In Part 1 of this article in last months Edge Life on "Got Milk or Maybe Not," we discussed documented research that correlates dairy consumption with many types of cancer, constipation, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. While we hope you were convinced of the need to severely reduce and eventually eliminate dairy from your diet, you were probably left wondering "What about my calcium?"
In 2001, Americans consumed 23 gallons of milk per person and 30 pounds of cheese. [USDA’s Economic Research Service] Despite the country’s appetite for dairy products, one out of every two women over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime. The number of physician visits for osteoporosis increased fourfold between 1994 (1.3 million visits) and 2003 (6.3 million visits). Even stranger, in many dairy-avoiding countries, people get through life with far fewer of the age-related hip fractures that plague Americans.
Calcium Supplementation: Cross-sectional results indicated that higher dairy product consumption is associated with greater hip bone mineral density (BMD) in men, but not in women. Calcium supplementation protected both men and women from bone loss in the longitudinal study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004). The Journal also reported in 2008 that supplements of calcium (792mg/day) have been effectively shown to increased the build up and bone mineral content in teenage girls.
Dairy, Calcium and Osteoporosis: Milk and other dairy products contain only small amounts of magnesium. Without the presence of magnesium, the body only absorbs 25 percent of the available dairy calcium content. In turn, the excess remaining calcium can cause problems. Calcium builds up the mortar on arterial walls, which becomes atherosclerotic plaques. It can be converted by the kidneys into painful stones that can block the urinary tracts. Excess calcium also contributes to arthritis. Osteoporosis is not a problem that should be associated merely with lack of calcium intake.
Processed Foods and Bone Health: Research has found that lifelong consumption of foods rich in potassium and magnesium, notably fruits and vegetables, made for strong bones in aging men and women (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999). People who consume highly processed foods often don’t get enough potassium and magnesium. Sources of potassium are bananas, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli and melon. Sources of magnesium are whole grains, nuts, beans, dark green vegetables and fish.
What is a "processed food"? Canned foods with lots of sodium, such as ravioli or chicken noodle soup, would be considered "processed foods." Other processed foods and ingredients would be white breads and pastas made with refined white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, packaged snack foods (like chips and cheese snacks), frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners, packaged cakes and cookies, boxed meal mixes (really read the ingredient label on these!), sugary breakfast cereals and processed meats. This is not an exhaustive list, but we think you get the idea. We strongly encourage you to eat food is in freshest, most natural state. Use frozen varieties only when fresh are not available.
Can Dairy Consumption Cause Calcium Loss? The massive amounts of protein in milk results in a 50 percent or greater loss of calcium in the urine. In other words, by doubling your protein intake, there will be a loss of 1-1.5 percent in skeletal mass per year in postmenopausal women – and this, multiplied over 20 years, is considerable. The calcium contained in leafy green vegetables is more easily absorbed than the calcium in milk. Don’t get us wrong…protein is very important for other bodily processes. However, if you are concerned about calcium intake, getting your calcium from milk may not be the best option. Douglas Kiel, M.D., of Harvard Medical School states, "Normal digestion produces increased acidity. In this environment, bone acts as a buffer base. Minerals of are drawn out of the bone to neutralize the acid, thereby reducing the strength of bone. Fruits and vegetables help to prevent this loss of bone mineral density, because they create a more alkaline environment in the body. They neutralize the acid without depending on the buffering effects of the bone minerals."
D3 and Calcium Supplementation: Each day for 18 months, 1,634 women took 1,200mg of elemental calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D3, and 1,636 women received a double placebo. The number of hip fractures was 43 percent lower and the total number of non-vertebral fractures was 32 percent lower among the D3/calcium group than among those who received placebo. The bone density of the proximal femur increased 2.7 percent in the D3-calcium group and decreased 4.6 percent in the placebo group (New England Journal of Medicine, 1992). Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the best source of Vitamin D to take. Be sure to visit our website [www.okeefechiropractic.com] and click on our newsletter archives for October 2007.
Where Should I Get My Calcium? For a reference point, 1 oz. of cheese has 207mg and 8 oz. milk has 300mg of calcium. The following is the amount of calcium in the following: 1 cup collard greens 357mg; 1 cup rice milk (plain, calcium-fortified) 200-300mg; 1 cup turnip greens 249mg; 1 cup black eyed peas 211 mg; 1 cup kale 179mg; 2 tablespoon sesame seeds 176mg; 1 cup okra 176mg; 1 cup bok choy 158 mg; 5 medium figs 135mg; 1/4 cup almonds 97mg; 1 cup broccoli 94mg; 1/2 cup amaranth 74mg; 1/2 cup dried apricots 43mg; 1/2 cup quinoa 25mg; and 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses 137mg.
Alternatives to Dairy – Nut and Rice Milks: Non-dairy milks are good choices for those who choose to avoid cows’ milk. You can use them for cooking or on your cereal for breakfast. Nut milks (e.g. almond milk) are usually the most nutritious, since rice milk is almost purely carbohydrate (and therefore high glycemic and not recommended for diabetics) and soy milk may act as a hormone imbalancer.