Osteoporosis and a lifetime of dairy consumption

Osteoporosis and a lifetime of dairy consumption

Osteoporosis and a lifetime of dairy consumption

Growing up in the UK in the 70s, dairy consumption was 'in vogue'. The milkman delivered milk to our home and we were given milk at primary school. Cheese was a staple – on toast, in sandwiches, in ‘quiche lorraine’ and on little cocktail sticks with pineapple at birthday parties. Yogurt was also very popular, usually loaded with sugar.

"Dairy is good for you", "Dairy builds strong teeth and bones" and "You need dairy for calcium" are just some of the catchcries that I remember, and believed, so I kept drinking and eating it – every day.

I had never really questioned consuming dairy products; why would I?

I had no symptoms of dairy intolerance … or so I thought. Looking back, I possibly had plenty, but I hadn’t linked them to dairy consumption.

For example, I experienced:

  • Regular 'tummy' aches as a child
  • Facial acne from teens to my early thirties
  • Painful periods
  • Frequent head colds followed by heavy mucus for weeks

The dairy may not have been the cause of these conditions, however, it felt to me that without it, the symptoms would have either been lesser or non-existent. They certainly went away after I stopped dairy ...

Giving up dairy

In my early thirties I stopped drinking milk altogether: it just didn’t feel right to me anymore. I felt a bit sick after I drank it, and it left a gluggy film in my mouth. I changed to soy milk but continued to eat cheese and yogurt.

At the same time, I began to question why we (humans) were consuming cow’s milk anyway. Milk is produced when the female of a species is pregnant – it is to feed their young and they stop producing milk when their young no longer need it. It now seemed a little odd that we were consuming the milk of another species!

In my early forties, I gave up dairy completely – cold turkey. No more comforting slabs of cheese for me, or glugs of yogurt on my muesli. As much as I missed its creamy, comforting texture and taste, consuming dairy simply didn’t feel right anymore.

What now? How would I get my calcium?

That was relatively easy for me, as I already had a very healthy diet that included lots of leafy greens, seaweeds, nuts, seeds and tinned salmon and sardines . . . all really great sources of calcium.

Diagnosed with osteoporosis

At the age of 46, I got the biggest shock. I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis in my lower spine and Osteopenia in my hips! How does a woman who has consumed dairy products for over forty years have Osteoporosis by her mid-forties?

Only old people get Osteoporosis – right? It made no sense.

How is this possible?

I started doing some research and found statistics that showed in countries where dairy consumption is actively promoted, and is eaten and drunk in vast quantities, that diagnosed cases of Osteoporosis are high.

"Throughout the world bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fractures in adults, according to recent meta-analysis."[i]

A documentary film, Got The Facts On Milk, states that the dairy industry’s own research shows that dairy actually depletes the body of its calcium. I was astonished at this.

Could it be that Dairy depletes the body of Calcium?

  • Well, dairy, like all animal proteins, is acidic to the body
  • Calcium just so happens to be a great acid neutraliser and our biggest calcium storage is our bones

This is where it gets crazy.

  • The same calcium that is needed to keep our bones strong – and, according to Dairy Marketing, the whole reason we are to consume milk, cheese and yoghurt – may be being utilised to counteract the acidity of the dairy products we consume
  • Dairy consumption could be having the opposite effect from what we are being told is true. According to the film Got the Facts On Milk, this is what is occurring. Anyway, it got me thinking . . .

So, I asked myself ... Is it possible that if plant-based sources of calcium are sufficient to build strong bones for some of the largest animals on our planet, such as elephants, then could it be sufficient for us too?

It makes no sense to continue consuming a food source that I know from personal experience does not feel right for me, and may not actually even deliver the result that has been promoted for decades.

My condition suggests that consuming dairy products may not be all that we have been led to believe.

Dairy intolerance is a growing issue globally and an increasing number of doctors and scientists are continuing to expose the suggestion that dairy consumption could even be contributing to the rise in osteoporosis. I am not an expert and cannot say – but I can say that my diet of leafy greens, seaweeds, nuts and seeds, and tinned salmon and sardines sure is working for me . . .

The information in this article is for general purposes only. For specific medical advice, we recommend you consult your doctor.

  • [i]

    Ludwig, D.S. & Willett, W.C. (2013, September). Three Daily Servings of Reduced-Fat Milk An Evidence-Based Recommendation? JAMA Pediatrics, 167 (9)

Filed under

Dairy freeFood industryFood pyramidHealth conditionsNutritionOsteoporosis

  • By Sandra Dallimore

  • Photography: Meg Valentine