Do You Know Nutrition: Read entire label when purchasing food

Dec. 13, 2011 at 6:13 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

My daughter has precocious puberty. How much does that have to do with her diet and hormone laden meat? I blame myself because it is so hard to tell her no to certain foods. Please help.

Precocious puberty is defined as the onset of puberty before age 7 or 8 in girls or age 9 in boys.

Puberty requires the body to have a certain weight and fat distribution (hence the delay in gymnasts and ballerinas). Since the 1990s, 8-year-olds weighing as much as a normal 12-year-old have been at a greater risk for developing precocious puberty.

The reason the radar screen lit up in the 1990s has been associated with more hormones and "new" fats being introduced and used in the preparation of food.

According to a study published in Pediatrics, when girls adopted from poor countries were introduced to the Western diet of artificial fats and sweeteners, and hormone-based foods, they also entered puberty early.

DES, diethylstilbestrol, was one of the first synthetic estrogens made and used commercially in the United States to fatten chickens. DES was also used in human medicines. When DES was found to cause cancer, it was phased out in the late 1970s.

In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration approved the recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rbGH. Estimates indicate that 30 percent of dairy cattle in the United States may be treated with rbGH.

Six different types of steroid hormones currently are approved by the FDA for use in food production: estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate. Because estradiol, progesterone and testosterone are sex hormones made naturally by the body, no regulatory monitoring is possible, since it is impossible to determine the difference between hormones produced naturally or used for treatment.

Zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol are synthetic growth hormones. Organic regulations prohibit the use of synthetic growth and breeding hormones in livestock. Because hormones are used in milk and beef products, it is important to read labels and purchase foods that the label specifically states that the product does not contain growth hormones.

Unfortunately, chemical free is not allowed to be used on a label. While Federal regulations prohibit hormones in raising hogs or poultry (something is causing the chicken breast to be double in size), the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on labels of pork or poultry. As I always say, read the entire label before purchasing any food product.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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