Calcium, pH, bone loss, lobbyists, federal funding and our health.
"When you hear the word osteoporosis, what's the first word that comes to your mind? If you said "Milk" then the American Dairy Association has done its job"
- Dina Fitzsimons (Cornell '94)
As it turns out, daily consumption of milk and other dairy products (even low or non-fat) does not prevent bone loss. I know what you are thinking. No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I simply questioned the common wisdom and decided to do my own independent research. It all started when I discovered that countries where people consume large amounts of dairy products are also countries where people eat large amounts of animal protein—places such as the United States, Australia, and northern Europe. These countries are also among nations that suffer the highest rate of fractures due to osteoporosis, the disease characterized by weak, porous bones. I asked myself, How could that be? It didn’t make any sense. So, I set out to find out why. The answer was a total paradigm shift for me.
Why do we drink milk?
If you ask 100 people why they drink milk, the overwhelming answer usually is: Because it is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. That is true, but calcium is only a small fraction of milk’s composition. For example, cow’s whole milk contains about 88 percent water, followed by 4.8 percent sugar, 4.8 percent carbohydrates, 4 to 5.2 percent saturated animal fat, 3.2 percent protein, and only 0.12 percent calcium. More importantly, cow's milk has a pH ranging from 6.4 to 6.8. The human body is designed to maintain a pH level of roughly 7.3 (slightly alkaline) in order to properly absorb nutrients and fend off disease. When we consume milk, the acidity in it affects our pH balance and forces the body to compensate.
It’s all about pH
About 99 percent of our body's calcium is deposited in the bones and teeth. Our long bones are also primary storage sites for calcium phosphate, which has a pH value of 9.4 and is also an excellent alkaline source. When our body’s blood pH becomes acidic (i.e. due to consumption of animal based products), it uses the stored calcium to re-establish its pH balance. While the calcium in the milk adds to our body’s calcium level slightly, the acidity of the milk forces our body to withdraw a larger amount of calcium from our bones to maintain pH balance. You get the picture? That indisputable fact demonstrates that, not only does calcium from dairy products not prevent osteoporosis, but that type of animal product leads to an increased migration of calcium to neutralize the acidity of pH in our system.
Why our government promotes milk consumption
The FDA normally assigns a panel of eleven experts to make dietary guidelines in the form of the food pyramid. This panel recommends the type of foods Americans are supposed to eat to be healthy. Apparently, the USDA is heavily lobbied and influenced by corn, wheat, meat, and dairy industries. It is also in charge of subsidizing their operations. The USDA's Milk Income Loss Contract program (MILC) is a federally funded program that compensates the dairy industry with our tax dollars when domestic milk prices and consumption fall below a specified level (www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA).
Basically, we pay for our dairy, processed grains, and meat in more ways than one. We pay by consuming them—we then pay by suffering from an assortment of health related issues. If we, for whatever reason, wise up and decide to consume less of these animal products, our government steps in to compensate the meat and dairy industry for the loss of projected revenue with our tax money in the form of subsidies, or just direct compensation through MILC (ironically pronounced milk). That’s what I call the second best deal ever executed, first being the purchase of Manhattan Island from Native Americans for 24 Dollars.
"The USDA is basically a farmers and ranchers advocacy group. One agency can not advocate for these groups, subsidize their operations, manage the consumption and prices of these food commodities, and be put in charge of telling the people what to eat." - Pam Popper, N. D.
Conclusion and recommendations
We must encourage our government and its food regulating agencies to reconsider their guidelines on what constitutes a "Healthy Daily Diet" and to promote a diet that is beneficial to public health as opposed to special interests and powerful food industries. Adopting a diet consisting of a majority of plant-foods, with only small amounts of grass fed animal meat not only improves our well being, it also reinstates our deep connection to animals, which have become nothing more than a product and have to endure tragic conditions until they become slaughtered. With or without governmental help we can and must take control of our health simply by adopting the right diet and eating to live, as opposed to living to eat.