Drink More Milk?

April 10, 2010

 Break Your Bones 1:  Drink More Milk 

 Competency: #5  The Way to Eat Reference:  Building Bone Vitality by Michael Castleman and Amy Joy Lanou, McGraw Hill 2009 

 It’s common knowledge.  You have to have milk or dairy to get calcium and your bones are made of calcium. Right? Our health guidelines suggest that you should have 3 servings of dairy products each and every day to get enough calcium.  In fact, we even encourage you to take a supplement of calcium.  To let you know where I stand, I personally take a supplement of calcium each and every day.  Oops!  I’m changing and will share with you my journey. Here’s why.  The above-referenced book is my change agent.  I’ve been reading this stuff for years and this book has finally put all the information in one place.  Read this book, or else the next few weeks of this email. 

 Here is the evidence.  First of all, if you were to hypothesize that drinking milk was good for you, you would then suggest that the more milk you drink, the fewer fractures you would have.  Turns out to be dramatically not true.  The problem is this.  Women in New Guinea eat 1/40 the amount of milk that Americans do and have 1/50 the amount of hip fractures (3 per 100,000 risk versus 145 for American Caucasians).  That’s a 1500 point gradient.  The same is true at every point in-between.  You can find a virtual linear inverse relationship for the amount of calcium you consume and the risk for fractures.  The more dairy and calcium you consume, the more fractures you have.  

The World Health Organization has called this the “calcium paradox” and has been puzzling over it for over 20 years.  That is just plain confounding.  It doesn’t make sense, does it! What could explain it?  The Vitamin D theory is clearly part of the solution.  We have moved indoors in the last 100 years and our D levels have dropped.  So that is part of the formula.  Taking enough D does reduce fracture rates dramatically.  But it can’t explain the whole phenomenon.  We’ve turned into Wii playing couch potatoes in the last 40 years and stopped playing outdoors.  Our exercise rate keeps going down, so that could be part of it.  Again, not all.  

Could it be race?  African Americans have much better hip fracture rates than Caucasian Americans.  But that is countered by the fact that Nigerians in Africa have 1 per 100,000  risk of a hip fracture, much lower than American Blacks (60/100,000).  So, race probably isn’t the whole story either. I’ve got an attitude about fractured hips and broken bones in the elderly.  My family has had many fractures from falls and including one death from the complications of a broken hip.  Broken bones are dangerous.  We all get to live in our own homes, independent and autonomous until we start to fall.  When we fall, we break things, and that puts us on the road to final decline.  Keeping bones strong is a big priority.  The time to start is now. 

 WWW:  What Will Work for me?  I have to sort this out. Join me on my journey.  Next week, it will be about the real story.  There is a solution that is right in front of our noses.  I’m going to explain it.   Stay tuned. (Big hint: it’s all about what you choose to eat, and we’ll explain why.  If you want a head start, go buy yourself some spinach.) 

The column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5593)