Many women are concerned about getting enough calcium in their diets to protect against bone-weakening osteoporosis later in life, and some are turning to dairy products to supply that calcium. But, increasingly dairy consumption may not be the right solution. In fact, dairy food may even contribute to osteoporosis.

How can it be that Americans consume more milk than people in many other countries do, yet our fracture rates are very high? Scandinavians devour enormous amounts of mil, and their fracture rate is the worst in the world. Asian countries, on the other hand, use very little dairy food, yet they have very low fracture rates. The average calcium intake is less than 300 milligrams per day in Singapore, and the fracture rate there is one-fifth that of the U.S.

Evidence indicates that bones become weak because of overly rapid calcium loss, not inadequate intake, and the loss seems to be due to high protein diets. Research has found that meat-eaters lose over twice the calcium each day than vegetarians.

Not only is milk not a solution to osteoporosis, it may cause a more serious problem - epidemiological studies have shown that dairy product us is linked with higher breast cancer rates. One survey of Seventh Day Adventists found that the more dairy a woman consumed, the higher her risk of breast cancer.

There are several factors that, when added up, could explain why milk might cause breast cancer.

  • A pregnant cow produces extra estrogen which ends up in her milk, and excess estrogen is known to make breast cancer cells multiply

  • Fat in milk causes the release of excess estrogen in the woman's body

  • The body uses fiber to eliminate estrogen, and milk contains no fiber.

  • Mother's milk, either human or cow, helps the tiny baby to grow rapidly. It may be that the growth factors in milk, such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), are encouraging the growth of cancer cells. In test tube studies, IGF-1 was found to accelerate the growth of breast cancer cells, and this compound may be more potent than estrogen in this regard. Bovine growth hormone (BGH) is now being given to cows to boost their milk production, as well as the dairy farmers' profits, and cows receiving BGH produce two to four times more IGF-1 than normal.

  • Finally, milk contains pesticides and industrial pollutants. Breast cancer deaths declined in Israel when three carcinogens found in Israeli milk were banned.

Based on information from Good Medicine, Winter 1997 & Spring 1997

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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