April 8 2015 06:53 AM

Understanding science takes away the scare tactics

A few of us liked science class. Others catnapped during the detailed and technical presentations. However, some of those very concepts are now playing a role in consumer perceptions.

Hormones are needed for survival and for the cycle of life. Unfortunately, certain foods, like milk, get incorrectly tagged as villains. To measure anything, we need to know the baseline or normal levels before we can make judgments.

Review the chart and pay careful attention to milk, both whole and skim - less than 2 nanograms of estrogen in one serving, while soy beverage is at 30,000 nanograms. Compare the others, too.

Source Estrogen
(nanograms or 1 billionth of a gram)
Adolescent girl 93,000 daily
Pregnant women 3,415,000 daily
Birth control pills 20,000 to 50,000 per pill
8 oz. soy milk 30,000
(technically phytoestrogens, but still have an effect in high amounts)
3 oz. wheat germ 3,400
3 oz. eggs 2,625
3 oz. cabbage 2,016
3 oz. ice cream 520
3 oz. potato 225
3 oz. steak 1.9
8 oz. whole milk
(1 cup)
0.3 to 1.9
8 oz. skim milk
(1 cup)
0.1 to 0.7

Endocrinology is the study of hormones. They are messengers that impact a targeted cell or tissue. In order to be effective, a specific hormone needs a specialized protein. Similar to a lock and key - each is a unique combination.

The human body produces 50 hormones, and we cannot function without them. There are two classifications: steroid hormones and protein (amino acid) hormones. We are most familiar with the first group, which includes testosterone, estrogen and progesterone - all vitally important in reproduction. The other group includes growth hormone, insulin and prolactin. Again, all needed for life.

Beside humans, plants and animals also naturally produce hormones. When we eat, we consume hormones but at low levels. However, those hormones are then digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have biological activity, shared Dr. Terry Etherton, Penn State.

rejected stampSome would blame technology for societal changes. The age at which females reach puberty has been declining since the mid-1800s. A finger often points to milk with rBST, which was approved in 1993. However, milk consumption has been declining during the time frame that adolescent changes have been accelerating. It makes it difficult to draw a correlation when these trends are inverses, and it's not possible to blame modern technology that was not even available at that time.

Instead, let's consider other factors. Demographics are changing. There's a higher population of Hispanics in the U.S. as compared to decades ago. Why does this matter? Those with Hispanic heritage, as well as African-Americans, tend to reach puberty sooner than Caucasian girls, noted Dr. Ann Macina, Penn State.

Also, people are consuming more calories and obesity levels are escalating. Well-fed bodies grow and mature faster. Fat cells make estrogen, so fatter people produce more estrogen.

It's unfortunate we live in a science-suspicious society. Food producers want consumers to understand the science and make sound food and beverage choices.
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The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.