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Nutrition Column

Does Milk Do A Body Good?

Milk, it does a body good. This is what you were told as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult. At some point in your life you have probably heard a concerned mother tell her child ďBe sure to drink your milk, you need strong teeth and bones!Ē The unfortunate reality is that this statement could not be further from the truth.

One thing is true: the National Dairy Council (NDC) did an outstanding job at marketing their product. By convincing people (especially over concerned mothers) that milk is necessary for optimal health, they guaranteed their product would always be in high demand. In assuring the governmentís introduction of milk into the school lunch program, the NDC ensured a stronghold on the consumption and place for milk in our bodies and psyche.

Their most effective propaganda tool is the myth that milk is a necessary source of calcium. They argue that because it is a good source of calcium its consumption will help prevent such diseases as osteoporosis. But did you know that the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis consume the most milk? Researchers believe these findings are because of the relationship between animal protein intake and calcium excretion.

Animal protein increases the acid load in the body. To neutralize the acid, the body takes calcium from the bones, leaving them weak and more likely to fracture. In one study, the women with the highest ratio of animal protein to plant protein had 3.7 times more bone fractures than the women with the lowest ratio. In another study, urinary calcium doubled with an increase of dietary protein. Even more convincing is the research completed at the Yale University School of Medicine which shows that 70% of the fracture rate among women fifty years and older is attributable to the consumption of animal protein.

The downfall of milk is that it is high in both calcium and protein. Any positive effect that calcium from milk may have on bone strength is wasted (quite literally) due to animal protein. You may be wondering, isnít milk one of the only viable sources of calcium? Contrary to what the dairy industry wants you to believe, foods such as broccoli, spinach, and kale all have comparable amounts of calcium without the negative effects of animal protein! Combined with adequate amounts of sunlight and exercise, a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal protein is the best way to prevent osteoporosis.

If you are still having trouble letting go of the idea that milk consumption is necessary for strong bones, ask yourself this: Have you ever seen an adult elephant drink a glass of milk?

Written by Ryan Serrano with Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.