.2 When injected into cows, rGHB increases milk production 10-15 percent and in some cases up to 40 percent. Approximately 17% of all cows in the US are given this artificial growth hormone. Incidentally, these hormones are outlawed in England and Canada. Our generation and our children’s are the first to be raised on milk and beef from these “Supercows”.
Milk from rGHB-treated cows also contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). Humans naturally produce IGF-1, and increased levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Even though no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in dairy and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.
So here’s what I do:
I don’t eat meat grown with the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Growth hormones act like estrogen in humans. Since the use of growth hormones has increased, so has the incidence of breast cancers. It makes perfect sense since estrogen fuels most breast cancers. My breast cancer was highly estrogen positive, so I am extremely cautious about introducing any type of synthetic estrogen into my diet.
Beware of marketing strategies that advertise meat as “vegetarian fed”. Even though these animals are not treated with growth hormones, they are fed a soy diet. Soy consumption is discouraged for estrogen positive cancers. Always look for certified “grass-fed and free range” on the packaging. The nutritional difference between grain-fed and grass-fed animal products is dramatic. First of all, grass-fed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grain-fed products. For example, a sirloin steak from a grass-fed steer has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed steer. In fact, grass-fed meat has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken or wild deer or elk. When meat is this lean, it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.
I don’t feed my family milk from hormone and antibiotic fed cows. If you really love milk, make sure you buy organic milk from grass-fed cows not fed hormones or antibiotics. Personally, I avoid cows’ milk altogether and switched to coconut milk. I love it. I even buy coconut cream for my coffee. Many people seem to like almond milk but although I like almonds, I do not like almond milk. I eat ice cream make with coconut milk…it’s really delicious and even the vanilla is not heavily coconut flavored. If you want to eat yogurt, buy the fat free organic Greek brand.
Consumers have been led to believe that all meat is created equal. . In other words, no matter what an animal is fed, its nutritional value remains the same. This is absolutely not true. An animal's diet can have a profound influence on the nutrient content of its products. So don’t be fooled…all beef and milk products are not created equal.
In addition to its hormone content, milk from rGHB-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). Humans also naturally produce IGF-1, but increased levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancers. Even though no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.
The bottom line…when purchasing any dairy or meat products, read the labels carefully. For milk, buy organic from cows that are not fed rGHB. For beef products, buy meat from only free-range, grass-fed animals.
Excerpt from Judy Medeiros Fitzgerald’s book, A Teacher's Journey...What Breast Cancer Taught Me. If you wish to buy the book, go to: http://www.Sisters4Prevention.com