New Study Shatters Myths about Milk
A new review in the March issue of Pediatrics has thrown into question some long-established myths about milk. The authors—PCRM senior nutrition scientist Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D.; PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D.; and Susan Berkow, Ph.D., C.N.S.—reviewed more than 50 studies addressing the effect of dairy products and other calcium-containing foods on bone integrity in children, adolescents, and young adults.
Their conclusion: Little scientific evidence exists to support the suggestion that milk builds strong bones or to justify the U.S. government’s artificially high recommendations for calcium intake. A vast majority of studies found no relationship between dairy or dietary calcium intake and measures of bone health.
Additionally, the authors found no proof to support the notion that milk is a preferred source of calcium. While milk and other dairy products contain calcium, many factors affect the availability and retention of the calcium from these products. For example, the calcium in dairy products is not as well absorbed as that in many dark-green leafy vegetables, but has an absorption fraction similar to that of calcium supplements, calcium-enriched beverages, calcium-set tofu, sweet potatoes, and beans.
Studies show that physical activity has the greatest positive impact on adolescents’ bone health. In addition, spending some time in the sunlight, avoiding smoking and high salt and caffeine intakes, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables are all good strategies for supporting healthy bone development and maintenance.
PCRM held a news conference in Washington, D.C., on March 7 to share the findings of its bone health paper. Hundreds of media outlets covered the story, including Associated Press, Reuters, the Washington Post, CBS News, and CNN.