Hormones in Food as a Potential Risk for Human Reproductive and Health Disorders

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In the last 60 years, milk, meat, and egg worldwide consumption per capita increased 2-, 3-, and 5-fold, respectively. In the same period, several studies have reported a drop of semen quality and an increased incidence of cryptorchidism, hypospadias, and some hormone-related cancers (testicular, prostate, breast, endometrial cancer) in humans. A possible reason for these disruptions is increased exposure to exogenous hormones in food of animal origin. Hormones in food are considered to affect the endocrine system and cell signaling and thus disrupt homeostasis in the consumers. Since food safety assurance is a part of the veterinary service, the risk assessment of hormones in food as potential disruptive compounds is a significant challenge. Numerous cohort and epidemiologic studies and meta-analyses have been performed with respect to find an association between the consumption of food of animal origin and particular health disorders. Additionally, several studies in animal models have been performed to explain the mechanisms of disruptive effects of exogenous hormones. Since contradictory results have been reported, there is no general conclusion about the disruptive effects of exogenous hormones. Further experiments on animals in which long-term treatment with exogenous hormones is performed and further comprehensive endocrinological, toxicological, and human epidemiological studies are needed to confirm or deny the role of exogenous hormones in human health disorders. Moreover, long-term exposure to a combination of several exogenous compounds, such as environmental pollutants and dietary hormones and their additive effects, are also not well known and should be a topic for further studies.

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