Get all the calcium you need without milk

I love emailI truly do. Maybe it’s the power of instant communication with people across the globe. Maybe it’s the convenience of writing a letter and then clicking it away into cyberspace. Or maybe it’s the illusion it gives me that I’ve got more friends than I actually have. Whatever it isI adore it.

So when I came to work yesterday morning to find an inbox full of email, my day was off to a good start. As I sat with my morning tea and read through the emails, I noticed a common theme in response to our e-Alert covering Consumer Reports’ endorsement of milk: If milk isn’t a good source of calcium, what is?

That’s an important question. Thanks to generations of dairy industry propaganda (and brilliant advertising agencies), we’ve all been trained to believe that dairy products are our best and primary sources of the 1500 mg of bone-strengthening-calcium the NIH says older adults need daily. But this just isn’t true. The high phosphorus content of milk interferes with the calcium absorption. In fact, as Jenny mentioned in Tuesday’s e-Alert, numerous studies have demonstrated that milk may actually strip calcium from the bones.

And, according to panelist, Allan Spreen, M.D., there is a long list of reasons why milk is unhealthy or at least not the solution we’ve been told, including:

  • calcium in milk is not well absorbed (and even less so once homogenized);
    there isn’t enough magnesium in milk;
  • there’s evidence that the antibodies the body makes to milk are closely related to the antibodies that destroy islet cells (insulin producers) in the pancreas in cases of juvenile diabetes (!!);
  • homogenization breaks up the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which in its altered (smaller) state can then enter the bloodstream and react against arterial walls, causing the body to protect the area with a layer of cholesterol (!!);
  • the fat content of milk is for the accelerated growth of calves;
  • and milk contains pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and Bovine Growth Hormone.

He does, however, add that cultured products (kefir, yogurt), and enzymatically altered products (cheese, etc.) are acceptable in moderation (and possibly butter, too).

I know. It goes against everything we’ve been told. And if you accept it, it’s bad news for those concerned with bone health who thought milk was an easy solution. But, there are sources of calcium that far surpass anything you may find in milk. And while it may not be as obvious to most of us, the first place to look is the produce section of your supermarket. Kale, turnip greens, collard greens and other dark green vegetables are all excellent sources of absorbable calcium. Kale has 200 mg per cooked cup, collard greens boasts 300 mg, and turnip greens contain a whopping 450 mg.

If, however, you’re like me and consider those more weeds than vegetables (my mother still gets after me about that), there are still other options that are more effective than milk without all the added concerns Dr. Spreen pointed out above.

In your July 1999 issue of Members Alert, we told you about AdvaCal, an easily absorbable form of calcium made from oyster shell. The shells are heated to 800 degrees Celsius (to get rid of lead and other heavy metals common to oysters), creating a fine ash. In several double-blind placebo trials, AdvaCal not only stopped bone loss, but actually increased bone density. In one study of 136 osteoporosis patients, AdvaCal increased bone mineral density (BMD) by over 4.5 percent in three years. By comparison, the placebo group lost 3.5 percent of their BMD.

In addition to AdvaCal, there are other non-calcium bone-strengtheners. For example, in your July 1998 issue, we introduced you to the soy isolate, ipriflavone. Over 60 human clinical studies in Europe and Japan have proven that the supplement is readily absorbed into the body and reduces bone loss, bone pain, loss of mobility, and vertebral fractures in patients suffering from osteoporosis. And researchers at both the University of Budapest and the University of Bologna have proven that ipriflavone can actually increase bone density, as well.

So, while the debate over dairy is sure to continue, rest assured that there are other ways to get the calcium you need, and make yourself osteoporosis-proof.

You can order AdvaCal directly from Lane Labs at (800)526-3005, and ipriflavone can be purchased in most health-food stores.