How Does Dairy Affect Your Hormone Levels?

Does the estrogen in cow’s milk promote the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers or cause early puberty in children? Nutrition Diva investigates.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #373

A couple of months ago, I addressed the question of whether eating meat affects your hormone levels. Since then, several of you have written to ask the same question about cow’s milk.

All milk (whether from cows, goats, humans, or porpoises) naturally contains small amounts of various hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Because hormones like estrogen are fat-soluble, the level  of hormones is higher in whole milk than in skim milk. Organic milk, however, contains about the same amount of hormones as conventionally produced milk.

See also: Can Whole Milk Keep You Thin?

Does Dairy Promote Breast Cancer?

Some worry that the hormones in cow’s milk could cause health problems in humans. People have suggested that estrogen in cow’s milk might promote the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast or ovarian cancer, for example. Others worry that hormones in milk might cause early puberty in children.

Before I go any further, let me say once more that I fully support anyone who decides that they would rather not consume dairy. It’s not essential for a healthy diet. And there are any number of reasons you might decide that you don’t want to consume dairy products. You might feel, for example, that it’s an exploitation of animals. Or you might not feel comfortable with the conditions that dairy cows are raised in.

But if your primary reason for avoiding dairy is concern over hormones, let me share what I’ve uncovered on this front.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.