Dairy, although rich in calcium, may not be the best way to maintain bone health. We need to understand that there are many components that are in play in building and maintaining strong bones.
Here are some reasons why dairy may not be your best answer:
- People sustain more hip fractures in regions that consume milk products (US, Great Britain, Canada, Northern Europe), than in those that don’t (traditional Africa, China).
- The extensive Nurses Study at Harvard, which followed 78,000 nurses for more than 12 years, found that those who drank two or more glasses of milk per day have twice the risk of hip fracture than those who drink a glass a week or less.
- Dairy causes the blood pH to become acidic. When the body needs to balance the blood pH, it will draw calcium from the bones, reducing bone density.
- The calcium found in dairy products may not be the most bio-available – meaning that the body may not be able to utilize the entire ingested amount.
- Many people are lactose intolerant, as they lack the enzymes needed to digest the sugar found in dairy. This additionally makes dairy a less than viable source of calcium for these people.
Calcium is not the only thing you need to build and maintain strong bones. In fact, if you supplement your calcium without taking all the other nutrients into account, you may be making your bones more brittle and increasing your chances of suffering a fracture.
Understanding the structure and function of bones will help us figure out why calcium alone is not the answer.
- Bones are composed of calcium phosphate salts (65%) for hardness, and a collagen matrix (35%) for flexibility.
- When all the calcium from a bone is removed, leaving the collagen matrix, the bone will bend, not break, when subjected to stress.
- When the collagen matrix is removed and the calcium salts remain, the bone will break when stress is applied.
For strong bones that can withstand stress, we need many synergistic nutrients besides calcium.
Those complementary nutrients include magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper, manganese, zinc, plus the vitamins C, D, K, B6, and folic acid.
- We also need sufficient amounts of protein for the collagen matrix and healthful fats for Vitamin D absorption and protection against bone-destroying free radicals.
- To get sufficient Vitamin D, we need 20-30 minutes or more of sunlight every day, without using sunscreen. A sunscreen with just a SPF of 8 blocks 95% of the production of Vitamin D on the skin and anything higher blocks it all.
In my next blog, we’ll cover the optimum dietary approach to healthy bones.