American milk gives women mustaches: Russian health official
American milk = literal mustaches.
This is according to Nikolai Vlasov, Russia's deputy head of the Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service. Here's what he told the Moscow Times:
"In the United States, dairy cows are treated with somatotropic hormone. As a result, the yield increases by 20 per cent. And it makes women develop male sexual characteristics — mustaches."
Vlasov is referring to a synthetic bovine growth hormone known as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).
As far as I can tell, there are no scientific studies directly linking rBGH and unwanted facial hair. But as Global Post points out, the Russian official isn't totally off base in sounding the alarm over rBGH.
The hormone is approved by the U.S. FDA and deemed safe for humans by the WHO. But it has been banned in Canada, as well as the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
According to the American Cancer Society, which has no formal position on rBGH, there is inconclusive evidence that drinking rBGH milk is harmful to human health. But they highlight two main concerns:
1) that rBGH milk may increase people's blood levels of growth hormone or insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
2) that rBGH milk could cause cows to develop more udder infections, which means farmers are administering more antibiotics
With respect to No. 2, the overuse of antibiotics in livestock is a major concern because it is driving drug resistance -- not only in animals but humans too (and as we've heard, health officials are very worried about antibiotic resistance and a looming apocalyptic scenario).
As for No. 1, some studies have suggested links between IGF-1 and certain cancers. But according to the American Cancer Society, that link remains unclear -- and we don't know the extent to which IGF-1 in milk is absorbed by the human digestive tract.
Now, going back to what the Russian health official said -- there is this article that suggests IGF-1 may cause ovaries to produce more male hormones. Which, yes, is linked with hirsutism, or excess hair growth in women.
But until there is solid evidence linking rBGH milk and unwelcome facial hair, perhaps it would be best to take the Russian's milk mustache warning with a grain of salt.
Jennifer Yang is the Toronto Star’s global health reporter. She previously worked as a general assignment reporter and won a NNA in 2011 for her explanatory piece on the Chilean mining disaster. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar