Despite how unnatural milk consumption beyond infancy is in the natural world — every other species weans their young off milk after a certain age and then never drinks it again — humans continue to be bombarded with the idea that cow’s milk not only ‘does the body good,’ but is also the best source of calcium available to us. We are told that we cannot achieve strong and healthy bones if we do not consume this type of calcium, and thanks to remarkable marketing efforts on the part of the dairy industry, we believe it.
The idea that milk is needed for strong bones is a widespread belief, but research is now showing there may be significant flaws to this supposition. Many people are unaware that humans never possessed the enzyme necessary to break down the sugar in milk (lactose) in the first place, and many still don’t. At some point in human evolution, some of us experienced a mutation in the LTC, or lactase, gene, which allowed a small portion of us to process lactose as adults. Approximately 65-75 percent of the population, however, remains incapable of properly processing lactose, which begs the question, is consuming the milk that’s meant for young cows really natural and healthy for human beings?
Calcium can be found in abundance in many plant-based sources, but all we hear about, unfortunately, is milk and calcium supplements — a reality which clearly serves both the dairy and the pharmaceutical industry.
Millions of people in the United States take calcium supplements, but does anyone ever ask why? Sayer Ji from Greenmedinfo.com explains the situation:
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The seemingly universal popularity of taking elemental calcium supplements results from the promotional efforts of conventional health “experts” and organizations like the National Osteoporosis Foundation (whose corporate sponsors include the calcium manufacturers Oscal and Citrical). Also, the World Health Organization created a radically new definition of “normal” bone density in 1994 when it took the 25-year old young adult standard (which is peak bone mass in a women’s life cycle), also known as the “T-score,” and applied it to all women, irrespective of their age. (source)
There is no shortage of concerning research on calcium supplementation. One notable example, published in the journal Heart, found a 24-27 percent increased risk of heart attack in those who took 500mg of elemental calcium a day. These findings were also confirmed by another study that was recently published in the British Medical Journal. (source)(source)
This particular study involved 24,000 people between the ages of 35 and 63, finding that those who took regular doses of calcium supplement increased their risk of having a heart attack by an alarming 86 percent, compared to those who took no calcium supplements at all. The University of California Berkeley reiterates:
However, studies published in the past few years have probably made many people wonder if they should stop taking the pills. First, some studies have linked calcium pills to increased risk of heart disease. And in 2012, the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force dropped a bombshell when its draft recommendations concluded that standard doses of supplemental calcium and vitamin D don’t prevent fractures in postmenopausal women. (source)
These studies do not come without criticism. For the particular study cited above, Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist at Harvard Brigham and Women’s hospital stated,
The study did not provide iron-clad evidence of a connection between calcium supplements and heart attack. Although it’s not the first report suggesting this connection, no study has definitely proven that excessive calcium intake contributes to plaque formation and heart disease (source)
Harvard says calcium supplements are still safe to take, and it’s important to keep in mind that many other studies have not found a link between calcium pills and coronary risk, but some have.
It’s no secret that calcium is needed for many bodily functions, and getting adequate amounts of calcium during childhood is very important for bone health (though it’s important to mention that many studies have shown that calcium is not as important for bone health as we believe).
For example, a study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden found that drinking milk actually led to an increased mortality rate and made bones more prone to fracturing — not less. (source)
And a study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that dairy consumption might actually increase the risk of fractures by 50 percent. (source)
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Harvard pediatrician David Ludwig emphasizes that bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared to those that do, also noting that there are many other sources of calcium. (source)
Sayer Ji had this to say about why we shouldn’t really be surprised by the dangers of calcium supplements:
People really should not be so surprised at the idea that calcium supplementation may be toxic to cardiovascular health. After all, many subject themselves to coronary and cardiac calcium scans in order to ascertain their risk of cardiovascular events and/or cardiac mortality. This is because we know that calcium of the wrong kind in the wrong place can result in serious adverse health effects. There are, in fact, quite a few in the field of nutrition who have long warned against supplementation with elemental calcium; which is to say, calcium from limestone, oyster shell, egg shell and bone meal (hydroxylapatite). (source)
Why Calcium From Food Is Better
There are a number of foods that can provide one with adequate amounts of calcium. The list is quite long in fact, including things like kale, oranges, beans, green peas, chickpeas, quinoa, seeds, hemp, and more. Apart from the information listed above, why take supplements when you can simply take food, especially if there is research showing these pills are potentially harmful? Moreover, your body is actually “hardwired” to reject low quality calcium sources, because supplements are not usually bound to the amino acids, lipids, and glyconutrients that are commonly found in food and which aid in absorption:
Inorganic or “elemental” calcium, when not bound to the natural co-factors, e.g. amino acids, lipids and glyconutrients, found in “food” (which is to say other living beings, e.g. plants and animals), no longer has the intelligent delivery system that enables your body to utilize it in a biologically appropriate manner. Lacking this “delivery system,” the calcium may end up going to places you do not want (ectopic calcification), or go to places you do want (e.g. the bones), but in excessive amounts, stimulating unnaturally accelerated cell-division (osteoblasts), resulting in higher bone turn over rates later in life. (source)
Other great ways to strengthen your bones include consuming more planet-derived calcium, magnesium, Vitamin K2 (from grass-fed organic animal products), and trace minerals, as well as getting natural sunlight (vitamin D). Although the mainstream medical industry won’t emphasize this, one of the best ways to have healthy bones is to eat a diet rich in raw, fresh whole foods that maximize natural minerals, so your body has the materials it needs to do what nature intended it to do.
Book Recommendation To Learn More
Almost a decade ago now, Robert Thompson, M.D., wrote a book called The Calcium Lie. Apart from doing your own research and going through all of the studies, this book is a a great place to start. The book details how what we’ve been led to believe about calcium and its role in preventing osteoporosis is a myth.
When Dr. Thompson wrote this book, he stated that the overconsumption of calcium creates other mineral deficiencies and imbalances that will increase one’s risk of heart disease, kidney stones, gallstones, osteoarthritis, obesity, hypothyroidism, and Type 2 diabetes. Since his book was published, a number of studies have emerged which lend further credibility to his theories.
It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to further your research.
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