We’ve grown up in an era that drills into us the need to have calcium from dairy. We must, must, must make sure we eat our cheese and drink our milk to have strong bones.
And then as we get older and for women especially… we must get all that good calcium so we don’t end up like The Hunchback of Notredame, crippled over with osteoporosis.
Ads on TV telling us that we should be taking calcium tablets so we don’t end up with brittle bones.
(mostly just pills made of chalk btw. YUCK!)
So when I heard a message on a podcast recently talking about the ‘calcification’ of bones in the elderly as a direct result of eating too much calcium from dairy, it kinda got me to thinking. And like Carrie Bradshaw, sans cigarette, I pondered this interesting question.
If calcium = calcification and calcification = brittle, then are we at a higher risk of developing brittle bones if we eat too much calcium?
Calcification is the accumulation of calcium salts in a body tissue. And it normally occurs in the formation of bone. We’ve been told all out lives that dairy is so important to maintaining a healthy bone mass. Marketing has drilled into us that even if we eat dairy we should be concerned that we aren’t getting enough calcium and should then eat pills to keep it up. The older we get the more we need to be vigilant about this. Especially for women.
But, more milk is not necessarily better.
As a general rule, the more rigid and inflexible our body structure is, the less calcium (and the more magnesium) we need.
In a Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, a review tracking 78,000 nurses for 12 years found that the more cow’s milk they consumed, the higher rate of bone fracture they experienced; in the study, the relative risk of hip fracture was 45% higher in those women who drank two or more glasses of milk per day versus those who drank one glass or less. Add to this the popping of calcium tablets – because pharmaceutical companies tells us to, and we have a much higher risk of breaking dem’ bones in a fall when we’re older.
When we eat too much calcium from milk or cheese in our adulthood, our bones begin to calcify. When we fall, they snap.
However, when we eat a diet that has a moderate amount of calcium obtained from multiple sources (primarily from plant based sources) our bones do not become brittle, they have flexibility. So that in the event of a fall, they bend. They have flex. They cushion us. Just as they’re designed to do.
Makes total sense right?
In fact, in countries where both dairy consumption and overall calcium levels in the diet are the lowest, bone fracture rates are also the lowest; conversely, in cultures like the United States where calcium consumption is among the highest in the world, so too are the fracture rates among the highest (see: The China Study).
Dairy is not required in the diet to receive adequate calcium. So if you do consume it, make sure it’s moderate.
Include into your daily diet a wonderful variety of plant based calcium foods such as sesame seeds, dark leafy greens, okra, brocoli, beans, tinned or fresh sardines or salmon and almonds.
Be aware that the messages we hear in advertisements are not always as they seem.