Health

Cow’s milk doesn’t prevent osteoporosis

Having a diet without dairy products may seem as an unhealthy lifestyle for many people. And of course, if someone tries to prevent or treat “osteoporosis”, to consume milk is a must. These indoctrinated ideas imposed by the health authorities and the dairy lobby industry appear obsolete and rather harmful. Many researches have appeared, giving a scary version for the equation bone health and dairy. As a summary, all of them came to the following conclusion: consumption of milk doesn’t protect against osteoporosis or fracture (1). And on top of that, diets high in dairy products increase mortality (2).

One of the first and large research projects was the twelve-year prospective study among 77761 women, aged 34 through 59 years, in 1980 in America. It was called: Milk, dietary calcium and bone fracture in women: a 12 years prospective study. The conclusion dismantled all previous believes: drinking milk doesn’t protects against hip or forearm fractures (3). Moreover, those who drank three or more servings of milk a day had a slightly higher rate of fractures than women who drank little or no milk.

Osteoporosis graph more fractures
A graph from a study showing that milk intake may increase risk of fractures

The outcome appears to blame cow’s milk for causing osteoporosis. However, it is important to look at all investigations with wide and critically open eyes. Dairy products may not cause osteoporosis, but so far, all studies do suggest that cow’s milk is useless in protecting people from osteoporosis. Yes, it goes against the conventional wisdom and propagandistic believe. In the context, the famous and respectful Dr Colin Campbell, one of the authors of the bestseller “The China Study” book, reported that “ironically, osteoporosis tends to occur in countries where calcium intake is highest and most of it comes from protein-rich dairy products. The Chinese data indicate that people need less calcium than we think and can get adequate amounts from vegetables source plant food”. Some more studies (4) (5) come out later with the similar outcome.

 

Bones, weaker

Osteoporosis is a health conditions that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break. In this scenario, calcium from dairy has appeared as a superhero to cope with the disease. Nevertheless, it can easily turn into a villain.

Osteoporosis bones
Comparison between a healthy bone versus a bone with osteoporosis

Those who suffer from osteoporosis must understand the concept of negative calcium balance. If someone consumes around 1,000 mg of calcium from a dairy source, a third of this mineral gets absorbed. Let’s say, about 300 mg. But, what about with the remaining 700 mg? Where do they go? Well, the remaining amount stays in the digestive tract and passes out in the stool as it can’t be absorbed, provoking a dramatic increase of acidity in the body. So, as more calcium is excreted in the urine than it is absorbed through digestion, it causes a negative calcium balance. A process which in a long term can bring bad news to our health.

A negative balance over time results in bone loss, as the additional calcium must come from the primary calcium storehouse, bones in the body. The continual depletion of calcium reserves over time, from excessive calcium excretion in the urine, is a primary cause of osteoporosis. Although, there are some other factors that provoke excessive urinary calcium expel. The list contains animal protein, salt, caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol, nicotine, drugs such a antibiotics, steroids, thyroid hormone or vitamin A supplement.

 

Protein and acidity

As an important note, the published data clearly links increased urinary excretion of calcium with animal-protein intake, but not with vegetables-protein intake (6). Plant foods, even those high in protein, are not forming acid. However, animal protein ingestion fuels the body with a heavy acid load in the blood. This sets off a series of reactions whereby calcium is released from the bones to help neutralize the acid. The sulphur-based amino acids in animal foods contribute significantly to the urinary acid production and the resulting calcium loss.

Osteoporosis graph
A graph with percentage of fractures annually by some countries

Western diets are usually high in animal protein, excessive salt and sugar and low in fruits and vegetables. So, a single step to prevent further damage could be by introducing more fruits and vegetables in the diet. They can help buffer the acid load from animal products. Green vegetables, beans, tofu or sesame seeds contain a great amount of usable calcium, excluding the problems associated with dairy. Apparently, many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50%, compared with about 32% for milk (7). Additionally, since animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium.

As the last note, osteoporosis causes almost 9 million fractures annually worldwide. In other words, every 3 seconds a fracture occurs. For gender, 1 in 3 women over age 50 suffer an osteoporotic fracture. However, in men it happens 1 out 5.

 

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8154473/
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1380936/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/milk-may-be-linked-to-bone-fractures-and-early-death/
  5. https://europepmc.org/article/PMC/PMC4926535
  6. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/58/3/398/4716009?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8172128/#:~:text=Dietary%20calcium%3A%20adequacy%20of%20a%20vegetarian%20diet.%20Obtaining,inclusion%20of%20dairy%20foods%2C%20fortified%20foods%2C%20or%20supplements.

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