The Adverse Effects of Animal Growth Hormones on Human Health

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With the current increase of human population, the demand for more food production has been on the rise. For this reason, farmers have turned to using synthetic hormones to increase the production of eggs, meat, and milk. However, the use of growth hormone on animals has been a controversial issue with many people having ambivalent views on the topic. Some contend that it is advantageous because growth hormones increase profit and ensure that farmers obtain maximum gain from rearing the livestock. At the other end are those who hold assertions that the practice is unethical due to the increased adverse effects they have on the consumers’ health. Nonetheless, regardless of the common-sense views, it is evident that growth hormones have detrimental effects on human health because they interfere with the normal functioning of the body hormones. This essay will seek to unravel the adverse health effects that animal growth hormones have on the consumers.

            Exposure to the artificial steroids present in the animal growth hormones alters the endocrine equilibrium at all stages of life thereby disrupting the healthy human development. For instance, exogenous hormones cause premature puberty in teenagers who consume animal products containing growth hormones (Coll et al., 250). The anabolic steroids administered to the livestock comprise a combination of several hormones such as Testosterone, Zeranol, Progesterone, Oestradiol, and Melengestrol. Notably, these hormones play a role in secondary sexual development. Therefore, the derivatives of these hormones present in the animal growth factor significantly alter sexual growth leading to early maturity. The Oestradiol hormone present in these growth factors induces early breast and uterus development in young girls. Conversely, high Oestradiol serum level in young boys leads to heterosexual precocity and breast development. Therefore, animal growth promoters alter the healthy sexual development of an individual.

            Growth promoter’s derivatives cause infertility in both men and women. A study by Zhang found out that, increase in the serum level of oestradiol hormone from the synthetic growth promoters, causes infertility in men (Zhang et al., 997). Besides, the anabolic steroids trigger a decrease in testis size and changes in prostate glands, seminal vesicles, and the spermatogenesis process. On the other hand, synthetic progesterone derivatives alter the female menstrual cycle by interrupting the normal ovarian functioning thereby blocking the ovulation process.  Equally important, exposure of the artificial growth promoters during intrauterine and prenatal phase is detrimental as they cause malformations on the sex organs. According to Lee et al., the growth hormones cause structural abnormalities of the testis, uterus, ovaries, and prostate glands (Lee et al., 1920). As a result, the malformations disrupt the reproduction function thereby leading to sterility and infertility during adulthood.

             Bovine growth hormone used on animals to increase milk production triggers abnormal cell multiplication in human beings hence leading to the development of tumors. Excretion of the bovine hormones on milk raises the serum level of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin which supposedly causes cancers of breast, lung, prostate, and colon. According to Giovannucci et al., the hormone induces local mutagenic effects on the body tissues which cause abnormal growth of the cells causing malignant tumors (Giovannucci et al., 85). Besides, the insulin-like growth promoter binds to the prostate and breast epithelial cells producing mutation thereby raising chances of breast and prostate cancers. Exposure of growth promoter to fetuses predisposes them to cancer and especially blood cancer in addition to the increased likelihood of developing reproductive cancer in adulthood. Therefore, health sector should enact policies regulating the use of growth hormones because of their detrimental effects on human health.

            Synthetic animal growth hormone causes obesity in both children and adults. Increased use of growth enhancers has dramatically raised the obesity rate in the society affecting about two third of the general populace. On average obesity reduces life expectancy because of the many health challenges it creates. For instance, obesity resulting from the anabolic steroids leads to chronic diseases such as cancers, diabetes, and heart diseases. In addition to these effects, it deteriorates the quality of life by increasing the likelihood of developing asthma and sleep apnea (Kushi et al., 257). Besides, health community has associated gastrointestinal conditions such as pancreatitis to obesity. On the other hand, overweight causes menstrual irregularities, degenerative bone disease, and erectile dysfunction.  Therefore, there should be controlled measures of using animal growth enhancers to curb the rate of obesity which will be crucial in reducing the stigmatization that obese individuals face.       

            Melengestrol a synthetic animal growth hormone causes early menopause in women. The hormone alters the oestrous cycle in the same mechanism as progesterone. Notably, Melengestrol is about 30 times more active than the natural progesterone hormone. Therefore, when women consume this hormone, it increases their body oestrogen levels thereby interrupting with their regular cycle. Usually, animals receive this hormone either through subcutaneous implants or by combining it with the animal feeds (Coll 254). The subcutaneous implant will contain either a single hormone or a combination of several anabolic steroids aimed at promoting proper food utilization by the animals. As a result, women consuming animal products treated with this hormone increase the chances of exposure of this growth promoter as well as other anabolic steroids such as estradiol, progesterone, and Zeranol. Therefore, the increased plasma level of these hormones alters the reproduction function of women and in most cases thy result to early menopause.

 Zeranol, a synthetic animal growth promoter, interrupts with the body's immune system and also the reproduction system.  The hormone's metabolite binds immediately to the body's receptors that interact with the estrogen production.  Therefore, following the consumption of this hormone, it triggers the excessive production of particular uterine proteins that lead to a significant increase in the uterine mass (Lee 1925).  For this reason, the hormones affect conception rate, ovulation cycles as well as increasing the chances of developing endometriosis. Furthermore, the growth promoter adversely affects the normal functioning of the immune system because of the hormone's potential to initiate drug metabolism.  When an individual consumes the hormone; it acts as a ligand which induces the enzymes that metabolize hepatic drugs. Therefore, due to this reason, it alters the function of the immune system by triggering drug metabolism pathways.

            While there are many concerns about the health effects of animal growth hormones on human beings, there is little research available to ascertain these negative impacts. For instance, there is no evidence to prove that animal growth hormones increase the chances of cancer since the number of steroids ingested through animal products is negligible as compared to the amount that the body makes every day. Variety of factors such as genes, smoking, and high-calorie level contributes to many types of cancers and therefore, attributing them solely to anabolic steroids is questionable. Besides, associating the growth promoter's hormones with early puberty and obesity seems baseless because many factors can lead to this. For instance, lack of adequate exercise and poor diet with high calories intake are a significant cause of early secondary sexual development and excessive weight gain. Ultimately, then, more research is necessary to determine and provide evidence-based analysis on the effects of animal growth hormones on the consumers.

             To conclude, use of hormone growth enhancers on animals has provoked significant health concerns on human beings. Absorption of growth hormones from the animal products causes adverse health effects such as the development of malignant tumors, infertility, obesity, and altered reproductive development. The health community should set up robust strategies aimed at understanding the health issues that these anabolic steroids pose to human beings. Therefore, attaining of non-hormonal animal products will not happen spontaneously. It will require a comprehensive risk assessment and hazard identification and characterization to safeguard the public health. Detailed research is necessary to determine the risk associated with hormonal promoters based on their genotoxicity and carcinogenicity. Besides, there is need to investigate the safety level of absorbing food products containing the synthetic hormone on childhood development and adolescents’ secondary sexual growth.


                                                               Works Cited

Coll, Anthony P., I. Sadaf Farooqi, and Stephen O'Rahilly. "The hormonal control of food intake." Cell 129.2 (2007): 251-262.

Giovannucci, Edward, et al. "Nutritional predictors of insulin-like growth factor I and their relationships to cancer in men." Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 12.2 (2003): 84-89.

 Kushi, Lawrence H., et al. "American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity." CA: a cancer journal for clinicians 56.5 (2006): 254-281.

Lee, Sang-Ah, et al. "Adolescent and adult milk intake and breast cancer risk: results from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study–." The American journal of clinical nutrition 89.6 (2009): 1920-1926.

 Zhang, Jian V., et al. "Obestatin, a peptide encoded by the ghrelin gene, opposes ghrelin's effects on food intake." Science 310.5750 (2005): 996-999.

August 09, 2023

Food Health



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