Are the Hormones in Milk Harming Your Health?

milkI had a conversation recently with someone about milk and realized that many people don’t know that our milk is high in hormones. While we have stopped the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH), diary cows in the US are typically always pregnant so the milk from those cows will be much higher in estrogen and progesterone than nonpregnant cows.

Milk from pregnant cows contains five times the estrogen during the first two months of pregnancy, according to one study, and a whopping 33 times as much estrogen as the cow gets closer to term. Could this increase in hormones in milk partially explain the rise in hormone sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate? Or early menstruation in young girls?
Ganmaa Davaasambuu, PhD, MD says: “The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking, without apparent harm, for 2,000 years. The milk we drink today may not be nature’s perfect food.”
Unfortunately, these hormones make it through processing so they will still be in yogurt and cheese. The amount of hormones is lower in lower fat milk. Goat and sheep milk are likely high in hormones as well. Check out the article below for more info on the unanticipated consequences of trying to produce cheap food.
Copyright 2016 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Got Milk? No Thanks.

by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

milk TJMany years ago I decided to go to an Oriental Medicine Doctor. One of the first things he told me to do was to stop consuming dairy, which he said was linked to a number of health conditions. Reluctantly, I complied. After about 2 days without it, I noticed something miraculous: I could actually breathe when I woke up in the morning for the first time in my life. And that was it. I cut out dairy for good and have never looked back.

Since I had such good results, I decided to take a closer look at the research related to dairy. And occasionally, I would tell patients to try cutting it out to see what benefits they might receive. In particular, I told people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and sinus problems. One patient I saw had IBS. He told me he was committed to cutting out dairy for one month. I never saw him again but I did run into his doctor who said, “I don’t know that you did, but my patient is cured!”

How could something we grew up thinking was “nature’s perfect food,” actually turn out to be far from perfect? As a dietitian, I have been inundated with information and propaganda about dairy for years. However, as I started to read more independent research, I quickly realized dairy caused problems for a lot of people and may not be necessary for anyone at all.

So what are the issues with dairy?

  • Lactose intolerance: Some people do not have the enzyme to break down milk sugar, so they get gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. Certain ethnic groups such as Asians, blacks, and Native Americans have high rates of lactose intolerance.
  • Sinus problems: Dr. Weil says you can see a dramatic improvement in sinus problems in two months by cutting out dairy. My improvement was practically overnight.
  • Dairy is loaded with hormones. Even if you buy organic milk without recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), it will still have high hormone levels. Why? Because dairy cows are almost always pregnant with lots of circulating hormones that pass to the milk. This is not good news considering that hormones have been linked with an increased risk of breast, prostate, and testicular cancer.
  • Ovarian cancer: Some research has linked dairy with ovarian cancer. While more research is needed, some of the sugars found in milk may increase risk. One study found a higher risk in women who consumed the most lactose.
  • Prostate cancer: Consuming too much calcium appears to increase the risk of prostate cancer. A Harvard study found that men were twice as likely to develop advanced prostate cancer if they drank two or more glasses of milk each day. Another study found that men who consumed 2,000 mg of calcium a day had double the risk compared to men consuming less than 500 mg per day. Until we know more, drinking a lot of milk or talking a lot of calcium is not a good idea for men.

Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, cut out dairy and his heartburn disappeared in just 24 hours. He wrote about his experience and received 1,300 responses from people reporting that eliminating dairy got rid of migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, eczema, heartburn, acne, hives, asthma, gall bladder issues, body aches, ear infections, colic, seasonal allergies, rhinitis, chronic sinus infections and canker sores.

So what does dairy have to offer?

  • Calcium? You can get the equivalent amount of bioavailable calcium found in one glass of milk from 1¾ cups of kale, 1½ cups of bok choy, 2½ cups of broccoli, 1 cup of turnip greens, or just over ½ cup of calcium set tofu. And there are a lot of alternative milks such as almond or soy that are fortified with calcium.
  • Protein? There are much healthier sources of protein such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and veggies.
  • Vitamin D? Sit in the sun, eat some salmon, or take a vitamin D supplement instead.

TJ almond milkThe good news is that you can easily replace cow’s milk with almond, soy, rice, hemp, or coconut milk instead. I love Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Milk. Cheese is a bit harder to replace in terms of taste, but there are options out there. I really like cashew cheese. I make it by soaking cashews overnight and then blending them with a little water, salt, and lemon juice. There are soy cheeses and cheeses made with tapioca starch, rice, and almonds as well. Nutritional yeast is a nice option to have in place of Parmesan cheese.

Why not try cutting dairy out for 30 days and see what happens? If you derive any benefit, please post a comment and let us know what happened!



Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Are Diet Drinks a Healthy Choice?

Almost every time I go out and speak on diet and health someone asks about diet drinks and artificial sweeteners. Considering that we are hard wired to go for sugar, it’s easy to understand why we would want something with a sugary taste and no calories. But are artificial sweeteners safe? And can they help us lose weight and keep it off?

The upside of artificial sweeteners—including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Necta Sweet), and sucralose (Splenda)—is they have no calories, and that is a good thing. However, the downside is there are a lot of unknowns about the long-term safety and effectiveness of consuming them.

Saccharin was linked with bladder cancer in animals, but now the Food and Drug Administration says they are safe. Some animal studies also link aspartame to a slight increased risk of cancer. Splenda has a cleaner bill of health so far. However, it’s made by adding chlorine molecules to sugar. Somehow I just can’t imagine ingesting sugar with chlorine!

It would make sense that if you cut out sugary drinks and replace them with a zero calorie artificially sweetened beverage you would lose weight. However, the research on the effectiveness of diet drinks for weight management is mixed. Strangely, some studies have found an increase in weight with the use of artificial sweeteners. Researchers think this may occur because drinking something that is super sweet with no calories may increase your desire for sweet foods and cause you to eat more sweets and calories later.

Artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Splenda, for example, is 600 times sweeter than sugar. I have read that the continual use of these sweeteners actually changes your palate and prevents you from tasting the subtle flavors of other foods.

In terms of health risks, the Framingham Heart Study found a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in people that drank both regular and diet sodas. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood fats, high blood sugar, and belly fat that increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.  Yet another study found a 30-percent decline in kidney function from drinking just two diet sodas a day!

With so many uncertainties, I have never felt comfortable using artificial sweeteners myself, not to mention I don’t like the taste. Although artificially sweetened drinks seem like a better option than sugary drinks in the short term, I don’t recommend them till we know more about their effectiveness and safety. And there are so many tasty and healthy options out there to try now instead. My current favorite is Hint Fizz. Why not try it instead of a diet soda or other artificially sweetened drink? Your taste buds will adapt and soon the super-sweet taste of artificial sweeteners will taste sickeningly sweet and the subtle taste of other drinks will taste just right.

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Healthy Drinks

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Are sugary drinks the new tobacco? They just might be considering that New York City banned the sale of super-sized drinks and other cities have proposed taxing them. And for good reason. It’s relatively common knowledge that sodas, sports drinks, juice drinks, energy drinks, and smoothies offer a plethora of calories and sugar. What some people don‘t realize is that you can get hundreds of calories in just one drink, but they don’t make you feel full like other foods. On top of that, they can increase your feelings of hunger in just a few hours. This probably explains why emerging research shows that calories from sugary drinks cause more weight gain than calories from other foods. It’s no wonder they are considered one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic!

Yet nothing beats a nice cold drink on a hot summer day. So what to do?  Why not try a zero calorie drink, without artificial sweeteners, that is flavorful and maybe even good for you?  I have done many drink tastings with hundreds of people and there are a few standouts you can buy at the market that are worth trying.

MetroMint has zero calories and a tasty Chocolatemint flavor that even diehard chocolate fans seem to like. Steer clear of the berry and cherry flavors unless you like the medicinal taste of cough syrup.

Another great no-calorie drink is Hint. The Strawberry-Kiwi and the Mango-Grapefruit flavors are particularly good.

The winner in the unsweetened tea category is Sokenbicha Bold Barley Tea. I have found it at Whole Foods Market, but not all of the stores carry it. If you find a store that has it, try it. You will not be disappointed. It’s really good. There are other worthy unsweetened teas out there such as Tejava and Trader Joe’s also has an unsweetened green tea. However, they both pale in comparison to the Sokenbicha Bold Barley Tea.

Another great option is fruit-and-herb-infused water. I’ve created a few recipes at home and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy, tasty, and cheap they are. Why spend a buck fifty for a small bottle of another drink when you can make a whole pitcher at home for less money?

One recipe that I really like is made with sliced lemon with vanilla. It is easy, cheap, and quick. You can also combine lemon, mint, rosemary, and cucumber for a really tangy drink. I have a lemon tree in my yard and grow rosemary and mint, so all I have to buy is a cucumber and some filtered water. You can’t get much easier or cheaper than that. Another really tasty infused water is made with strawberries, but you have to leave it in the frig for a few days to get a great flavor.

Below is one of my favorite recipes. Try it instead of a daily 140-calorie can of Coke and in a year, with very little effort on your part, you could lose 14 pounds! Let me know if you would like to see more of my recipes for fruit-and-herb-infused water.

 Strawberry Kiwi

Strawberries infuse very well. This drink is so tasty and delicious it will keep you going back for more.


  • 9 ripe strawberries
  • 1 kiwi
  • 8 cups filtered or bottled water


1. Wash the strawberries, cut out the leaves, and cut in half.

2. Wash, peel, and slice the kiwi.

3. In a 2½-quart pitcher, or a gallon plastic water bottle, combine the water, strawberries and kiwi.

4. Make sure to cover the container and place in the refrigerator. If you are using a glass pitcher without a lid, place a piece of saran wrap snugly over the top.

This drink tastes good in 3 to 4 days. Take the fruit out once you like the flavor. Depending on how fresh your fruit was, it should last about 5 days.

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.