Does Milk Build Strong Bones?
At Christmas in our house, Santa gets a glass of Healthibella nutty hemp milk with his cookies! (Recipe below.)
We’re not completely dairy free. My family and I (more the kids) enjoy a little cheese here and there on pasta or veggies and love the occasional pizza with dairy cheese, but long gone are the days when we would consume 2 - 3 glasses of cow milk, yogurt, and cheese per day as recommended by conventional nutrition, with the hope of getting our calcium and vitamin D. (My European husband grew up on milk and was a near fanatic about raw milk until he too read The China Study and did a 180 turn.)
Why the turn around? I began to suspect dairy's nutritional health claims. Even though I believe nutrition is the cornerstone of healthy living, over the years I’ve become less enthusiastic about all of the nutrition studies out there―which are often poorly conducted, supported by someone out to cash in, and are always narrow reductionist studies of one nutrition at a time without looking at the larger picture of the complex biochemical human body. (If this rings true or you're skeptical about this, please read Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. In my previous post, I announced it as the Healthibella Book of the Year. It is another gem by the author of The China Study....fantastic!)
When I read The China Study several years ago, however, I realized it wasn’t just another study. It was such riveting science that it rocked my world and catapulted me into adopting a predominantly whole foods plant based way of eating. I am 90% plant based, but not vegan and prefer not to use this term because a lot of junk food can technically be vegan. I also side with the nutritional advice of including some organic eggs, wild salmon/low mercury sustainable fish, and small amounts of organic poultry, grass fed beef, or wild game for certain individuals who are not ethically opposed, even though I myself don't eat meat.
I was drawn to read The China Study because I worried about dairy for other reasons, such as mucus formation, but I just didn’t know how highly correlated it was with so many diseases, including cancer, but also osteoporosis. How could I know? I had been told my whole life that milk was good for bones and would prevent osteoporosis. I was naive to believe these government food guidelines my whole life.
In his 30 year research, called The China Project, Dr. T. Colin Campbell thoroughly examined the correlation of animal protein, including the milk protein casein, with cancer, heart disease, diabetes type 2, and just about every other disease of affluence—including osteoporosis, for which milk is always being touted as necessary to prevent. There are numerous studies on this, but they don't get the marketing that the pro-dairy campaign gets.
The dairy industry would like us to believe that milk is good for bones and teeth, but that has been proven over and over to be scientifically untrue. Whatever calcium benefit milk provides (and it is not necessarily the richest food source for this mineral), the high animal protein consumed in milk, along with the calcium, robs our bones of exactly that calcium―making us much worse off because when it comes to bone health, what appears to be important in bone metabolism is not calcium intake, but calcium balance. Calcium is leached from our bones in the body’s effort to neutralize the acidity caused by casein and other animal proteins we consume.
This is perhaps why the countries that eat the MOST amount of dairy, have the MOST cases of bone fractures. On the right is the Oxford Journal abstract―just one of many studies conducted on the link between bone health and animal protein. Click here for the weblink.
In a previous Healthibella post about ideal food proportions, I presented the US Government’s 2011 My Plate and compared it to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition’s Food Plate.
A little background on the US My Plate:
- the 2011 guideline replaced the 1990s Food Pyramid
- in 2000, Dr. Neal Barnard, in his role as President of the International Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, took the U.S. government to court over the food guidelines
- the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with PCRM that the guidelines produced at that time had been concocted behind closed doors in a manner that violated federal law
- partly as a result of that litigation, the new My Food Plate guideline is better in many ways, but the US federal government still shirks from its responsibility, staying loyal to agribusiness while remaining surprisingly indifferent to health
- the 2011 Dietary Guidelines for Americans My Food Plate follows the familiar pattern and includes dairy, which is why PCRM is again suing the U.S. government
WHY IS INCLUDING DAIRY AN ISSUE?
Because lactose is tolerated by the minority of the world population. Considering that about 75% of the world's population—including 25% of those in the US—lose their lactase enzymes after weaning, it is an irresponsible flaw of the US government food plate to continue to promote dairy. It’s just another indicator of how the dairy industry interferes with government guidelines. (I personally would not trust the government for health advice, but it’s important because thousands of schools and millions of people, including medical doctors, follow these guidelines, so whether you personally follow them or not, they have a tremendous influence!)
For those who are "lactose intolerant," Big Pharma wants them to take a pill to be able to eat dairy. How does this sound to you? It sounds to me like Big Pharma and Dairy are in bed together!
Recently, there has been a change in terminology, which is a move in the right direction: the minority that can tolerate lactose after weaning are now defined as 'lactase persistent” (because this population has an inherited genetic mutation that allows them to retain their lactase activity after weaning). This term has replaced "lactose intolerant” once used to classify the majority who cannot tolerate it. (Lactase persistency is more common in people of European ancestry, but not strictly.)
Some key points to consider when it comes to bone health:
- Milk does not offer any nutrients that cannot be found in a healthier form in other foods; surprisingly, milk-drinking does not even appear to prevent osteoporosis, its major selling point.
- Milk does not reliably prevent osteoporosis, but milk is primarily advocated as a convenient fluid source of calcium in order to slow osteoporosis.
- Like the ability to digest lactose, susceptibility to osteoporosis differs dramatically between ethnic groups, and neither milk consumption nor calcium intake in general are decisive factors with regard to bone health.
- Populations with the highest calcium intakes had higher, not lower, fracture rates than those with more modest calcium intakes.
- What appears to be important in bone metabolism is not calcium intake, but calcium balance.
- Research shows that calcium losses are increased by the use of animal protein, salt, caffeine, and tobacco, and by physical inactivity.
- Animal protein leaches calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine.
- Sodium also tends to encourage calcium to pass through the kidneys, and is even acknowledged as a contributor to urinary calcium losses in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Smoking is yet another contributor to calcium loss.
- Physical activity and vitamin D metabolism are also important factors in bone integrity.
Nut Hemp Milk Recipe
- 1 litre purified still water
- 100 - 200 grams nuts (tigernuts, almonds, brazil nuts, hazlenuts, cashews; just avoid peanuts and pistachios because of mold issues)
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- put nuts in the filter (if using ChufaMix) or in the container with water
- soak the filtered nuts in the water in a container for a minimum of one hour and up to 8 hours
- using a hand blender, blend nuts until liquid is creamy
- lift the ChufaMix filter and use the mortar to press the liquid out (or lift the nut cloth out and squeeze the liquid out)
- put the nut meal aside (you can dehydrate it for another use)
- add the hemp seeds
- use the hand blender briefly to blend in the hemp seeds
- serve chilled or store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (I prefer to consume mine within 24 hours because of taste, but it will keep for up to 3.)