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Osteoporosis and milk

Much of the success of dairy products is the result of the believe that we need much calcium: about 800 mg per day and even more for pregnant and nursing woman. In the USA they have even raised the daily recommendation from 800 mg to 1200 mg, because of excessive soft drink consumption. The phosphoric acid in soft drinks (coke) deprives the body from calcium. It's very difficult to combine a diet which provides naturally so much calcium without using dairy products.


Now the question is: do we need that much calcium? Here are some facts to think about:
  • If you look at different countries in the world the conclusion is that the less milk people consume, the lower is the osteoporosis rate (1). Osteoporosis is a rich-person's disease. Osteoporosis and consumption of dairy products go hand-in-hand.
  • African Bantu women take in only 350 mg of calcium per day. They bear nine children during their lifetime and breast feed them for two years. They never have calcium deficiency, seldom break a bone, and rarely lose a tooth (2).
  • Mother's milk contains 4 times less calcium than cow's milk. Mothers' milk does, of course, contain all the calcium babies need in their first two years. Babies fed on motherís milk are perfectly able to increase bone-mineral density. And because our natural foods, on the average, contain about as much calcium as mother's milk, it is absolutely impossible that these natural foods contain too little calcium.
  • A 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, showed that higher dairy products consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to those with the lowest consumption (3).
  • We found no evidence that higher intakes of milk or calcium from food sources reduce fracture incidence. Women who drank two or more glasses of milk per day had 45% more risk for hip fracture and 5% more risk for forearm fracture when compared with women consuming one glass or less per week. Likewise, higher intakes of total dietary calcium or calcium from dairy foods were not associated with decreased risk of hip or forearm fracture. Conclusion: these data do not support the hypothesis that higher consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium by adult women protects against hip or forearm fractures (4).

References

(1) Schwartz, A.V. et al, "International variation in the incidence of hip fractures: cross-national project on osteoporosis for the World Health Organisation Program for Research on Ageing.", Osteoporosis Int. 1999/9
(2) Walker, A., "Osteoporosis and Calcium Deficiency", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 16:327, 1965
(3) Cumming RG, Klineberg RJ., "Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the elderly", Am J Epidemiol 1994, 139:493-503.
(4) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: A 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health 1997;87:992-997.

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