Milk equals strong bones, right? Not so fast

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Suppose you had an adolescent girl, a teenager, whom you wanted to have strong bones. Would it be a good idea to urge her to drink lots of milk and have a high calcium intake? The answer may come as a surprise to some people. It is no.

Researchers connected with Harvard Medical School reported in the July 2012 issue of Archives of Pediatric Medicine a study of 6,712 girls who were followed for seven years. The researchers were interested in the frequency of stress fractures in girls who participated in organized sports and other athletic activities.

Stress fractures occur when stresses on bones exceed the bones’ ability to withstand and heal from the stress on competitive and recreational athletes. Stress fractures are fairly common in both types of sports.

The researchers found dairy and calcium did not prevent stress fractures and unfortunately a high calcium intake increased the risk of fractures. In that study the only thing that lowered the risk of stress fractures was increasing vitamin D intake. The authors suggested the vitamin D intake should be 600 international units per day for teenagers.

In an issue of the journal Pediatrics in March 2005 it was pointed out that for the previous 20 years the National Institutes of Health, National Academy of Science, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have given recommendations for calcium intake for everyone to prevent osteoporosis. The recommended intakes have gradually increased and dairy products have often been promoted by government documents as a preferred source.

However the use of dairy products in the U.S. is among the highest in the world accounting for 72 percent of the dietary calcium intake. At the same time the osteoporosis and fracture rates are high. Because of this numerous researchers have called into question the effectiveness of the policies that call for osteoporosis prevention through the use of dairy products.

Unfortunately increasing the intake of cow’s milk increases the intake of animal protein. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of January 2001 is an article from the University of California San Francisco showing how a high animal protein intake with a low plant protein intake increases bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women.

The researchers explained that animal protein produces acid substances in the body whereas plant protein produces base substances. And an imbalance between acid and base could have adverse effects on bones.

In this study, of 1,035 women age 65 and older, those with high animal protein intake had greater bone loss and risk of hip fractures.

In 1983, Dr. Frank Oski published the book “Don’t Drink Your Milk.” He outlined many reasons why milk is not the best food for anyone. Before anyone writes him off as a crackpot they would need to know his credentials.

He was for a number of years the director of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and physician-in-chief at the John Hopkins Children’s Center.

He also authored 290 manuscripts and was either the author, the co-author, editor or co-editor of 19 medical textbooks. One of those textbooks, of which he was the editor, was Mitchell-Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics which was used by thousands of medical students and doctors.

I highly recommend “Don’t Drink Your Milk” to anyone interested in good health read.

In the event that anyone wants to obtain the book it can be ordered at any Adventist Book Center. I need to add that I have no financial interest in the book.

Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent four years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 2 1/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.

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