“Milk Does Not Protect Against Bone Breaks”

Ad Americans did a double-take on PCRM’s ad, which appeared on subway trains and station platforms, in newspapers, and on the Internet in March. Yes, it’s true. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, including 77,761 women, aged 34 to 59 and followed for 12 years, showed that those who got more calcium from milk actually had slightly, but significantly, more fractures, compared to those who drank little or no milk.
1.  A 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, showed much the same thing—higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture, compared to those with the lowest consumption.

2.  This does not mean that calcium is not important. But it does mean that dairy products do not protect against bone fractures, according to the best evidence we have. Good nondairy sources of calcium include fortified orange or apple juice, green leafy vegetables, beans, and calcium supplements. And, no, you don’t need to eat six cups of kale. There are plenty of calcium choices. Just as important, reducing sodium (salt) intake, avoiding animal protein, and quitting smoking helps your body keep calcium where it belongs instead of losing it through the kidneys into the urine. 

1. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Publ Health 1997;87:992-7. 2. Cumming RG, Klineberg RJ. Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:493-503.

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