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From John McDougall, MD  

The UMP Will Try to Confuse You about Bone Health and Animal Protein

Osteoporosis is caused by several factors; however, the most important one is diet – especially the amount of animal protein and acid in the foods we eat.[37-39] The high acid foods are meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and hard cheeses – parmesan cheese is the most acidic of all foods commonly consumed.[40] Once consumed, this food-derived acid must be neutralized in the body. Fruits and vegetables can do this neutralizing (these foods are alkaline in nature). However, because the diet of the average Westerner is so deficient in fruits and vegetables and so high in acid foods, the primary neutralizer of dietary acid becomes their bones – the bones dissolve to release alkaline materials.

Worldwide, the highest rates of hip fractures are among populations that consume the most animal food (including dairy products) – like people from the USA, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, etc.[41,42] The lowest rates are among people who eat little or no dairy foods (these people are on lower calcium diets) – like people from rural Asia and rural Africa.[41,42] The basic experiments published in the 1980s clearly show protein causes bone loss, and calcium offers little or no protection.[43]

Even the foremost scientists hired by the dairy industry know protein is harmful to the bones.[44] In my April 2003 Newsletter I explained there was only one properly designed study testing the effects of fluid milk on the bone health of postmenopausal women – and the results were: those who received the extra milk for a year lost more bone than those who didn’t drink the milk.[44] The authors, funded by the National Dairy Council®, explained in their paper, “The protein content of the milk supplement may have a negative effect on calcium balance, possibly through an increase in kidney losses of calcium or through a direct effect on bone resorption.” Trying to explain why those receiving the milk were in worse calcium balance, they said, “…this may have been due to the average 30 percent increase in protein intake during milk supplementation.”

Unfortunately, all this damning information does not sit well with the powerful dairy industry, so they have started the “3-A-Day of Dairy” program to battle the calcium crisis in America by promoting milk, cheese and yogurt for stronger bones – and they have been busy doing their own research to prove protein is good for the bones.[45-48]

Regrettably for them, their designing means were just revealed in the May 2003 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.[49] The article in this journal exposed the way they made the results show protein is good for the bones. To devise research that appears to contradict hundreds of articles published over the past 35 years, you only have to provide sufficient alkaline material in the diet of the people being studied to neutralize the acid from the animal foods. This was accomplished by studying populations that have diets high in neutralizing fruits and vegetables; the other approach employed was to add a strong alkali source to the experiment, such as an antacid pill (wafer), calcium citrate (like Citracal).

Once the acid from the food is neutralized, then any bone building factors that might be present in meat and dairy can exert their effects. High protein foods, and especially dairy foods, raise the levels of a powerful growth-stimulating hormone in the body, called insulin-like growth factor-1 or IGF-1. Stimulation of bone growth by this hormone is now being offered as the reason dairy products build strong bones. It has long been necessary for them to find a more scientifically supportable explanation, because the bulk of the research shows the calcium in dairy foods has little or no benefit for bone health.[50-52]

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.