Do Hormones in Milk, Meat and Eggs Cause Early Puberty?

The question of what causes early puberty in young males and females has been added to a growing list of urban internet myths. According to numerous internet sources, the onset of early puberty is frequently blamed on drinking milk, primarily cow’s milk, but the myth also extends to hormones in meat and eggs. All living things including plants, animals and humans contain hormones, so it is reasonable to expect that milk, meat and eggs will also contain similar naturally-occurring hormones. We enlisted the help of experts Ann Macrina, PhD and Terry Etherton, PhD to determine if the hormones in milk, meat and eggs are responsible for early puberty.

Dr. Macrina:

The age at which puberty begins in girls has been decreasing since the mid-1800s. It is odd to blame it on dairy products since dairy consumption has actually decreased during the same timeframe. Several things have been cited as causing early puberty in girls:

  • Girls are maturing more quickly because they have better nutrition.
  • Many believe girls must achieve a certain body mass for the onset of puberty to occur. The obesity rate is increasing in this country at a rapid rate and girls are reaching this point much sooner.
  • Ethnicity might play a role. African-American girls and girls of Hispanic heritage tend to reach puberty sooner than Caucasian girls.

There are many contributing factors to be considered but I don’t think dairy consumption is one of them.

Dr. Etherton:

There are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have any biological activity. There is just no way to come to a science-based conclusion that hormones in food or dairy products cause early puberty.

The overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that there is no increased health risk from consuming meat and milk that is associated with the hormones found in these products. The reality is that there are many, many naturally-occurring protein and steroid hormones in all animal- and plant-derived foods.


Teresa of Tiaras & Tantrums shares her experience touring a working dairy farm.

Eggs” by Richard BHJohn Morgan is licensed under CC BY .