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Precocious Puberty vs Hormones in Livestock – Is there a Link?

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Have you noticed that children seem to be growing up at a rapid pace now days? Not just dressing and acting older, but specifically “maturing” physically – if not mentally. I happen to know a very special little girl that has been officially diagnosed with Precocious Puberty or CPP in medical jargon. This caused me to do some research, as I wanted to know if there was any correlation to the argument that, “it’s all the hormones they put in the meat we buy!” I do have to say that I was very surprised with what I found but I will admit to remaining skeptical.

What is CPP?Boy and Girl

Central Precocious Puberty or CPP is the early onset of puberty in a child. The age range here is 8 years old for little girls and 9 years old for little boys. Their bodies actually start changing as puberty sets in. Hair starts sprouting and acne and body odor encroach. Girls start “budding” and looking for training bras and boys start croaking and notice “other things” are growing and changing too. These things are hard enough to handle when you are a normal 12 or 13 year old. Imagine going through this at 8 or 9!

Apparently the onset of puberty has been starting at a younger and younger age for quite some time. The average age of a young girl beginning menarche in 1860 was 16.6 years. By 1920 it had dropped to 14.6 years. 1950 lowered the age to 13.1 years and by 1980 it was down to 12.5 years. The last average taken in 2010 has dropped the age to 10.5 years. Now a lot of factors are involved in this. Mainly better health and eating habits from 1860 to 1950. Unfortunately, in the 60s and 70’s a lot of bad eating habits started to evolve. Processed foods, fast foods, more screen time and less exercise and fresh air.

Hormones in Livestock

CowSomewhere back around 1950 the FDA decided it was OK to add hormones to cows to fatten them up and keep milk production flowing in dairy cattle. To date there are 6 approved veterinary drugs that are approved for livestock. These include estradiol, progesterone, testosterone (all natural hormones), zeranol, trenbolone and MGA (melengestrol acetate), which are synthetic. Do these added hormones and synthetics have any related effects on humans? Expansive research has been done on this. Risk assessment balancing EDI (estimated daily intake) against ADI (approved daily intake) plays a key role in determining this. Apparently, when used under good veterinary practices, the use of natural steroidal hormones has negligible impact on humans. Note the term “negligible”.

The Research

The problem with the research on this is in the hormones. You see estradiol, progesterone and testosterone are all naturally occurring hormones in all of us mammals so it’s very difficult to differentiate. It is generally accepted that the amount consumed in meat and dairy products is very small compared to what is naturally produced by a child.

With all the research that has been done, there is still more that is needed for conclusive results. The antimicrobial agents that are put into the feed of livestock may or may not have an impact. Of course farmers want to keep their livestock healthy but at what cost? The research on the antimicrobial agents is a completely different field of study that needs much more study.

Fruits, Vegetables and Chickens?

eggsThis is the part of my study that really threw me a curve ball. I read numerous articles and studies to research this topic. Everything from the Missippi State University to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (believe me, some of it was pretty dry reading). In one of the articles I saw that hen’s eggs are the major source of estradiol in the daily diet of consumers. Then I read further and discover that chickens are give NO hormones! How does that happen? Also (this really threw me…), many plants contain phytoestrogen. Specifically fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and cereal grains. Plastics and insecticides break down into chemicals similar to estrogen. chickenApparently this is where hermaphroditic fish come from. The main source of estrogen and progesterone are milk and milk products at 60% – 80% with eggs and vegetables being equal to meat and fish. But chickens receive no hormones. I’m very confused. These numbers seem to contradict themselves. I guess that’s why they say more research is needed.


Conclusion / Confusion

According to all the articles from scientific data that I read, there is no correlation between growth hormones in livestock and precocious puberty in children. At least nothing concrete yet. The scientist state that obesity is the major cause as it increases the levels of leptin which in turn stimulates the release of the 3 main hormones that bring on puberty. Apparently 50% of overweight girls will start puberty early. I have to say “tosh” to that hypothesis when it comes to the particular little girl that stemmed this article because she is as skinny as a rail. Not an ounce of fat on that child! Now a child that consumes most of their protein from animals (milk, cheese and meat) will also enter puberty on the average of 7 months earlier and, according to a study by the University of Puerto Rico, exposure to phthalates (plastics and other chemicals) can cause breast development in girls as young as 7 years old.

Children will produce 20 times more progesterone and 1000 times more estrogen and testosterone than they eat on an average day. Remember that children produce the “least” amount of these hormones out of us humans. Suffice to say, we have plenty of our own hormones going on and the minuscule amounts that we consume from livestock just don’t seem to make that much of a difference. So, if that is the result, why are children growing up so fast? Is there some other factor that we are missing or is it simply evolution? I guess I have no idea. What do you think? Please leave me a comment below.

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