Fact or Myth: Does Osteoporosis and Drinking Milk Have A Connection?

This is a fact.

And one of the more inexplicable health paradoxes of our time. It has been shown that osteoporosis and milk leads to a stronger risk of developing osteoporosis.

10 million Americans are diagnosed with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone condition that leads to an estimated 1.5 million bone fractures each year.

Osteoporosis has traditionally been linked to bone mineral density (BMD), which is the measurement of calcium in the bones. The higher your BMD, the stronger and denser your bones, and the less chance you have of developing osteoporosis…or so it was thought.

The Western medical establishment is baffled by the fact that countries whose populations consume the most milk and dairy products have higher rates of osteoporosis than countries whose populations consume very little milk and dairy.

Average BMD levels are, as expected, higher in those countries with a substantial intake of dairy. Citizens of countries such as Peru, Japan, China and Poland, which have notoriously low calcium intakes, have much lower BMD levels. No contradiction there.

The confusion arises when we analyze the osteoporosis and milk together. For instance, China consumes an average of 8 kilograms of milk a year – that’s 246 kilograms less than the amount consumed in the United States – yet the United States has six times as many hip fractures per year as China.

Consider the results of a twelve-year Harvard medical study. 78,000 women drank the USDA recommended three glasses of milk per day, but ended up having more broken bones than those who rarely drank milk.

Another study published in the American Journal of Edipemiology measured the rate of bone fractures in elderly Australian men and women. Results showed that participants who consumed larger quantities of dairy suffered from more bone fractures than those on a limited dairy diet. osteoporosis and milk

The verdict: Large amounts of calcium, while promoting denser bones and a high BMD, do not protect against the damaging effects of osteoporosis, and can in fact contribute to the advancement of the disease.

What can possibly explain this paradox?

The answer lies in the very nature of bones. Bones are never in a state of rest, but are continually breaking down and rebuilding.

There are two cells responsible for bone formation: osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts locate and dissolve old bone in need of regeneration, and osteoblasts fill in the leftover spaces in order to build new bone.

When there is an imbalance in the amount of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, osteoporosis develops. Large amounts of calcium consumed over extended periods of time encourage osteoblasts to build more bone than necessary. Unfortunately, the supply of osteoblasts eventually becomes depleted. The osteoclasts continue to break down old bone, but there are not enough osteoblasts to fill in the missing spaces, leaving brittle bones susceptible to fractures.

While calcium intake is important – calcium does support strong teeth and bones, regulate blood clotting and heart rhythm, and transmit nerve impulses – too much calcium can have adverse effects.

Rather than absorbing higher than necessary amounts of calcium, try some of the following tips to help protect your bones against fractures:

  • Engage in weight-bearing activities such as hiking, dancing, jogging and weightlifting.
  • Monitor your vitamin D intake: Look for a multivitamin that contains 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D
  • Eat green, leafy vegetables high in vitamin K
  • Lower caffeine, soda and sugar consumption
  • Avoid eating high-protein diets
  • Take a multivitamin with vitamin A from beta-carotene only.