MYTH – Dairy is necessary for bone health


The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend milk or dairy products as a part of a healthy diet on their latest update of 2015 (1). In fact, in order to prevent osteoporosis they conclude that we should increase physical activity, reduce sodium intake, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy body weight, avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake and in countries with high risk incidence an intake of 400-500mg of calcium daily, which is easily obtained through green vegetables (kale, broccoli, etc..), legumes, whole grains and nuts. They also state that high protein (animal) intake increases the risk of bone fracture and that soy products consumption decreases the risk. They recommend daily sun exposure for adequate production of Vit D, which helps with calcium absorption, or in its absence, dietary supplementation (2).   

Milk is the perfect food. Human milk is the perfect food for a newly born child. Cow’s milk is the perfect food for a calf and so on. The amount of calcium, protein and other nutrients in the milk of an animal varies to meet the growth demands of each specific species. The faster the animal grows, the higher the content of nutrients are. Since the calf doubles its birth weight nearly four times faster than a human infant, the concentrations of protein and calcium are nearly four times higher (see charts). If this exaggerated amount of calcium is not necessary during our greatest time of growth (we double in weight in our first six months of live), why should a concentration of calcium ideal for calves growth be required, when we stop growing bones as adults?

Humans are the only animals that continue to drink milk after weaning, because we have been wrongly lead to believe that is good for our bones. Cows, elephants, rhinos etc… keep their bigger bones strong and healthy with their plant based diets. Why would a whole foods plant based diet not provide enough calcium for humans?

Milk comparison species

* Grams per 100 milliliters (in terms of % of calories, cow’s milk has four times more protein than human milk; 21% vs. 5%)(4)
** Time required to double birth weight
Milk human cow nutrient content

In fact, the highest rates of hip fractures have been observed in the countries with the highest dairy intake. Here are the results of in a wide scale epidemiological study comparing different diets of the world by Dr. Amy Lanou of the University of North Carolina, Asheville, graduate and specialises in bone health (5).

Milk consumption bone fracture chart

Northern Europeans and Americans have the highest dairy intakes in the world. So, they should have the strongest and healthiest bones too, right? Quite the contrary, they have the highest rate of bone fractures. East Asian and Africans populations typically have the lowest dairy in their diet, and suffer far less from osteoporosis and bone fractures than the rest of the world.

If you look over the last hundred years of scientific and nutritional literature, you will find there is no evidence that dietary calcium deficiency occurs in humans. “The dairy industry is trying to correct a non existent problem: dietary calcium deficiency” – John McDougal (6).

1 –
2 –
3 – McDougall J. The McDougall Plan. New Win Publ. 1983; page 101.
4 –  J Pennington. Bowes & Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. 17th Ed. Lippincott. Philadelphia- New York. 1998.
5 – Lanou AJ. Bone health in children. BMJ. 2006 Oct 14;333(7572):763-4
6 –

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