milk does not prevent osteoporosis

CBC’s Marketplace ran an article defending drinking milk that read more like a commercial promoting milk than responsible journalism. For a report that claimed to spend “months analyzing nutrition studies,” it seemed to analyze none of the studies on milk.

While the CBC Marketplace article admits that it is possible to healthily exclude milk from your diet, it alarmingly, and misinformedly, insists that to do so is difficult unless you are “making very conscious efforts to fill the void.”

The article claims that, while three glasses of milk a day provides the 1,000mg of calcium recommended in Canada, you would need three bunches of broccoli or twenty cups of chopped kale to provide the same amount.

But you don’t have to provide the same amount: the calculation is naïve. It measures only calcium going in without factoring calcium coming out. Animal protein, phosphoric acid and sugar are serious leachers of calcium, and milk is overflowing in all three. So, while milk adds lots of calcium—though a great form for calves, not the best form for humans—it depletes lots too; whereas, broccoli and kale—and tons of other plant based foods—put in calcium without leaching it back out. They are also loaded in other nutrients that build bone that milk is poor in, like magnesium, boron, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and other B vitamins. In many cultures where osteoporosis is virtually unheard of, calcium consumption hovers around only 175-540mg a day.

Though Canadians and Americans have long been told to drink milk every day, they are twice as likely to develop osteoporosis as people in several countries that don’t drink milk or eat dairy. The World Health Organization has recently concluded that “regions with low intake of dairy foods . . . have lower fracture rates than regions with high dairy consumption.” Perhaps that is why the most recent incarnation of Health Canada’s Food Guide had removed dairy as a food group. The highly authoritative and recently published Eat-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health Study (Lancet Commisions 2019;393(10170:447-92) places the optimal amount of dairy at only 250mg a day. Compare that to CBC’s approval of at least three glasses of milk a day.

Had the CBC writers looked at the milk studies, the conclusion they would have discovered would have been dramatically different from the one they delivered. An important body of research conducted at Harvard has shown that drinking milk has no protective effect on bone health and that drinking milk as a teenager has no protective effect on bones for women while making things significantly worse for boys.

A massive long term study of over 100,000 people found that women who drank three or more cups of milk a day had a greater risk of bone fracture and a 93% greater chance of dying during the study. Men also had a slightly higher risk of dying.

Though the Marketplace article is dismissive of milk alternatives like soy milk, several studies have shown that, unlike milk, soy can prevent--and even reverse--osteoporosis.

So, though Marketplace’s writing challenges the new Canada food guide—the first to consult, not food industry groups, but the body of high quality scientific studies—and advocates for milk, the science supports Canada’s new food guide and eliminates milk.


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For much more on treating and preventing osteoporosis, see our book The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia.

For more on diet’s role in preventing and treating osteoporosis, see Linda’s The All New Vegetarian Passport Cookbook: a health book and cookbook all in one book!


The Natural Path is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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