OSTEOPOROSIS and MILK INTAKE*
“Drink milk to get enough calcium to protect yourself from osteoporosis”. How true is this statement? Is it true?
It is a typical statement of the Dairy Industry. The “milk-for-strong-bones” propaganda.
It has long been known that countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis, such as Australia, USA, UK, consume the most milk, whereas those in countries with the lowest intake of milk, such as the Bantu people of Africa, have the lowest incidence of osteoporosis. China and Japan, where people eat less animal protein and little or no dairy food also have low rates of osteoporosis. When these people with the lowest intake of calcium and the lowest rates of osteoporosis migrate to Western countries and adopt the dietary patterns and lifestyle of their new homes, their rates of osteoporosis rise to equal those of their neighbours.
This topic has been explored in detail in my book How to Live to 100+ Years Free from Symptoms and Disease, chapter 10 Dairy Products, Osteoporosis and Calcium (see homepage).
The following sets out two studies, subsequent to the publication of the above book, which look at the intake of milk and the incidence of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
A recent meta-analysis (Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2010) of cohort studies of over 500,000 men and women found no relationship between milk intake and hip fracture rate.
These were prospective cohort studies published in both English and non-English journals identified by Medline search. To compare studies on the same scale, the authors calculated the relative risk of hip fracture per glass of milk intake (approximately 300mg calcium per glass of milk).
The researchers concluded:
“In the meta-analysis of cohort studies, there was no overall association between milk intake and hip fracture in women but more data are needed in men.”
In other words, they concluded that there is no evidence milk plays any role in preventing osteoporosis (hip fractures being the result of osteoporosis) (at least in women).
This was another meta-analysis of “Milk Intake and Fracture Risk” (Osteoporosis International Journal, 2005).
This study started out with the premise that “a low intake of calcium is widely considered to be a risk factor for future fracture.” The aim of the study was to quantify this risk on an international basis (cohorts drawn randomly from populations in Europe, Australia and Canada) and to explore the effect of age, gender and bone mineral density on this risk. 39,563 men and women (69% female) from six prospectively studied cohorts were studied. Cohorts were followed for 152,000 person-years. The effect of calcium intake, as judged by the intake of milk on the risk of any fracture, any osteoporotic fracture and hip fracture alone, was examined.
A low intake of calcium (less than one glass of milk daily) was not associated with a significant increased risk of any fracture, osteoporotic fracture or hip fracture. There was no difference in risk ratio between men and women. No significant relationship was observed by age for low milk intake and hip fracture risk. (Hip fracture is regarded as a result of osteoporosis).The authors stated:
“The principal finding of the present study undertaken in large and internationally drawn cohorts is that a low intake of calcium, as judged by the intake of milk, does not confer a substantial increase in fracture risk. No significant association was noted between intake of milk and the risk of hip fracture at any age and in either sex.”
“…that a self-reported low intake of milk is not associated with any marked increase in fracture risk and that the use of this risk indicator [low intake of calcium] is of little or no value in case-finding strategies.”
“…that if habitual dietary intake of calcium is a significant risk factor for fractures, a simple questionnaire on the intake of milk is unlikely to be of value as an adjunct to case finding.”
It should be noted that sources of calcium other than milk, including cheese and yoghurt, and variations in dietary vitamin D or sunlight exposure were not measured.
These two studies are in agreement with the conclusions and recommendations of chapter 10 of my book as referred to above.
Calcium nutrition is considered to be important for the attainment of peak bone mass.
The daily intake for calcium is widely recommended to be between 500 and 1000 mg daily, and even higher in Australia and the USA (1200-1500 mg daily).
A low calcium intake is generally regarded as a risk factor for fracture. In fact, this is not so. In most regions of the world where there is very little osteoporosis, the dietary intake of calcium (without any supplements of calcium) is low, often no more that 350mg per day.
Maintaining an adequate calcium intake is easily accomplished with an appropriate diet which excludes all dairy products, for the reasons set out in Chapter 10. For detailed information about calcium and the dietary sources of calcium, see my October 2007 newsletter Calcium.
Finally, consider the vegetarian animals such as cattle, elephants, giraffes and primates, all of whom grow big, healthy, strong bones for life. There is obviously no lack of calcium in their purely vegetarian diet.
*Copyright 2011: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the Huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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