Calcium is a mineral associated with increased bone strength but this single entity does not work best alone. Vitamin K and Vitamin D have are known to assist calcium in keeping bone strength optimal. Calcium is always associated with milk in typical America, specifically cow’s milk. Why? Clever advertising and parental endorsement are a couple driving forces.
Dairy farming is also resource intensive compared to growing a plant and not all people have a way to store fresh milk for long periods of time (a fridge). So why not offer an alternative that doesn’t spoil as quickly such as leafy greens. I am not against small scale rural farming however I like to ask; are large industrial animal product processing farms necessary for optimal human health?
So what do we know about cow’s milk? Cow’s milk is not tailored to human needs. It is created solely for that cow’s specific calf. Breast milk can alter as an infant feeds to optimize growth for her particular calf. Just like humans, if a mother breast feeds her baby, milk changes as the needed (more or less fat, protein etc…). What about calcium in dairy; can humans actually use the calcium that is ingested? Experts argue this point but non-debatable facts about milk include higher saturated fat content, lactose (sugar) intolerance and links to diseases. Saturated fat should be minimized where possible as it is associated with increased risk of heart disease among other complications when ingested in excessive amounts. What is high in saturated fats; meat, dairy, lard, other animal products and some oils. Milk offers either none or negligible amounts of fiber per or Vitamin K. What offers calcium among other benefits? Plants, including dark leafy greens and non-animal milks offer calcium and numerous trace minerals including Vitamin K which was discussed early as assisting calcium.
The World Health Organization (WHO) explains osteoporosis in relation to diet as minimal. What does the WHO recommend people do to alleviate the possibility of weakening bones? Vitamin D (sunlight exposure), calcium through fruits and vegetables and exercise (or any physical activity) are the options to most likely stave off weakening bones. A couple points from the WHO:
- Developed countries with higher calcium intake have higher occurrences of hips fractures
- Animal protein may have a negative effect on calcium balance
Consider how developed countries get calcium, usually dairy. Milk is not even on the radar in regards to calcium benefits for some global health counsels. In my opinion this should not even be a debate; we have normalized a calf’s liquid sustenance and believe it to be a human owned product. Would it not be unusual to drink milk from an elephant or tiger or other mammals? As a child we have no option but to trust what we are told, don’t touch the stove it’s hot, drink your milk it gives you strong bones. Now that I am an adult I question the advertisement of milk and its purported “benefits.” Researchers and organizations I trust have lead me to believe cow’s milk is for a calf, not me or the general public. Ask yourself if you can sacrifice this animal product and consume calcium another way.