I don’t drink milk, I don’t consider it to be an appropriate food for most beings who are beyond breast feeding. Some people seem to be able to tolerate milk and dairy quite well; Many more do not. But despite the numerous unpleasant symptoms associated with consuming a food that disagrees with them, there remains a group of staunch milk drinkers. The reason most often cited for this activity is that it is to protect bone health, prevent osteoporosis, provide adequate calcium. In other words, we believe what we’re told without actually thinking too much about it.
This method of survival in the world does not generally achieve good results. While milk provides calcium and protein, milk intake does not necessarily equate to healthy bones. I have yet to see a legitimate study that equates milk and dairy consumption to bone health. Bones are much more than calcium. If you study cells, and tissues and what makes up tissues, you will discover that bone is a living matrix. There are living cells embedded in bone, these living cells both break down and rebuild bone in a constant process of remodelling. Some of these living cells make up the cartilage matrix that is the framework for bone. Bones are cartilage structures embedded with minerals. Ultimately your bones are custom-made just for you, how you carry your weight (posture, positions), the effects of gravity (your weight), and how you use your body (weight-beaing, impact). So first and foremost, the cells need to be kept healthy and happy.
If you removed all the mineral (calcium and phosphate), you would still have a form of bone, rubbery bone, that if it is healthy, doesn’t break, it bends (this is why toddlers rarely break bones – they haven’t calcified fully yet, so their bones bend and bounce a lot more). Things that are hard and inflexible break – if you put lots of calcium into inadequate cartilage, you basically get brittle, chalky bones. Osteoporosis is not a disease of inadequate calcium inadequate intake (although inadequacy may hurt the cells of the bone…) – it is a disease of the cells that make the matrix of the bone, i.e. they are dying faster than they are being replaced, or they are not doing their job of rebuilding the cartilage matrix. This is a deep issue that impacts longevity and quality of life and can be related to genetics, non-genetic inheritance, lifestyle factors and quite possibly eating the wrong types of foods in inappropriate quantities.
How do you get enough calcium, then? Well, besides the huge array of calcium supplements on the market, many greens are rich in calcium, as are nuts and seeds, anything that contains edible bones (e.g. canned salmon) will be rich with this mineral, and broths made from bones and a little acid. It is an ancient tradition to eat the part of an animal that needs strengthening. This makes sense from both a biochemical standpoint and a more wholistic viewpoint. If you eat bone, you will be getting the exact building blocks needed to make more bone. Thank goodness there is a resurgence in bone broths.