Wed, Jun 13, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Hormones also pose health risks

By Chen Yi-nan 陳逸南

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the amount of children with fatty livers. This problem is most commonly seen in overweight children. Approximately 25 percent of the adult population also suffer from this condition. This is a critical national health problem that requires immediate attention.

One of the causes of fatty liver is the ingestion of too many hormones found in animal food products. Because of changes in the way animals are bred, artificial hormones are now used extensively throughout an animal’s lifespan. This problem is worst in poultry and livestock that are fed throughout the day and night, so that they will grow as quickly as possible.

Proponents of this method have tried to make it sound better than it is by saying that fast growth is a result of using animal feeds that have been improved using scientific techniques that make them more nutritious. In reality, fast growth happens because the artificial hormones increase the animals’ appetite, causing them to eat more hormone-laced feed.

The hormones in animal food products do not dissipate when the product is soaked in water, boiled, fried or processed into derivatives like bacon. When steroid hormones enter the human body, they destroy the hormonal balance and the body starts to resist insulin. This causes disorders in the metabolism of several of the body’s systems, leading to problems such as obesity, hyperlipemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, problems with the reproductive system and osteoporosis. Insulin resistance carries the same toxic side effects observed in patients who have received long-term steroid treatment, as has already been scientifically proven.

When it comes to xenobiotics, it does not matter how much is present in animal food products — any amount is considered to be a form of residue. While many countries manage this type of hormone stringently, many loopholes exist in their enforcement systems, which shows how hard banning hormones is. Other problems are that analytic methods for testing the amount of hormonal residues are complicated and testing equipment costly.

In 1999, the EU banned the import of beef and beef liver that contained artificial-hormone residues from the US and Canada, citing public health concerns. At present, the issue of US beef imports to Taiwan has become characterized by the question of which is more important: national interests or public health. This issue should be approached rationally and, apart from considering the problems caused by the livestock feed additive ractopamine, we should also pay attention to the important issue of US meat containing hormonal residues.

Chen Yi-nan is vice convener of the Northern Taiwan Society’s science and technology subcommittee.

Translated by Drew Cameron

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