There Hormones in Your Whey Protein?
that has popped up a few times in my email in box relates to the
issue of hormones in whey protein supplements. Are there hormones
in your whey? It?s not a simple "yes" or "no"
answer I am sorry to say, but the short answer is, people have
nothing to fear.
Being an animal
based product derived from milk, whey, like any animal based product,
could potentially contain some naturally occurring hormone(s).
The issue is, which hormone and in what amounts?
abilities being as sensitive as they are today, being able to
search for things in parts per million (ppm), parts per billion
(ppb) or even parts per trillion (ppt) in some cases, some hormone
of some kind can be found in virtually anything we humans ingest,
especially if it is derived from an animal source (though plants
also often contain some naturally occurring hormones or hormone-like
the scoop on whey? The major concern seems to revolve around:
based sex hormones (e.g., testosterone, etc.)
hormones and or growth factors (e.g., IGF-1, bovine growth hormone
or bovine somatotropin, etc)
compounds such as anti biotic contamination.
I will attempt
to address those in particular to clear up any fears or confusion
over the matter.
there any steroids in your whey?
being highly lipophilic (soluble in fat) will be found in the
lipid (fat) portion of whey, or any milk based product for that
matter. Any high grade whey isolate (WPI) is essentially fat free
(read my article "The Whey it is" to understand the
differences in the types and quality of whey proteins in back
issues of Muscular Development or at my web site at: http://www.brinkzone.com/wheyitis.html).
CFM isolate contains less than one tenth of one gram of actual
dairy fat per 20 gram (20,000 milligrams) serving, which is approximately
one standard scoop found in most products.
fat listed on the can of most whey isolate products generally
comes from the addition of small amounts of lecithin, which is
not an animal based lipid, and or the flavoring system being employed.
An ion exchange whey - though not an optimal whey protein in my
opinion as explained in "The Whey it is" - will contain
even less fat.
So, the reality
is sex hormone levels in the lipid portion of milk fat and or
fat in whey is so low as to be either non -testable or virtually
non testable. Add to that fact that whey isolates are virtually
fat free, and it's easy to see this is a non-issue.
there any growth hormones in your whey?
As for growth
hormone(s) such as bovine somatotropin (BST) and IGF-1, etc.,
that's a bit more complicated. Growth factor hormones (e.g., BST,
IGF-1, etc.) are protein based hormones (versus steroid based
hormones discussed in the previous section) and thus, can be found
in the protein fraction of animal based products, such as muscle,
will keep the discussion of these hormones specific to whey as
that's what this article is about right? Milk, and thus whey protein,
does contain minute amount of BST.
BST is simply
the bovine (cow) form of growth hormone cows produce naturally.
In humans, it's called Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is produced
in the pituitary gland and is also a popular anti aging drug many
people are using to fight the effects of aging.
this is the essential point, BST is not found in higher levels
then would be found if the animals were not treated with BST.
That is, whether they treat the animals with BST or not, they
find the BST levels in milk to be found in minute amounts and
in the normal "background" levels.
What are the
levels of BST found in milk? It ranges from approximately zero
- ten parts per billion (PPB) and typical level found in milk
is 3ppb. That translates into approximately 1 mcg (one millionth
of a gram) per liter. That ladies and gents is what we call a
truly miniscule amount.
To add to
the above, protein based hormones such as BST-naturally occurring
or otherwise - are quite delicate and digestion of these proteins
means they are destroyed when ingested. To sum up, I consider
the risk from BST to be again, a non-issue. Don?t forget, the
issue has been looked at extensively by the scientific community.
Institutes of Health (NIH) looking at this issue stated "The
composition and nutritional values of milk from bST-supplemented
cows is essentially the same as milk from untreated cows... (M)eat
and milk from rbST-treated cows are as safe as that from untreated
cows." (NIH Technology Assessment Conference Statement on
Bovine somatotropin. JAMA. 1991:265:1423-1425).
of the American Medical Association (JAMA) said on the issue "The
FDA has answered all questions and concerns about the safety of
milk from bST-supplemented cows..." (JAMA. 1990:264:1003-1005).
Science stated "The data evaluated by the FDA documented
the safety of food products from animals treated with rbGH."
(Bovine Growth Hormone: Human Food Safety Evaluation. Science.
no matter what hysterical issues some people have tried to raise
with BST, the data and the facts simply does not support the hysteria.
It's a non-issue to human health. However, and it should be noted,
that may not be the case for the cows themselves, just as large
amounts of HGH can be problematic for humans, and that issue is
currently being evaluated.
They may stop
giving cows BST due to the health issues it presents to cows,
but not due to any health issues to humans. So read my lips here
gang, it won't matter if the milk is taken from "organic"
non BST treated cows or not, the BST levels appear to remain the
same and are (a) found in miniscule amounts and (b) in all probability
are destroyed during digestion.
can differences in the amounts of some compounds (pesticide for
example) between some organic foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables)
and non-organic foods, but BST simply is not one of them.
As for Insulin-like
growth factor one (IGF-1) that's more interesting and relevant,
though it still appears to be a non issue to human health. Different
whey product will have varying levels of IGF-1 depending on many
variables such as: whether it?s a concentrate (WPC) or an Isolate
(WPI), how it's produced, and even what time of the year the milk
is taken from the cows, and so on.
So, I can't
give the levels for every form and type of whey (see aforementioned
article above "The Whey it is" to understand different
types of whey).
As an example
(cause I have the numbers handy on my desk and it's the form of
whey I personally use!), CFM isolates have approximately 35 micrograms
(mcg) of IGF per 100g of powder (recall standard scoop is 20g).
we are not talking gram amounts here but micrograms, which is
one millionth of a gram! 35 micrograms could not even be seen
by the human eye. Could there be any negative physiological effects
to consuming this amount of IGF-1?
Add to the
reality how unstable and sensitive to digestion protein based
hormones are, it's highly unlikely. Being a well-known anabolic/anti
catabolic hormone, I bet most bodybuilders wished the levels of
IGF-1 in whey where much higher!
there is a whey product known as Bioactive Whey Fraction (BAWF)
protein that has bumped up levels of IGF-1 and other growth factors
that should be on the market shortly. Read "The Whey it is"
for more info on that if interested.}
IGF-1 was made a bit of a boogieman hormone when a link (correlation)
was found between IGF-1 levels and prostate cancer. However, that
association was not found in later studies and any cause and effect
relationship between the two is fuzzy at best, and even contradictory
according to some studies.
some doctors find that PSA levels (used as a predictor of prostate
cancer) often drops when giving older men growth hormone (which
increase IGF-1 levels) which is not what one would expect to find
if IGF-1 was a cause of prostate cancer nor is IGF-1 levels correlated
to PSA levels.
being a growth factor, able stimulate cell division and cell differentiation,
it has been theorized that like other growth factors (e.g., GH,
epidermal, transforming, platelet derived, fibroblast, nerve,
and ciliary neurotrophic growth factors and others) IGF-1 could
stimulate the growth of some cancers.
This is far
from proven however and far far more complicated then it appears
on the surface. For example, IGF-1 levels, as well as GH, are
intimately connected the immune system, and have a wide range
of essential effects on the body, such as keeping bodyfat levels
low and muscle mass levels up, bone formation, and 1000 other
effects. So, painting IGF-1 as a bad guy hormone is both unscientific
and simply incorrect.
Would a person
with a hormone dependent liver cancer want to inject (versus eat)
large amounts of IGF-1 or GH? Probably not, but even that is unclear
at this time.
forget the incidence of prostate cancer increases with age in
men but blood levels of IGF-1 and GH decline significantly with
of prostate cancer is a highly complex, and not fully understood
interaction between diet, genetics, an inflammatory process, and
hormones such as testosterone, DHT, estradiol, and other physiological
variables and hormones both known and yet unknown.
line here is, microgram amounts of IGF-1 found in whey poses minimal
(because no thing on earth we eat poses zero risk!) to a non-existent
risk, and may even help us in some ways.
IGF-1 has been shown to improve some gastrointestinal diseases
and pathology, reduces muscle loss during certain disease states
and other beneficial effects.
essential to remember from the many articles that have been published
on whey (written predominantly by yours truly) that whey has been
studied extensively for it's effects on cancer specifically, and
across the board has been found to prevent various forms of cancer
in animals (with human data strongly suggesting the same effects
in people), improve immunity, and other positive effects, such
as possibly improve performance and treat over training syndrome
(OTS) in athletes.
clear any increased risks from ingesting miniscule amounts of
IGF-1 found in whey - if there are any at all - are offset by
the many positive health effects of this well studied protein.
there any anti biotics in whey?
can address the possibility of any contamination from the anti-biotics
given to the cows that may find it's way into the milk and then
have found that in a small number of cases anti-biotic residues
could be detected in commercial milk. This has caused some people
to use organic non-treated milk.
extensive consulting work in the whey industry, I can tell you
all major manufacturers of whey protein powders test constantly
for anti biotic residues, as the milk industry in general does.
whey manufacturers I have worked with test every single batch
of incoming milk for anti-biotic residues and reject any batch
that finds any amount, no matter how small. Only milk that gets
an ND (non detectable) stamp of approval after testing is used
to produce the whey.
are no anti biotic residues in your whey supplements. I can?t
personally vouch for all whey manufacturers as I have not done
consulting work for all whey manufacturers, but the handful I
have worked with had an extreme level of quality control over
the issue, and I have no reason to suspect other companies are
not just as anal about it.
I hope the
above clears up any fears or confusion regarding questions people
may have had regarding whey. Considering how much research is
out there on whey and its many positive effects on such a wide
range of things, such as immunity, possibly preventing some cancers,
improving performance, etc., I know whey will remain a staple
part of my diet for many years to come. It's off to blend up some
whey for me!
For more article
from fitness author Will Brink See:
or take a look at his two top selling ebooks here: