There are the a number of myths about vegetarian diets such as the protein, the iron and the vitamin B12 myth. I feel that the protein myth is slowly becoming less of a problem although still very actual, but the biggest myth today is perhaps the calcium myth. It appears that almost everyone dealing with nutrition still recommends milk and dairy products and often in great amounts, to ensure calcium supply.
Most people believe that you have to eat dairy products for your calcium and that dairy products is the best way to prevent osteoporosis, a condition of loss of calcium and other alkaline minerals from the skeleton resulting in brittle bones. Most people believe that this can only occur when there is too little calcium in the diet but this is wrong.
All this is probably most of all the result of advertising by the dairy industry who for decades successfully “informed” us how good milk and dairy products are for our health. Many people also tend to believe that if one glass of milk per day is good, three to four glasses must be even better.
Here we shall look further into the diet which is the most important factor in osteoporosis which is a very actual problem and of especial concern to women.
Osteoporosis is not caused by lack of calcium in the diet. It is caused by an excess of acid in the diet which causes the body to draw calcium from the skeleton. It is true that dairy products contain a lot of calcium, but it is also true that people who have a high intake of calcium from dairy products have higher levels of osteoporosis. That the calcium myth survived is very much due to superficial quantitative thinking.
Modern research shows that populations have a low intake of calcium actually have a stronger skeleton. This can be explained by the fact that the populations who eat a lot of calcium rich foods also eat acid forming foods which rob the body of calcium. For instance, cheese which is very rich in calcium is also very rich in protein and if eaten in excess or together with too much other protein, would cause loss of calcium and other alkaline minerals.
Calcium and other alkaline minerals are lost through an intake of too much acid forming foods and lack of calcium has very little, if at all, (except in the case of starvation) relationship to actual intake of calcium. The world’s largest investigation on diet shows that in populations where the intake of calcium from dairy products is high, the level of osteoporosis (as well as many other diseases) is the highest. The intake of dairy products and calcium tablets do not prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is prevented and cured simply by not causing it.
Many separate medical investigations all over the world have established that osteoporosis has little to do with calcium intake but a lot to do with protein intake. The British Medical Journal [date] has reported that calcium intake is completely irrelevant to bone loss.
Vegetarians do not have as much osteoporosis as omnivores. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the largest study ever made of osteoporosis in 1983. Researchers found that by 65 years of age, female vegetarians had 18% bone loss and non-vegetarians had 35%. The equivalent figures for males were 3% and 7%. The figures can be explained by the fact that although vegetarians generally eat too much protein, they do not eat as much protein as meat eaters and, moreover, that the protein is of a better quality.
A long term study showed that as little as 75 grammes daily intake of protein more calcium is lost in the urine than absorbed from the diet. Several studies confirm the fact that the more protein that is taken in, the most calcium is lost.
African Bantu women take in only 350mg calcium per day. They bear nine children on average which they breast feed for two years but they never suffer from calcium deficiency.
The skeleton acts as a storage of calcium and other alkaline minerals. The pH level (measure of acidity or alkalinity) of the blood is vital and must be kept fairly constant or we would die. The body with its innate wisdom therefore draws alkaline minerals from the skeleton if we eat too many acid forming foods. Soft drinks, medication, smoking, salt, sugar, coffee and tea may also contribute to osteoporosis. Exercise is also of great importance to prevent osteoporosis.
To conclude: cow’s milk in its raw natural state is a perfect food for fast growing calves. Too many dairy products, especially in the denatured forms sold by supermarkets may cause health problems. Problems with calcium are best avoided by maintaining a balanced alkaline forming diet.