Is Dairy Really Good For You?

Did you know that the average Canadian consumes just less than a pound of dairy products per day? Yet, one in four Canadians women and one in eight Canadian men will have osteoporosis by the time they are fifty. Secondly, the five countries in the world that have the highest dairy consuming societies also have the five highest levels of osteoporosis. Why do you think this is?

Let’s look first at how bone is created in your body. There are two types of bone cells that are essential to proper bone growth, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoclasts break down and destroy old, sick, and dying bone cells. They resorb the dying cells and excrete them from your system. Osteoblasts, on the other hand, promote bone cell growth – they build new cells to replace the old ones. A good balance of osteoclasts and osteoblasts is what keeps your bones strong.

Prescribed medications such as Boniva or Fosamax actually destroy osteoclasts, resulting in an imbalance of these essential cells. As a result, the resorption of dying cells doesn’t occur and osteoblasts are building new bone cells on top of an unhealthy bone matrix.

Contrary to what Osteoporosis Canada, the Dairy Council of Canada, and the Canada Food Guide sources say, dairy is not a good way to get your daily intake of calcium. Yes, it is high in calcium. However, your body does not absorb the calcium appropriately for you to benefit from it. So why are we being continually educated that dairy is the answer to our bone health questions?
Let’s look at the facts. Humans are the only mammals who choose to drink the milk of another mammal. The milk of a cow is perfectly genetically designed in fat, carbohydrate, and nutrient content for a baby cow, not humans.

The amount of calcium absorbed from milk is less than 10% of the amount it started at.
In 1988, the Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that calcium excretion and an increase in bone loss is directly proportional to the amount of animal protein and individual consumes. Animal proteins are very high in sulphur and this causes our kidneys to excrete calcium out of our bones and into the blood.

Part of the problem is that due to a fantastic marketing strategy by the Dairy Council of Canada and years of misinformation on the part of the health care system, most Canadians think calcium is the answer to bone health. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Calcium is important but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Vitamin D – Vitamin D is a critical for your health and naturally comes from the sun. During the winter months, however, it can be difficult to get enough sun and therefore we need to supplement with vitamin D. It will help your bone health by keeping them from becoming brittle and it will help the intestines absorb some of the calcium that your body intakes.

Weight-bearing Exercise – This is not your daily walk or swim, this is about building muscle and strong bones at the same time by lifting weights. Gaining strength through a simple upper and lower body workout will force your osteoblasts to build new, healthy bone cells.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – These fatty acids come in the form of fish oil and flax seed oil – not vegetable oils. Omega 3’s will help to build a proper bony matrix.
Calcium – It is still important but there are far better sources than dairy products. Spinach, almonds, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, salmon, and black eye peas are all excellent sources and of course, they have other nutrients that benefit your overall health.
Other Nutrients – Other nutrients involved include magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, and more.

As you can see, to simply say that calcium is the answer to your bone health is a step but one that is far too small. A diet that is rich in organic and locally-grown vegetables, fruits, and proteins will fulfill your nutrient needs and where you are lacking in certain nutrients, supplementation can make up for that. Visit your local health food store for advice on finding a quality supplement for vitamin D, Fish Oils, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and more.
Still thinking you want your milk each morning? Let’s look at some alternatives. There are options out there for people who still want that in their diet – nut milks, rice milks, and oat milks are all great alternatives as they can quench that desire for dairy.