Why do we continue to drink milk and eat cheese? Americans consume more milk and dairy products per person than most other countries. Sadly, we also have one of the highest rates of hip fractures, the prime indicator of osteoporosis. The countries that have higher rates of hip fractures than USA also have higher rates of milk and dairy consumption (New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom and Finland). It is time we challenge the industry’s advertising practices and eliminate the real cause of fractures and osteoporosis.
The dairy industry’s push for consumers to drink more milk is confusing and misleading at best. The dairy industry wants you to believe that you need milk for strong bones and to avoid osteoporosis. This is not true! Excellent calcium intake can be achieved with a plant-based diet.
The medical industry is missing what they should be recommending to patients to reduce the incidence of bone fractures. Doctors and the insurance industry’s use of Bone Mineral Density (BMD) tests alone should be questioned. Yes, the speed at which we lose bone mass as we age is important and needs to be considered. Nevertheless, why are doctors and the medical industry avoiding or not asking patients: “How much dairy products do you consume (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) and how much weight bearing exercise do you do?” Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is not the best predictor of osteoporosis or bone fractures. Consider this, being fat is linked to greater BMD as well as exercise, especially exercise that involves weight lifting. I do not believe we would recommend that people get fatter to improve BMD! In actuality, consuming milk which acidifies the system, actually leaches calcium from bones and requires the addition of calcium to partially offset its calcium drain from your bones.
According to some very credible research, the best predictor of osteoporosis is the dietary ratio of animal-to-plant protein. In some Eastern countries the BMD is lower than Western countries and yet the fracture rate is also lower. So, what does one need to do to reduce his or her risk of developing osteoporosis?
- Increase your daily exercise to include safely lifting some weight. It does not matter if you do this by going to the gym, buying a few barbells to use at home or simply filling some plastic bottles with water or sand and lifting those on a regular basis. Of course, no matter what type of lifting works for you, always do your lifting exercises safely. The Mayo Clinic has some useful guidance for weight training.
- Stay away from highly processed food and avoid animal foods, especially dairy products.
- Eat more beans and dark leafy vegetables.
- Minimize your salt intake. If you really need the taste of salt, sprinkle a small amount on top of your food before you eat it.
Prevention is important and taking steps NOW to protect your health as you age is the best decision you can make. Do not do as I did by waiting until I was taking eight prescription drugs. Then, during a general medical appointment being diagnosed with a chronic disease (diabetes) for which another prescription was going to be prescribed. Do not expect that your medical doctor will understand how to prevent disease through healthy plant-based nutrition. The majority are taught how to treat symptoms by prescribing drugs, not how to prevent disease from happening in the first place.
On average, only four hours of “nutrition” information is provided in medical schools and the “educational” material is being supplied by less than credible and definitely not unbiased sources (The Dannon Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Dairy Council, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and Baxter). Maybe we should all stop complaining about how sick we are and start learning how to be healthy and prevent disease in the first place?