I was recently interested in a January/February 2016 issue of VegNews report saying there is no connection between (dairy) milk and bone strength:
A new study conducted at the University of Auckland shows no correlation between dairy calcium intake and bone strength. Dr. Karl Michaelsson, a professor who studies osteoporosis at Sweden’s Uppsala University, found that people who consume high amounts of milk have the highest risk of bone fractures and early death.~VegNews
The research on this actually goes back to the 1930’s and 1940’s, and many other doctors and researchers called attention to this issue for years. See:
When Friends Ask, Where Do You Get Your Calcium? ~John McDougall, MD
Getting Clarity About Calcium ~Rosane Oliveira, DVM PhD
Beat Osteoperosis: Break Your Dairy Addiction ~Neal Barnard, MD
China Report: Osteoporsis ~T. Colin Campbell, PhD
THE POWERFUL DAIRY INDUSTRY
So why is the message falling on deaf ears? Doctors advise us to drink dairy milk and take calcium supplements. Why do many of us still believe milk and bone health go hand in hand?
If we look behind advertising campaigns telling us:
- Dairy milk is necessary for strong bones and to prevent osteoporosis. (1980’s “Milk: It Does a Body Good” ad campaign)
- Raw cow’s milk–full-fat, pasture-fed and unprocessed cow’s milk–is “nature’s perfect food.” (1998 “Real Milk” ad campaign)
- Consuming three servings of dairy per day helps us burn fat and lose weight. (2004 “3-A-Day, Burn More Fat, Lose Weight” ad campaign)
- Low-fat chocolate milk allows athletes to recover after a hard workout. (Recent “Got Milk” and “Got Chocolate Milk” ad campaigns)
- Drinking milk is a healthy way to start each morning because it delivers high-quality protein. (New “Milk Life” ad campaign)
We find the dairy industry promoting sales. In fact, all of the claims in the ad campaigns are based on research funded by the dairy industry. Read more in an article by One Green Planet: The 5 Most Deceptive Dairy Campaigns That Ever Existed.
THE REAL STORY
Longtime physician and nutrition expert John McDougall spoke extensively on the topic of dairy milk, calcium and osteoporosis at a 2009 conference. If you have time, take a listen.
If you do not have time, I pulled out key points! (Aren’t you lucky?)
In the video, McDougall said calcium consumption has little or nothing to do with bone health.
It turns out the diary industry paid for almost all the research to date studying the effects of calcium on bone health. Out of the many dairy industry studies–THEIR OWN STUDIES–57% show no benefit of calcium consumption on bone health, 29% show a favorable effect and 14 % show an adverse effect on bone health. In any case, only a few of the dairy industry studies meet the criteria of “randomized controlled” studies, meaning most of their studies are not properly constructed.
One of the legitimately randomized, controlled studies, a 1985 study of post-menopausal women (a group most likely to suffer osteoporosis) is particularly interesting to McDougall.
REEKER R., AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION 41:254, 1985
McDougall highlights this study because it found milk consumption hurts the bones. McDougall said dairy researchers “did the best they could to cover up the bad news.” He suggests we dig behind the verbiage of the study and look at the raw data.
What the data shows is that an experimental group (a group consuming lots of milk over the study period), LOST MORE CALCIUM than the control group (a group consuming no milk over the study period).
That means they lost more calcium in their urine and their feces than they absorbed through their gut. Those WHO GOT THE MILK lost twice as much bone as those who didn’t get the milk.
McDougall explains dairy industry researchers actually drew a direct link between bone density loss and an average 30% increase in animal protein from milk consumption in the experimental group over the study period.
What causes osteoporosis? Your bones are designed to last a lifetime. Your bones are not designed to dissolve at the age of 40 or 50. They are designed to serve you until 85 years old. So it has to be a disease. There has to be something wrong. We have been living by the wrong set of rules.
The wrong set of rules: We are eating a diet not intended for human beings. This is a diet we have not evolved upon…It is a diet that has qualities that may be fit for a cat or a T-rex or a dog, but not for a human being.
Meat and dairy are highly acidic. Alkaline foods are fruits and vegetables. The body maintains a slightly alkaline ph at all times. When we eat acid, our body wants to neutralize the acid to maintain its ph balance.
The primary buffering system of the body is the bones. The bones dissolve, they release bicarbonates and all kinds of alkaline material that neutralize the acid, and that’s how you lose your bones. You essentially pour acid on them and you lose your bones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ingesting extra calcium through dairy products has no appreciable impact on your bone health. In fact, ingesting the animal protein in dairy products causes harm to your bones. You get enough calcium by eating plant-based foods.
In a follow-up newsletter, McDougall said:
The source of all calcium is soil. Plants absorb through their roots. Animals eat the plants and obtain calcium in amounts sufficient to grow the skeletons of the largest animals that walk the earth, like the elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, horse, and cow…Most people who have ever walked this earth have grown their normal-sized adult skeletons without the aid of milk (other than mother’s milk during the first two years of life) and without concentrated calcium pill supplements.
I’ll save a discussion about animal protein and our near obsession with getting sufficient protein for another Thursday, because it’s an interesting topic.
In the meantime, my advice is: think carefully about drinking milk and taking calcium supplements for bone health. Look and see who funds any research you might be looking at. And, by all means, eat your vegetables! No one ever disputes the value in vegetables.