An Introduction toBovine Growth Hormone

Published On April 24, 2017 | By Kimberly Baker | Health

Bovine growth hormone (BGH) also famous as the Bovine somatotropin (BST) performs the same functions in cattle like human growth hormone (HGH) does in humans. Likewise, its recombinant form called the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is synthesized using the rDNA technology. It is different from the natural form in just one amino acid. The major function of the recombinant hormone, like its natural counterpart, is to increase the production of milk in the cows. This function is acquired by the activation of IGF-1 by the growth hormone following which IGF-1 enhances the milk secretion.

rBGH was approved by the FDA in the early 1990s

rBGH is a veterinary medication and was approved by the FDA for use in cattle in the year 1993 following many studies. Most of the studies reported the absence of any ill effects in the cattle. For example, rBGH treatment did not affect the cow’s ability to reproduce, neither did it affect the calf’s health. The cow remained healthy and safe. FDA also considers the effect of the drug use on the environment and its effect on humans if people consume the meat of the treated animal. Research showed that rBGH is a big protein and would be degraded by the digestive enzymes of the human gut if the meat or milk contained any traces of it. Also, the structure was quite different from the HGH so its ability to hinder any normal functions of HGH is negligible. Hence a green signal was shown to the rBGH, and it made its successful entry into the market.

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The ill-effects of the hormone treatment in cows

It is well established that rBGH greatly enhances the milk production. But a number of problems follow along with it, like an increase in the levels of pus, antibiotic residues, and even IGF-1, a cancer-promoting hormone in the milk.

Induction to produce more milk often results in a diseased condition of the udder in the cows called mastitis. In mastitis, there is an increase in the release of cow’s pus in the milk. Studies have shown that this hike in pus levels is significant on hormone treatment. The upsurge of udder infections is almost by 79% whereas the rise in somatic cell count is 19%. In fact, certain studies also indicate the prevalence of digestive disorders like indigestion, diarrhea, bloat, etc.

It has been regarded unsafe for human use by medical experts

BGH levels in cows treated with rBGH are not significantly higher. Besides, this protein is also inactive in humans. What has gained more concern is the presence of higher amounts of IGF-1 in the milk of treated cows. Various studies have reported that more than required levels of it in the body may clout the development of tumors of the breast, prostate, and others. However, not many studies have been successful in showing evidence of the same in humans. rBGH is a veterinary medication that has both benefits and side-effects among the cattle but it can never be recommended for use in humans.

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