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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   Stephen Walsh | Dairy Facts

Beyond Dairy & Calcium:
The Truth About Diet and Bone Health

By Stephen Walsh

On January 17, 2002, the US National Dairy Council sponsored a CALCIUM SUMMIT to address what it describes as a CALCIUM CRISIS.

Hundreds of nutritionists, government officials and educators gathered to develop an action plan to address the subject of calcium deficiency, which they see as a critical health concern for the upcoming generation.

Gregory Miller of the US National Dairy Council said:

There's a consensus that Americans are not getting enough calcium in their diet, and that's because of the deficiency of milk and dairy products in their diet.

The summit reinforces two fundamental errors in public policy with regard to promoting healthy bones: the undue pre-eminence accorded to calcium and the erroneous view that calcium is synonymous with dairy products.

Calcium is a very good thing, but increasing calcium intake from 500 mg per day to 1500 mg per day by taking supplements will add less than 90 mg per day to the calcium retained by most adults, and less than 50 mg per day for the 10 per cent with the lowest calcium absorption, who are at particular risk of osteoporosis.


 



Other aspects of diet are equally significant: 10 g of SALT per day will SUBTRACT about 70 mg per day from retained calcium by increasing calcium losses in urine whereas 4000 mg of extra POTASSIUM from a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and other unrefined plant foods will ADD 60 mg per day to retained calcium by reducing calcium losses. RELYING ON CALCIUM ALONE TO PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS IS LIKE FIELDING A FOOTBALL TEAM WITH ONLY STRIKERS AND NO DEFENDERS.

The second serious error is equating calcium with dairy products. DAIRY PRODUCTS ARE NOT THE BEST SOURCE OF CALCIUM AS THEY CAUSE CALCIUM LOSSES AT THE SAME TIME AS INCREASING CALCIUM INTAKE. A third of the calcium absorbed from milk and more than two thirds of the calcium absorbed from cheese is wasted in this way. In contrast, [low oxalate] green leafy vegetables such as kale and spring greens provide plenty of well absorbed calcium while at the same time reducing calcium losses. Calcium supplements lie in between in terms of their effect on retained calcium.

Retinol added to low fat dairy products in Sweden and the USA is strongly linked with increased risk of hip fracture, subverting the benefit of calcium. In terms of bone health, dairy products fortified with retinol are thus a poisoned offering. In contrast, vitamin K from green leafy vegetables and broccoli will promote stronger bones, dramatically reducing fracture risk.

Human use of dairy products is a recent and unnecessary development. A DIET RICH IN VEGETABLES, FRUITS AND ROOT CROPS AND LOW IN SALT PROVIDES THE BEST PATH BACK TO HEALTHY BONES.

A comprehensive and up to date review of research on diet and bone health can be found at:

 
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