Every year at my annual visit to the pediatrician for my physical examination, I am always asked how much milk I am consuming daily. Doctors always stress that is is imperative to drink milk in adolescence because this can aid the bones as the body progresses into the elderly years, when the bones grow weaker. I frequently hear that proper calcium intake is necessary when your bones aren’t fully developed to prevent harmful factors like injury, and sickness, and that the consumption of milk and calcium will follow you through your entire lifespan. Personally, I try to consume my daily dose of calcium by drinking milk and putting it in my cereal. Everyone believes this assumption that milks make the bones stronger because we hear it multiple times a year and just assume this is true because this is what experts are telling us. Should we as a society believe this, or is this just another example of how our intuition is lousy, and tend to believe things based on what people are telling us without doing any research?
In recent years, researchers have been taking a closer look into how calcium intake really affects the bones, and overall health in general. Critics believe that milk consumption actually makes bones weaker, and increases the chance for osteoporosis in elderly ages. They argued that milk may actually make bones lose calcium, due to the thought that milk and other dairy products are acid products which may promote health problems and disease. These researchers looked into a correlation between countries that have a higher dairy consumption, and osteoporotic fracture incidence. They tested the pH of urine and found that with the more consumption of milk, the more acidic the urine became. However, the pH of urine does attest to the pH of the body as a whole. Although these researchers may have found a correlation, this does not imply causation at all, and as a matter of fact, they have no scientific evidence to back their research.
A longitudinal study was conducted by Harvard Nurses Health study that looked in to the fracture risk attributed to milk consumption. This study included 77,761 women between 34 and 59 years old. They concluded that the women who consumed the most milk, actually had more fractures than the women who rarely drank milk. So I’m sure many of you are wondering the mechanism behind this research. In present times, cows are injected with a bovine growth hormone, which increases the amount of milk a cow would normally produce. This shoots up the insulin level in the blood, which happens to be associated with different types of cancers.
What can we conclude from these studies. Well, since I failed to find an actual randomized controlled experiment that shows a strong correlation with a low p-value between the consumption of milk and it’s negative side effects on the strength of bones and health, nothing can be assumed in this case. However, some of these observational studies do imply a correlation, and if drinking milk is your only method of getting calcium into your body, you may want to try other sources of getting the proper nutrients. For example, eating fruits and vegetables are a great way of getting Vitamin D and calcium into your diet. Also, it might be a good idea to try yogurt as well, where you will still be getting the same amount of dairy and calcium, but at the same time will be putting less acidic substance into your body. Before looking into this research, I was ignorant that milk may have negative side effects on health and bone strength. Although this research did not make these assumptions definite, it definite rose curiosity. I am still going to continue drinking milk, however, I will be more cautious on the amount that I intake, and will definitely look to other options for calcium on top of milk.