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Moo-ve Over, Bessie: Is Milk Depleting Your Bone Health?


By now I'm sure you've heard the news that our old pal Coca-Cola will be getting into the milk business. With soda sales slipping as consumers become more health conscious, the "Coke of milks" has been born -- a product called Fairlife, engineered to have more calcium and less sugar than standard milks, and that's lactose-free.

Is it just me, or is this totally insane?

Don't get me wrong... I LOVE the fact that people are drinking less soda, and there's nothing quite so satisfying as watching this healthwashing giant scramble to figure out what's next in a post-soft-drink world.

But ultra-processed milk? Surely there's an alternative to soda they can choose that isn't linked to allergies, food safety concerns and osteoporosis (more on that in a minute.) In fact, the New York Times published an article titled "Got Milk? Might Not Be Doing You Much Good." Amen to that.

But let's face it: this decision may be a response to consumer health concerns, but it's really not about health. It's about the MOO-lah!

"At a recent conference announcing Fairlife, Sandy Douglas, the president of Coca-Cola North America, said the company expects the premium milk to “rain money” following extensive marketing efforts (which, so far, include a website with pin-up style images of women wearing liquid milk dresses)." - Business Week

But don't we need milk to build strong bones?

If only it were that simple.

Yes, our bones are made mostly of calcium. And yes, milk contains a lot of calcium. But does that mean that drinking milk makes our bones stronger? Nopers.

Here's the thing: In westernized countries, we consume the most calcium, but we have the highest rates of osteoporosis. A study of 78,000 nurses found that women who drank more than one glass of milk per day had a 45-percent greater chance of hip fractures compared to those who drank far less (1).

This isn't new news, either. In 1986, a researcher at Harvard researcher produced a graph that demonstrated a nearly direct relationship between calcium intake and hip fractures. The higher the calcium intake, the greater risk of fractures (2).


So what's the problem here?

We're getting enough calcium in our diets, but our lifestyles are causing us to lose calcium faster than we can possibly take it in.

These lifestyle factors include:

1. Vitamin D deficiency

If we don't get enough vitamin D, our bones can become thin and brittle.(3) Adequate vitamin D levels are absolutely essential for absorbing calcium from our food, getting it into our kidneys and turning that calcium into healthy bones and teeth. So get some sunshine (or take a supplement, if needed!)

2. Not moving and shaking

Exercise is important for building muscles, but it actually builds your bones, too. When you exercise, it creates pressure up against your bones, stimulating your body to build them back up stronger than ever.(4)

3. Low stomach acid

One of the risks of taking too many antacids is bone fractures. Weird, right? After all, aren't we told to take those things as a calcium supplement? But those antacids reduce our stomach acid levels, which are essential for absorbing minerals... including calcium.

If you have low stomach acid levels, all the calcium in the world isn't going to help your bones. (If you suspect you might have low stomach acid, starting your day with a lemon cayenne water is a great start to improving your digestion.)

4. The foods you eat and how you feel

When you're stressed out, your body becomes more acidic.(5) It needs minerals to balance out this acidity to become more alkaline once again. You know what's a great source of minerals for your bod? Your bones. So your body eats them up.

You know what else makes your body acidic? Foods like refined sugar, excessive grains and -- you guessed it -- dairy.

Step one: Develop a relaxation practice that works for you
Step two: Cut the crap out of your diet!

5. Your morning (and afternoon, and evening) latte

You may have heard that coffee is a diuretic (a.k.a. it makes you pee a lot). This is true, but the problem with diuretics goes beyond the fact that they dehydrate you. All that extra pee is filled with minerals your body can't afford to lose... including calcium. Swapping your usual java with this coffee-free, dairy-free, calcium-rich latte is a delicious solution to this issue.

How do I get more calcium without milk?

Don't get me wrong -- getting calcium in your diet is important, but if you're consuming a varied plantiful diet, you really have nothing to worry about. Same goes for your kids! Check out these calcium-rich powerhouse foods:

  • Collards (1 cup boiled) – 357 mg of calcium
  • Rhubarb (1 cup cooked) – 348 mg of calcium
  • Black-eyed peas (1 cup cooled) – 211 mg of calcium
  • Kale (1 cup boiled) – 179 mg of calcium
  • Sesame seeds/ Tahini (1 tbsp) – 64 mg of calcium
  • Sardines (3 oz.) – 325 mg of calcium
  • Spinach (1 cup boiled ) – 291 mg of calcium
  • Turnip greens (1 cup boiled) – 249mg of calcium

A few awesome recipes using these calcium-packed ingredients:

When any NEW shifts start to take place in the nutrition world, or worse, when you start to see BIG food start gripping too tightly to questionable habits, it's always important to look at what  is behind it, who is funding the studies and what the real motivation is. Most often, and sadly, it's rarely our health.

(1)  Feskanich D. et al. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health 1997;87(6);992-7.
(2) Hegsted DM. Calcium and osteoporosis. Adv Nutr Res 1994;(9);119-28.
(3) "Vitamin D." — Health Professional Fact Sheet. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2014.
(4) "Exercise for Your Bone Health." Exercise for Your Bone Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.
(5) "How Your Diet and Stress Affects Your PH Levels and Your Health."Wellness Center MBS. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.


5 Responses to “Moo-ve Over, Bessie: Is Milk Depleting Your Bone Health?”

  1. harriet said…
    Does the above list mean that unless the greens are cooked I will not get calcium benefits? I prefer eating salads, than cooking spinach, etc. Thanks . h.
  2. linda said…
    GOOD article. I never drank milk however, I would put milk in my coffee in the morning (sorry Meghan I still haven't given this up) until I reached around 50 and the milk just made me feel bloated.
  3. Ruth Reber said…
    Why, I wonder, Coke would go into milk business when it's not any better than soda? Also in your recipes for Miso Soup and others, please explain what Tempi-coconut aminos- Miso are. I am new to this kind of food. Ruth 1/20/15 @3:49
  4. CC said…
    I clicked on a link that said "The Most Amazing Chocolate Milk Ever" (or something like that) and it sent me to this page. Nice article, but where is the one about the chocolate milk??
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      You can find lots of dairy-free milk recipes in my free Milk It guide, which you can download here:

Before you post your comment, please note that I am unable to offer nutritional advice or recommendations via my blog.

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