Dairy, Animal Protein and Osteoporosis

Mark Hegsted, long Harvard professor worked in the calcium issue since the beginning of the 1950s. He was the principal architect of the US dietary guidelines in 1980. In a study of 10 countries in 1986, he produced the results of this graph were higher consumption of calcium was associated with higher – not lower – risk of bone fracture. Backed by his exceptional experience in calcium research, in his 1986 paper stated that hip fractures are more frequent in populations where dairy products are commonly consumed and calcium intakes are relatively high (1).

Milk consumption bone fracture chart 2

Another recent study showed that american women age fifty and older have one of the highest rates of hip fracture in the world (2). The only countries with highest rates are in Europe, and in the south pacific (Australia and New Zealand), where they consume even more milk than in the US. 

A possible explanation is found in a report showing an impressively strong association between animal protein intake and bone fracture rate for women in different countries (3). Authored in 1992 by researchers at Yale University School of Medicine , the report summarise data on protein intake and fracture rates taken from 34 separate surveys in 16 countries that were published in 29 peer reviewed research publications. All the subjects in these surveys were women 50 years and older. It found that a very impressive 70% of the fracture rate was attributes to the consumption of animal protein.

These researchers explained that animal protein, unlike plant protein, increases the acid load in the body (4). The body doesn’t like this acidic environment and starts to fight it using calcium to neutralise it. The calcium ends up being pulled from the bones, and it weakens them (osteoporosis), putting them at greater risk for fracture.

1 – Hegsted DM. “Calcium and osteoporosis” J. Nurt. 166 (1986): 2316 – 2319
2-Frassetto LA, Todd KM, Morris C, Jr., et all. “Worldwide incidence of hip fracture in elderly women: relation to consumption of animal and vegetable foods.” J. Gerontology 55 (2000): M585-M592
3-Abelow BJ, Holford TR, and Insogna KL. “Cross-cultural association between dietary animal protein and hip fracture: a hypothesis.” Calcif. Tissue Int. 50 (1992): 14-18
4-Wachsman A, and Bernstein DS. “Diet and osteoporosis” Lancet May 4, 1968: 958-959


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