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Milk myths under scrutiny

Some beliefs about foods are very persistent and survive through the generations. The message that spinach is maybe not the uniquely powerful source of iron Popeye believed has already got around. But with milk, some myths seem to be even more stubborn. For instance, the claim that milk is a “calcium predator” is something that you read again and again. Because of its surprise value, it’s very tempting to use this as a headline. Hasn’t everyone learnt at school, and heard at the breakfast table, that milk is good for your bones. Because of the calcium. If you look on the Internet, you’ll also find the statement – backed up by arguments that sound just as reasonable – that you can’t get enough calcium without eating dairy products and that if one cut out dairy, one was headed straight down the osteoporosis road. So who’s right? Is milk good or bad? Black or white? Healthy of not?


Milk products with a positive calcium balance

A team of researchers led by Luise Schumann at the Institute for Alternative and Sustainable Nutrition, in Giessen, Germany scrutinized just these myths associated with milk and published their results in the journal "Ernährung im Fokus". The conclusion that they came to is that milk and dairy products are not calcium predators, on the contrary they supply calcium with good bioavailability. And while it is true that the sulphur-containing amino acids contained in dairy products cause higher levels of calcium excretion in the urine, the end result is a positive calcium balance for milk and dairy products.


Osteoporosis threat myth is no more than that

Another belief that the researchers found to be far less dramatic than some people make out is the osteoporosis threat to non-milk drinkers. The researchers say, “Calcium is a critical nutrient in the overall German population, and especially for teenagers and older people.” But they continue, “It is, however, possible to adequately cover the daily calcium requirements without eating dairy products or drinking milk, for example, as part of a vegan diet. On the other hand, many vegans consume only a very low amount of calcium and therefore are likely to have an increased risk of osteoporosis.” It must be borne in mind that not all studies identify this association. Vegans should nonetheless be mindful that they need an adequate calcium intake.


Source: Harald Seitz,

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