Osteoporosis and dairy: why milk damns 'dem bones
Dairy damns ‘dem bones
The myth about people needing calcium from cows’ milk is so pervasive that you’d think vegans were boneless blobs, wobbling around the floor! This is the crème de la crème (excuse the pun) of myths from the dairy industry: we, but especially our children, must have cows’ milk for strong bones and teeth. Western nations have been duped into believing that we need to suckle from cows to obtain calcium! When you think about it, the notion is preposterous. After all, how did we develop a healthy skeleton for most of our evolution when we did not drink dairy? And how, today, do the majority of the world’s people have strong bones when they don’t consume dairy? In fact, there are very strong links between osteoporosis and dairy. The supreme irony is that the disease of weak bones, osteoporosis, is more common in those nations that consume the most dairy products! The latest figures from 63 countries show the truth of this, with a huge variation in fracture rates – some countries having 10 times as many fractures as others (Kanis et al, 2012). Nations such as the UK, where dairy consumption is high (av. 270 grams dairy products a day), has one of the highest osteoporosis rates in the world. Nigeria, on the other hand, which eats a diet high in plantains, tubers, wholegrains, vegetables and pulses and where only one per cent of the diet is dairy and less than three per cent is meat – has almost no cases of osteoporosis. (National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria, 2010.) You may be wondering how Inuit (used to be referred to as Eskimos) people survive? When scientists studied them, one outstanding discovery was that after the age of 40, Inuits had high bone loss and fast progression of osteoporosis. This was attributed to a diet very high in animal protein and phosphorus and low in fresh fruit and vegetables (Mazess et al, 1974).