By Michael Castleman, Natural Solutions
We’ve been told all our lives to drink milk for strong bones. Many of us even feel guilty when we don’t get the recommended three servings of dairy each day. In fact, we’ve been led to believe that we have a “calcium crisis” in the United States because so many of us don’t get enough dairy. The proposed solution? Drink more milk, eat more yogurt and cheese, and take calcium supplements.
So why are we convinced that milk, dairy foods, and calcium supplements prevent the fractures osteoporosis can cause? Because teachers, doctors, and advertisers have told us we need calcium–and lots of it–to keep our bones strong as we age. Because every major US health agency endorses daily consumption of milk and dairy: the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
But consider this: The most industrially advanced countries–the US, Australia, New Zealand, and most Western European nations have the highest fracture rates–yet consume more dairy than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, the people in much of Asia and Africa consume little or no milk (after weaning), few dairy foods, and next to no calcium supplements, and their fracture rates are 50 to 70 percent lower than ours. What’s going on?
The latest research shows that our bones need more than just calcium. It turns out the way we eat–along with our lifestyle choices and stress levels–can actually contribute to bone depletion, no matter how many calcium supplements we take or glasses of milk we drink. Amy Lanou, PhD, an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina Asheville, and I came to this realization after reviewing 1,200 studies on the dietary risk factors for osteoporosis. Our rather radical conclusion: The calcium theory is bankrupt. The better solution? Eating a low-acid diet, which strengthens bones much more effectively and, as a growing number of bone-health researchers agree, holds the key to preventing osteoporosis.
Next: The calcium myth