Why Milk Is Linked To Hormones, Belly Fat and Acne

Today, I got a reminder about just why dairy doesn’t help with so many conditions.

Milk contains  ‘insulin growth factor-1’ or IGF-1 which regulates cell growth and development. There is lots of IGF-1 in cow’s milk so that calves can grow fast. But what about us? No-one really knows what the effects of having all this extra grwoth hormone does to us.

I always joke that it’s one of the reasons why we are all growing taller. Did you know builders now have to make doors taller on new builds because of that? (No joke really.) Also, I have long suspected it could be a factor in the rising levels of obesity and cancer. And now it seems that science may be bearing me out.  

Here is what the PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) Health Team in the US (www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com) had to say about it in their newsletter this morning. They were writing about PCOS specifically but a lot of this applies to many of us:

“1) IGF-1 stimulates cell division and retards cell death. Therefore, it is a supporter of cancer growth.

2) IGF-1 in milk appears to increase your insulin levels and possibly increases IGF-1 production inside your body. Excessively high insulin levels are a huge problem for women with PCOS, resulting in a condition called “insulin resistance.” Insulin resistance in turn is a driving force behind infertility, weight gain, and all the other symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.”

(Ed’s note – and not just for PCOS sufferers; that goes for all of us – insulin resistance is one of the main factors in developing belly fat and obesity, let alone diabetes and metabolic syndrome.)

“3) IGF-1 stimulates an enzyme called 5alpha-reductase. 5alpha-reductase in turn stimulates the production of DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is thought to be the #1 cause of acne, hirsutism, and hair loss.

4) IGF-1 stimulates production of male hormones by your ovaries and adrenal glands. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen. Your male hormone levels are already too high if you have PCOS.

Milk also contains something called 5-alpha-P which has several effects, especially on hormone balance. First, it can be converted into DHT (dihydro-testosterone), which is a factor in acne, hirsutism and hair loss. It appears it may also make you more sensitive to estrogen. Many women are oestrogen dominant, where they have too much oestrogen in relation to progesterone. So, if you have too much unopposed oestrogen and if 5-alpa-P makes you more sensitive to it, there’s a possibility that you may be more at risk of oestrogen sensitive issues like endometriosis, endometrial cancer and breast cancer.

So, all in all, reminds us why dairy is not the superfood it has been painted.

There is a simple urine test by the way if you want to know if you are oestrogen dominant. Read about that here. This costs £120 but could be a really useful prevention test for later life – there is a way of offsetting the high oestrogen levels too if you need to.

However, note that if you are menopausal or post menopause, this test is even better as it costs the same, but also includes an osteoporosis risk urine test, which we recommend for all women over 40.

You can have the bone test done separately too if you need it. Costs £70 and will show if you are losing bone long before any DEXA scan will so you can take preventative steps way earlier if you need to. A no-brainer really.  

Anyway, hope that was helpful – useful to remind ourselves why we keep saying ‘stay away from dairy’ – these are just some of the reasons. If you want to read some more, download the 15 page factsheet I’ve written which talks further about this and wheat, shows you how to discover if you are intolerant to them and where to start to solve it. Just £2.50. Bargain! (Note that this is also included in the How To Eat Well Recipe book so you don’t need it if you already have the book.)

Sources: Melnik B et al, Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris, Exp Dermatol. 2009 Oct;18(10):833-41
Danby FW, Acne, dairy and cancer: The 5alpha-P link, Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Jan;1(1):12-6
Melnik B, Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies, J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2009 Apr;7(4):364-70
Melnik B, Milk–the promoter of chronic Western diseases, Med Hypotheses. 2009 Jun;72(6):631-9