My Aching Bonese
By Barrie Carlsen

We're told to drink milk to prevent osteoporosis, but is this really the answer?
Osteoporosis is a bone thinning disease that makes bones so pitted and fragile that even a hug or a sneeze can cause bones to fracture. Your spine and the top of your femur (large thigh bone) are most susceptible.

The number of North Americans diagnosed with osteoporosis has increased sevenfold over the past decade *, and it is second only to cardiovascular disease as a leading health care problem **. Worldwide, the lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30 to 40 percent, yet in seven major countries (France, Germany, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan) less than half of the women who already do have osteoporosis are diagnosed ***. In the next 50 years, the number of hip fractures for both men and women will more than double. This means the need for prevention is more urgent than ever.
This research clearly illustrates that the dietary recommendations made by leading government and industry groups are doing nothing to prevent the growing incidence of osteoporosis. Indeed, this "taken for granted" approach to preventing osteoporosis is actually contributing to the accelerating incidence of this debilitating disease.

The promotion of milk (with government approval) as a good source of calcium and an important factor in maintaining strong bones is a highly deceptive marketing tactic.

Dairy products offer a false sense of security to those concerned about osteoporosis. In countries where dairy products are not generally consumed, there is actually less incidence of osteoporosis than in the United States and Canada. Studies have shown that dairy products have little effect on osteoporosis. The Harvard Nurses Study followed 78,000 women for a 12 year period and found that milk did not protect against bone fractures. Indeed, those who drank three glasses of milk per day had more fractures than those who rarely drank milk.

Calcium is only one of many factors that can impact your bones. Other factors include hormones, phosphorus, boron, silica, exercise, smoking, alcohol and drugs. Protein is also important in the calcium balance. Diets that are rich in protein, particularly animal protein such as in milk, actually encourage calcium loss.

Clearly, a more scientific approach to address this problem is required. It is obvious that current dietary recommendations are not working. From a dietary supplement perspective, we must look at all of the nutritional co-factors involved in bone density and bone mass. Besides calcium, the role of magnesium, silica and boron, and vitamin D and K, must be considered. And when we consider calcium and the other minerals that are more difficult to absorb, we must choose the more bio-available (easily assimilated) forms. These include 'amino acid chelate' rather than the inorganic 'carbonates' or 'œoxides' that are often used in supplements. Read your mineral supplement ingredient labels to see which type you're buying.

An effective dietary supplement to help deal with bone health must include calcium, magnesium, silica and boron (in organic form) and vitamin D and K. Of course, other lifestyle factors are also important such as getting regular exercise, sunshine, not smoking, and enough protein which may include eating a small amount of animal protein. Strong bones throughout our lifetime are possible if we make the right choices early enough.


* July 2004 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine,
** World Health Organization
*** International Osteoporosis Foundation

1. Riggs BL, Wahner HM, Melton J, RichelsonLS, Judd HL, O’Fallon M. “Dietary Calcium Intake and Rates of Bone Loss in Women.� J Clin Invest 1987:80:079-82
2. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GTA. Milk. “Dietary Calcium and Bone Fractures in Women: a 12-Year Prospective Study.� Am J Publ Health 1997; 87:992-7
3. Zemel MB. “Role of the sulfur-containing amino acids in protein-induced hypoercalciuria in men.� J Nutr 1981; 111:553
4. Hegsted M. “Urinary calcium and calcium balance in young men as affected by levels of protein and phosphorus intake.� J Nutr 1981; 111:553
5. Marsh AG, Sanchez TV, Mickelsen O, Keiser J, Mayor G. “Cortical bone density of adult lacto-ovo-vegetarians and omnivorous women.� J Am Dietic Asso. 1980; 76:148-51<

Barrie Carlsen

Barrie Carlsen's personal interest in nutrition began in the late 1950s as a competitive weight lifter. In 1976 Barrie founded Quest Vitamins, and in 1997 he formed Enerex Botanicals. In March 1999, Barrie was inducted into the Canadian Health Food Association Hall of Fame in recognition for his more than 20 years of contributions to the growth and development of the industry.

This article has appeared in, and is supplied courtesy of  VISTA Magazine

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