What is the saying that we were told as children about milk? “Drink your milk so that you can grow to have strong bones!”. We would then obediently drink our milk, confused as to how it was doing anything for our bones, but drinking it anyway because our parents know best. Right? Actually…wrong! Although they most likely had our best interest at heart, it turns out all of that milk consumption may be the reason for some of us being more prone to bone fractures…yikes.
A study done by Kendrin Sonneville from Harvard University in 2012 shook up the dairy industry. This study tracked the fracture rates in 6,712 adolescents and compared it to the amount of milk they drank. The results showed that active children who consumed the largest quantities of milk actually had more bone fractures than those who consumed less. In other words, milk doesn’t actually build strong bones, it can potentially weaken them. Studies of young women published in the journal Bone and Pediatrics showed that while bone density was increased by physical activity, increase in calcium intake had no positive effects on the bones. Milk consumption can actually contribute to issues like osteoporosis and bone breaks once people get older. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years and showed that increased milk consumption had no protective effects on bone fracture or breakage risks. On the contrary, the women who consumed the most milk were as likely, if not a little more, to suffer hip fractures as those who avoided milk.
The human body can barely absorb the calcium in cow’s milk, especially if it is pasteurized. On top of that, milk can actually deplete calcium from your bones! How does this happen? Milk is an animal protein, and all animal proteins acidify the body’s pH, which then triggers your body to want to correct this. Calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer and bones store the most calcium. This means that when you drink milk, the calcium our bones need to stay strong is used to neutralize the acidic effects milk has on our body’s pH, causing a deficit. This is why the countries with the lowest dairy product consumption have the lowest fracture incident rates in their population. Another thing people fail to think about is that cow’s milk is designed for baby cows just like a human mother’s milk is designed for human babies. Each mammal’s milk is composed of different substances, and is especially designed to nourish the babies of their own species. For example, cow’s milk contains three times the amount of protein in human milk. This is great for calfs, but it causes metabolic imbalances in humans that hurt bone health. The bottom line? Cow’s milk is literally not made for us humans.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper. A 2001 Harvard study of 20,885 men showed that having 2 ½ servings of dairy products had a 34% increased risk of prostate cancer compared to those that consumed little to no dairy products. Another Harvard study that included 47,871 men revealed that men who had 2 or more servings of milk a day had a 60% increased risk of prostate cancer. Dairy products are not the healthiest either. Saturated fats are the “bad” fats that lead to issues like heart disease. Dairy products are actually the biggest source of saturated fats. Cheese, the stretchy substance people love on their pizza is about 70% fat, most of which is saturated fat. “I drink skim milk, that is much healthier” …I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Skimming the fat from milk leaves a “milk” drink loaded with sugar. Lactose sugar is responsible for more than 55% of skim milk’s calories, which is a calorie load much like soda. Many infants and toddlers are being fed cow’s milk. In recent years, this has been linked to type 1 diabetes and anemia later on in life.
The regular milk in the big jugs with blue, red and yellow caps that is available in stores is not created very ethically either. Many cows in modern farms produce more than20,000 pounds of milk per year, which is not the natural way of things. “To maintain maximal milk production, farmers impregnate cows annually, inserting one arm into the cow’s rectum while using the other to insert a long metal rod holding semen into the cow’s vagina “(Naked Food Magazine). Male calves born through this unnatural process are raised as veal because they cannot join the dairy herd. The production of dairy products also generates the 2nd highest level of greenhouse gas emissions of commonly consumed foods. These dairy farms put methane into the environment, which is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is one of the leading contributors to the holes in our ozone layer.
Calcium IS an essential nutrient for us, but dairy products are not the most efficient and beneficial way of obtaining it. Nondairy sources of calcium like beans, tofu, broccoli, kale, collard greens, breads, cereals, and nondairy, calcium-fortified beverages provide our bones with the strength they need without any of the health, ethical, or environmental detriments that come with milk consumption. Unfortunately, all of that milk you were made to drink as a child really did not have any positive effects on your bones at all. At least now you know that there is no need to make your kids chug cups of milk every day and instead, you can make them eat vegetables to get strong bones!