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Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate and control most of the bodily functions which include growth and development, cellular activity and metabolism and synthesis and secretion of other hormones. Hormones are produced by endocrine glands, however fish, animal products, plants, etc contain several chemicals or toxins that tend to behave like hormones, and can result in wide array of side effects which can range from cancer to sterility, and are often irreversible.

Natural Hormones in Foods

Food and food products contain a host of chemicals that tend to mimic the action of various hormones produced in the human body. Certain plants, namely legumes and pulses contain hormone like compounds referred to as phytoestrogens, which have been found to provide protection against the development of breast cancer.

On the flip side, experimental studies on mice and sheep have shown that increased consumption of foods containing plant estrogen and isoflavonoids are associated with menstrual irregularities, infertility and altered mating behavior.

Artificial Hormones in Foods

In recent times, it has been observed that injecting growth hormones in animals, especially cattle, can reduce the amount of food intake of the animal, while hasten the weight gain and dairy production. This has resulted in the increased usage of bovine growth hormone, for the quick production of animals for the meat industry and milk and milk production for the diary industry. Similarly, diethylstilbestrol (DES) was used to make chicken fatter.

However, with the increased findings of DES causing cancer, its used has been discontinued. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture approves of six artificial hormones that can be used on cattle but not on poultry. These include Zeranol, Estradiol, Testosterone, Progesterone, Melengestrol acetate and Trebolone acetate.

Plant foods also contain various artificial and environmental chemicals that tend to mimic the behavior of hormones. These are associated with the use of pesticides and fungicides and tend to interfere with the normal function of sex hormones in the body.

Problems associated with hormones in food: Recommendations

As per the European Unionís Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health, hormones introduced into cattle, can result in increase in the hormonal levels by almost seven to twenty times. Though the committee was unable to determine the acceptable daily intake of these hormones by humans, it clearly mentioned that individuals consuming foods with a high hormonal residue are more prone to develop hormonal imbalances and are at an increased risk of developing cancer. The use of Growth Hormone in the European Union has been completely banned for the past twenty years.

Unfortunately in the United States, about one third of the cattle are given Growth Hormone to increase the milk production and weight. Similarly, to enhance the agricultural production, the use of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides has been profound.

Thus, in order to reduce your exposure to the natural and artificial hormones, increase the intake of organic foods or use a kitchen garden. Use milk and animal products from the EU, Canada, etc, as they are free from artificial hormones, which make their consumptions safer than their US counterparts.