By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
We have been told over and over again that consuming 3 servings of dairy products per day helps build healthy bones.
Not so fast.
Recent studies suggest this is not true.
What are Bones, Anyway?
Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Osteoporosis (porous bones) nicknamed ‘scurvy of the bones’ is the weakening of bones caused by too much destruction and not enough rebuilding.
What Causes Bone Loss?
Loss of bone with aging is the result of several factors including genetics, physical inactivity, hormones (oestrogen in women and testosterone in men) and overall nutritional status.
Milk Might be The Culprit
An interesting study that has been published recently has found that women who drink more than three glasses of milk per day were more likely to break their bones than women who drank less. This study included more than 100,000 people over 20 years on their dairy ingestion.
This study concluded that women who drank more milk had an increased rate of bone fractures by 50% combined with a higher mortality rate. This study also concluded that women who drank more than 3 cups of milk per day were twice as likely to die from cancer or heart disease as women who drank less than 1.
This study also showed that the people who had a high intake of milk had higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory markers which contributes to premature aging. Interestingly this association was not seen with fermented dairy products such as yogurt and sour milk.
Milk Out, Vitamin D In
In another study researchers followed nearly 7,000 adolescent girls (9 – 15 years) for seven years, tracking their diets, physical activity, and stress fractures. They found that dairy products did not prevent stress fractures. What they found was Vitamin D and exercise had a positive impact while calcium had no association and dairy products had an increased risk for fractures.
The Nutrients that Actually Help Prevent Bone Loss
Often people are not aware that other nutrients besides calcium have just as much involvement if not more in the maintenance of healthy bones. Important nutrients that support healthy bones are magnesium, silica, boron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and the sunshine hormone Vitamin D.
What You Can Do to Prevent Bone Loss
1. Consume dark green leafy vegetables – what can’t these vegetables do? They contain many of the important bone building nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, vitamin K and vitamin C.
2. Get plenty of exercise – such as weight-bearing exercise which includes walking, dancing, jogging, weightlifting and stair-climbing. It’s important to include a variety of different exercise to ensure you are stressing all the different bones.
3. Consume other sources of calcium rich foods – here is a great list of dairy alternatives for your calcium.
4. Get your vitamin D – this is so important for bone health because it controls the uptake of calcium from the intestines into the blood and reduces the loss through the kidneys.
5. Get more vitamin K on your fork – consuming collards, kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, dark leaf lettuces, swiss chard, dandelion and asparagus. Women who get at least 110 mcg of vitamin K a day are 30 percent less likely to break a hip than women who get less.
6. Consume plenty of vitamin C rich foods and fresh juices – citrus, strawberries, berries, tomatoes, peppers and kiwi fruit. A study showed that elderly patients with lower levels of serum vitamin C had an increased rate of fractures. When vitamin C levels are low, osteoclasts that degrade bone proliferate while osteoblasts that stimulate new bone growth are not formed. Therefore bone is more likely to be broken down at a faster rate.
7. Watch you don’t get too much preformed vitamin A (retinol) – this is not the natural vitamin A you find in vegetables. Be aware of any multivitamins and fortified foods in large amounts.
8. Avoid consuming too much alcohol, caffeine and completely avoid soft drinks.