You have probably seen the Got milk? advertisement from the dairy industry promoting strong bones as one of the many benefits of drinking milk. We even have non-dairy milk products and juices being calcium enriched, that’s how effective the dairy industry has been in promoting the message. Research on the cause of osteoporosis is not conclusive and keeping in mind that the dairy industry fund research to establish milk as a essential to bone health the availability of scientific research on milk and osteoporosis is heavily skewed in favor of milk. Nevertheless, independent research is conducted and a review of a few key indicators reveal interesting patterns.
Figure 1: Hegsted DM. Calcium and osteoporosis
There is a strong correlation between the intake of calcium and the prevalence of osteoporosis. Consider Figure 1 based on research from Harvard researcher Hegsted DM (source) whilst remembering the ranking of the highest milk consumption per capita in the previous post on milk.
…the countries that consume the most calcium (the U.S., Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) have the highest rates of hip fracture. Meanwhile, countries that consume little or no milk, dairy, and calcium supplements (much of Asia and Africa) have fracture rates 50 to 70 percent lower than those in the U.S. (source)
There’s another interesting pattern as well, that of animal protein intake and osteoporosis. Look at Figure 2 based on research by Frassetto (source). As intake of animal protein increase so does the incidence of hip fractures.
Figure 2: Frassetto
Our health experts tell us that osteoporosis is caused by calcium deficiency—hence their exhortations to consume more of the mineral. In fact, osteoporosis is caused by a calcium imbalance. The typical Western diet is too high in animal protein and too low in fruits and vegetables. As a result, the blood becomes chronically acidic, and the body draws calcium from bone to neutralize it, which eventually weakens bone and causes osteoporosis. (source)
It’s the protein!
It is correct that calcium is essential to build strong bones and milk is the only natural source of such high levels of calcium that you in a convenient way can boost your calcium levels. Dark leafy greens would be an alternative to milk but you need to eat a lot of that to get up to the same level as with 2.6 dl of milk per day. Milk is also a rich in protein, as all bodybuilders know. So if you want to maximize your intake of calcium and protein milk is a very convenient way. The question is: Do you?
Let me try to explain how calcium is dealt with by the body. Simplified, there’s two types of cells working together on this. The osteoblast that turn calcium in to bone structure and it’s sibling, the osteoclast, that is extracting calcium from the bone structure. The osteoclast is extracting calcium to the blood stream to reduce acidity level and restore pH of the blood.
Acidity is increasing because of our diet. Animal protein contains amino-acids and as they flow into your blood stream the acidity is increased. For your body to function properly it needs to maintain a pH-value within a narrow range so as the acidity increase the osteoclasts will quickly transport calcium from your bones to your blood stream to compensate and thus bring pH back within range. At the same time a process is started where calcium is turned into bone. But research indicate that somewhere in this system something goes wrong.
The problem is that the majority of the activated osteoblasts are destroyed in the process of making bone so they replicate to maintain the ratio to the osteoclasts. The consequence is that osteoblats replicate much more frequently than osteoclasts and since the number of times a cell can replicate is limited eventually your body cannot maintain balance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts anymore with the result that calcium is extracted from the bones faster than the osteoblats can produce new bone structure.
This happens to all of us, since cells can only replicate a limited amount of times we all get osteoporosis at one point. High intake of animal protein is accelerating this process.
What do you believe in?
As mentioned, research on milk and osteoporosis is not conclusive but I have chosen to exclude dairy from my diet because I have experienced plenty of immediate health benefits. Most notably improved digestion and I see a direct link between quitting milk and my eczema and adult acne disappearing. I feel better today by excluding milk from my diet. Will I be healthy in 20 years if I do not get the recommended 3 glasses of milk per day? We’ll see. I believe so.
What do you believe in – milk or no milk? Let me know in the comment section!
calcium, dairy, eat clean, milk, osteoporosis, welfare disease
Great informative piece.
How long have you excluded dairy for now to see those health benefits? Im particularly curious with regards to eczema.
I’m still on the fence with dairy, but it does seem like the evidence is staring at us in the face, just travel to Asia and see how much dairy they consume compared to the west. They have low incidence of osteporosis.
Perhaps Caucasians need significantly more calcium than Asians?
I’ve been off diary now for about 7 yrs and I experienced immediate health benefits after only 2 weeks or so. The of degree of benefit is certainly very individual so I suggest you just try 2 weeks completely off diary and see how you feel.
Nice blog you have there! Bookmarking!
I’ve just started it recently.
I really like what you write about and why you do it.
Will be sure to try to link to you in some of mine
Currently, about 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with osteoporosis at age 50, which is almost four percent of the country’s population. With the mass of Christmas cookies and heavy dinners we all encountered over the holidays, these findings give us some food for thought.;
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