Bones and Dairy
"If we exclude dairy from our diet, we run the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis"...How often do we hear this? Considering the fact that a large percentage of the world's population don't even consume dairy, if you were to believe this statement, you'd think we would be experiencing an epidemic of bone-related conditions of biblical proportions. Why, then, is this not the case, and why is it that in those populations where dairy and meat are consumed in the highest amounts, like the United States and Northern Europe, we see the highest rates of osteoporosis?
There are probably a number of reasons for this, and it's difficult to pin down the exact causes, but it's thought to be highly likely that consumption of excess acid-forming animal protein prompts the body to draw on its reserves of calcium from the bones in order to buffer the acidity and bring the pH level of our blood back into its normal slightly alkaline range. To be clear, we do need calcium to build and maintain our bones and teeth and we need it also to buffer acidity in our body, as well as for a whole number of other reasons which are too numerous to mention here. How wonderful, then, that nature provides us with this essential mineral in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds? Oranges, figs, kale, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds to mention just a few. And isn't it therefore odd that the milk of a cow, designed to nurture and promote the growth of a baby calf, should be usurped by another entirely different species to provide a source of one particular mineral throughout its lifetime? Isn't it also odd that we make such a strong association between bone health and just this one mineral? Who worries about getting enough magnesium, boron, vitamin K or vitamin C for the growth and maintenance of our bones? We routinely fail to see the big picture, preferring instead to zoom in on just one nutrient at a time and in the case of bone health, we seem to have been stuck on calcium for decades and decades, totally failing to recognise and understand the natural intelligence of our bodies that know how to work with a full spectrum of multiple nutrients to keep us in balance. To obsess about one nutrient is reductionism at its most extreme. We consider all of this to be just a little strange and we think it's definitely worth consideration.
If done well, a wholefood plant-based diet should provide ALL the calcium and other bone-supporting nutrients required for strong bones, plus this way of eating inevitably includes fibre, protein, antioxidants and fats that in combination perform mini-miracles within our bodies throughout our lifetime.