Could estrogen exposure play a role in laminitis?

March 31, 2012

Two stories caught my attention in the last few days: an article about how young girls are now developing much earlier than what was previously considered normal and a report that autism cases have risen dramatically.

Anytime I see what appears to be evidence of environmental factors wreaking havoc on the body, I feel compelled to open the story, because I am convinced environmental factors led to my horses becoming insulin resistant and laminitic. Note that estrogen comes up over and over in the first article. Estrogen causes the body to make more insulin, and more insulin creates belly fat. Increased fat cells make estrogen. Thus, excess estrogen creates a never-ending cycle of insulin-resistance. As far as horses go, research published in 2007 showed that elevated insulin causes laminitis in horses, and a study published in 2011 suggests how that elevated insulin causes laminitis. These two breakthroughs have made horse owners focus on trying to fix laminitis through dietary changes as well as trim techniques.

The story on the girls developing early says animal studies show that exposure to some environmental chemicals can cause bodies to mature early. Of particular concern are endocrine-disrupters, such as estrogen mimics.

The story says one particular concern is the effect of simultaneous exposure to many estrogen-mimics, including the compound bisphenol A, or BPA, used in everything from plastic bottles and metal cans to cash register receipts. The story says more than a million pounds of BPA are released into the environment each year.

Parents of girls developing early are being told this development is the new normal. Is that an acceptable explanation? Would that not be a little like saying laminitis is the new normal for horses?

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers on March 29, 2012, that say about 1 in 88 children in the United States has autism, and the prevalence of the condition has risen nearly 80 percent over the past decade.

The report said the cause of autism remains unknown. I did a quick search for BPA and autism. No shortage of articles there. Looks like autism groups have been suspicious of BPA for years.

I have never given a second thought to what type of plastic or coating was used in feed bags, buckets or other plastic materials around the farm. When I’ve looked at environmental factors, I was looking at things in the water, ground and fencing material.

It would seem plausible that some estrogen mimic was causing horses to have high levels of estrogen, leading to development of insulin resistance and laminitis. That certainly would coincide with anecdotal reports that more mares get laminitis than geldings, given that mares start out with more estrogen. I thought testing for elevated iron on my farm was going to be hard.


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