My daughter won't drink milk, and I'm worried about her bones.

I stumbled across some interesting research about milk and other dairy products that I wanted to share with you. It seems to suggest that your daughter may actually be wise in her refusal, and that if she gets plenty of exercise and eats plenty of fruits and vegetables without overloading on animal protein, she's giving her bones exactly what they need to grow up strong and healthy:

The 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 female nurses, published in the American Journal of Public Health (1997, volume 87), concluded:"There is no significant association between teenaged milk consumption and the risk of adult fractures. Data indicate that frequent milk consumption and higher dietary calcium intakes in middle aged women do not provide protection against hip or forearm fractures...women consuming greater amounts of calcium from dairy foods had significantly increased risks of hip fractures, while no increase in fracture risk was observed for the same levels of calcium from nondairy sources."

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000) looked at all aspects of diet and bone health and found that high consumption of fruits and vegetables positively affect bone health and that dairy consumption did not.

The analysis of all research conducted since 1985 concluded:"If dairy food intakes confer bone health, one might expect this to have been apparent from the 57 outcomes, which included randomized, controlled trials and longitudinal cohort studies involving 645,000 person-years." The researchers conclude with typical scientific reserve that:"The body of scientific evidence appears inadequate to support a recommendation for daily intake of dairy foods to promote bone health in the general U.S. population."

... physical exercise is the key to building strong bones (and is more important than any other factor.) For example, a study published in the British Medical Journal, which followed 1,400 men and women over a 15-year period, found that exercise may be the best protection against hip fractures and that "reduced intake of dietary calcium does not seem to be a risk factor."

And Penn State University researchers found that bone density is significantly affected by how much exercise girls get during their teen years, when 40 to 50 percent of their skeletal mass is developed. Consistent with previous research, the Penn State study, which was published in Pediatrics (2000), the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, showed that calcium intake, which ranged from 500 to 1,500 mg per day, has no lasting effect on bone health.

"We hypothesized that increased calcium intake would result in better adolescent bone gain. Needless to say, we were surprised to find our hypothesis refuted," one researcher explained.

I'll stop there, but you can find a ton of additional information on the web about connection between calcium, protein and bone health. Milk might indeed be "nature's wellness drink," like their ads proclaim, IF you are a bovine! Even the FDA's newsletter says, "Cow's milk contains a different type of protein than breast milk. This is good for calves, but human infants can have difficulty digesting it."

Mother's milk is nature's wellness drink for growing babies and toddlers (and, by the way, it also happens to be very LOW in calcium!) Each species produces milk that is perfectly biochemically customized for their own offspring, which continue to grow and mature even without any additional milk after weaning.

Hmmm. Maybe this is why the dairy industry has to spend lots of money to try to convince us that drinking the milk of another species is actually a good idea?! Ewww.

Personally, I'm with your daughter on this one. I'd rather exercise and eat a nice leafy green salad (or one of my green smoothies) instead of drinking milk any day ... in fact, I can't even remember the last glass of milk I drank. Must have been at least 10 or 15 years ago. But I do dig the occasional ice cream cone, grilled cheese, or milkshake. I'm a fan of moderation in all things, including moderation!

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rileydog said...

I am glad to read this. I hate milk and hated it as a kid. I do a lot of strength training and am hoping that helps.

Jeff Wise said...

I too have read the studies from multiple sources which say milk isn't necessary. There is a ton of calcium in certain vegetables and we eat a lot of them in our house.