Our bones are very important to how we function and survive as human beings. Milk, and the calcium it contains, equals strong bones, (or at least that’s what we’ve been taught for years). However, when we look at the somewhat misunderstood molecule calcium, we quickly understand that this little molecule is quite complex.
As mentioned, the common understanding about calcium is that it is necessary for bone health and that you get it from your milk or supplementation. Past child bearing years, women are told to supplement with calcium and other vitamins and minerals to allow that Ca+ (calcium) to be absorbed.
When we break down the research relating to our current use and supplementation regime with calcium, something doesn’t add up. By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fractures in men is projected to increase by 310% and 240% in women. (http://www.iofbonehealth.org/references-facts-and-statistics#ref_7). Osteoporotic bone fracture rates are highest in countries that consume the most dairy and calcium supplements. (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1638S.full). Additionally, these countries tend to be more sedentary and eat more processed foods, a major risk factor for everything, not just osteoporosis.
If you have ever done your own research on milk and bone density, you may very well have ended up even more confused and overwhelmed! This is because there is no one answer to the osteoporosis, osteopenia and milk discussion. There are several important factors that need to be looked at when determining how to create strong bones that don’t get brittle and break.
In this article we will discuss milk; does it help bone strength and is it really good for us? Additionally, we will discuss how bone strength is achieved and then make the case for a By Design lifestyle being the most beneficial to strong bones and proper calcium balance.
What is milk? Why are we told it is important for our bones?
Milk is a fatty liquid that is created by a mother for her child. Milk is an amazing and satisfying nutrient delivery system for an infant. For our purposes, we will discuss cow’s milk however this logic can be applied to any type of milk.
Milk is full of dense fats for energy and cellular function, hormones for growth and development of the little one (the fastest and most aggressive growth period in a lifetime), and immune fighters to keep the baby healthy and thriving.
An orange is a healthy delivery method of vitamins to any human being, we can all benefit from eating an orange. Meat is an incredibly dense delivery method of essential nutrients, we can all benefit from eating meat (not conventionally raised meat however, look for pastured and grass-fed meats). Milk is different from any other food in that it is so perfectly designed for only one group of humans… infants (or if we’re talking about cow’s milk, calves).
Does that mean that adults can’t benefit from drinking a glass of cow’s milk? Probably not if your intention is to use cow’s milk as a source of building strong bones. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study followed >75,000 women for 12 years, and a second prospective study in Sweden followed 60,689 women for 11 years. Both showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk (17, 18). Additionally, the hormones and immune cells you are ingesting are not a benefit to most adults (It starts with food. M &D Hartwig. Victor Belt publishing 2012). On the contrary, there is some support for preferable raw, full-fat milk being beneficial to bone health, if you can tolerate it.
The second source we think of when we are discussing adding calcium to our diets is supplementation. Although milk has a positive impact at a particular time in our lives, there doesn’t seem to ever be a time when supplementation with calcium is necessary. To start, supplementing with Ca+ doesn’t appear to have any long term benefit to bone health. The body is amazing in how well it works to balance and regulate. Simply shoving more calcium into the system does not equal more usable calcium for the bones. Actually, the body maintains a very close eye on calcium and will change how much it’s utilizing from food if there is additional bio-available calcium in the blood stream. In fact, to compensate for the increased calcium in the body, the nervous system may actually take calcium from the bones to keep everything balanced in the bloodstream. Once in the blood stream the concern is that extra calcium may build up in the arteries and kidneys (http://heart.bmj.com/content/98/12/920.full).
“Most of the studies showed people over 50 get no benefit at all from taking either calcium supplements or from eating calcium in food. People were just as likely to have a fracture. A few studies showed that people who took calcium supplements might have a lower risk, but they were not very clear.” (http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4825)
It is beneficial to remember how many different processes in the body use calcium. Calcium is involved in every nerve impulse, bone strength, blood clotting, and muscle contraction. One of the major differences between how Life By Design doctors look it the body is the recognition that the body is so complex that most pills can disrupt this complexity and our natural healing abilities. The food we eat is also incredibly complex (if it’s in its natural state) and it’s paired with the functioning of our body to meet its varied and vast demands. Simply reducing one mineral or vitamin into a pill form and hoping for the same result is flawed logic. Eating a By Design diet, one high in a variety of fruit and vegetable and protein sources that also ate By Design, will supply more than enough calcium for the average person.
No conversation about calcium or bone health is complete without looking at exercise. Wolff’s law states that bone strengthens in response to the loads placed on it. Bones get stronger when you lift heavy things. Humans are designed to lift heavy things. We are not designed to sit for hours upon hours a day. Adding in Move By Design elements to your everyday life is an excellent approach to increasing bone health. Below is a link outlying ever greater benefits to lifting heavy things.
http://www.lifebydesign.com/blog/5-reasons-why-women-need-lift-weights. If moving your body weight is preferable that will also increase bone density. Lifting weights (Note: I mean functional weight training… not machines. Think barbells, kettlebells, plates and free weights.) doesn’t have to be intimidating, no matter what age or fitness level you are starting at. Finding a great trainer or gym, with trainers who know what they are doing, can turn this into a fun and energizing experience, not to mention the self-esteem and sense of accomplishment that accompany it.
Life By Design was created from a single concept, “You were designed to be extraordinary.” Nothing on earth is as amazing as the human body. Creating this amazing-ness is achieved by meeting the requirements of the body; By Design fuel, By Design movement, By Design mindset and of course a clear brain-body connection.
As important as this conversation about eating good food and creating strong bones is, your nervous system is the system that controls how it all works. Having your nervous system checked by a Life By Design Chiropractor is essential to how your body processes calcium and creates healthy bones.