Effect of dietary estrogens from bovine milk on blood hormone levels and reproductive organs in mice

J Dairy Sci. 2016 Aug;99(8):6005-6013. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-10610. Epub 2016 Jun 2.


Cows are often milked until 60 d before their next expected calving. Milk from cows in the third trimester of pregnancy contains up to 20 times more estrogens than milk from nonpregnant cows. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether exposure to known doses of estrogens from bovine milk could affect blood hormone levels in mice and influence their reproductive organs. This study was performed with 30 intact male and 30 ovariectomized female mice. Mice of each sex were randomly divided into 3 experimental groups, each with 6 animals of each sex, and a control group with 12 animals of each sex. The first experimental group received 4mL of milk each day from a pregnant cow with natural estrone (E1) and 17β-estradiol (E2) in concentrations 0.093 and 0.065ng/mL, respectively. The second experimental group received 4mL of the same milk each day, with an added 10ng/mL of both E1 and E2. The third experimental group received 4mL of the same milk each day, with an added 100ng/mL of both E1 and E2. The control group received no milk. After 8 d of treatment, mice were euthanized, blood was collected, and the uteruses, testes, and seminal vesicles were weighed. The results of our study demonstrated that consumption of native milk from a pregnant cow did not affect plasma E1 and E2 levels in either sex; uterine weight in females; or testosterone levels and testes and seminal vesicle weights in males. Similarly, we found no changes in the group that received the milk with an added 10ng/mL of E1 and E2. We did observe elevated plasma estrogens in both sexes, increased uterus weight in females, and decreased plasma testosterone levels in males from the group that received milk with an added 100ng/mL of E1 and E2. However, concentrations in the third group exceeded the physiological concentration of milk estrogens by 1,000 times, so it would be extremely unlikely to find such concentrations in native cow milk.

Keywords: cow milk; estrogens; lactation; mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Diet*
  • Estradiol / blood*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Estrone / blood*
  • Estrone / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Random Allocation
  • Seminal Vesicles / anatomy & histology
  • Seminal Vesicles / drug effects
  • Testis / anatomy & histology
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Uterus / anatomy & histology
  • Uterus / drug effects


  • Estrone
  • Estradiol