Myth or Fact: Milk is Good for your Bones – An Interview with Dr. Jack Choueka

Milk mustache ads have long promoted the idea that drinking milk is important for children to grow strong bones. However, there are other ways for our bodies to get calcium and we may not need as much as we’ve been lead to believe. “The body derives calcium from two main sources,” says Dr. Jack Choueka, Chair of Orthopedic Surgery & Musculoskeletal Services. “The first is our dietary intake, and when that is inadequate, it pulls it from our bones. Our peak bone mass is reached by the age of 30, after which the mineral density in our bones begins to diminish, so getting proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D is important in adolescence and early adulthood.”

Dr. Choueka recommends under the age of 50 get at least 1000mg of calcium per day, while older adults try for at least 1200mg. Although milk – one cup of which has about 300mg of calcium – is a good source, it’s certainly not the only source. “Similar levels of calcium can be found in calcium-fortified orange juice, leafy green vegetables and certain fish,” Dr. Choueka explains. Calcium supplements are also available for people who don’t get enough from their diet.

Even more surprising, the main reason you’re drinking all that milk may not even apply. According to Dr. Choueka, the notion of higher calcium intake reducing the risk of broken bones is theoretical. It’s important to get enough calcium, but too much is not good either. Studies have shown no reduction in fracture risk with more than the recommended levels of consumption.  In fact, there are risks associated with an excess of calcium intake, including the development of gallstones and kidney stones, and an increased risk of heart disease. “Milk, as well as other dairy products, is high in saturated fats which carries the risk of heart disease. High lactose intake has also been implicated in some increased risk for ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men,” Dr. Choueka adds.

Verdict: True, with a caveat – Milk does a body good, depending on how much of it you’re drinking. ” The exact amounts are still a bit controversial, but we do know that too little calcium and too much calcium are both not good,” says Dr. Choueka.

Is milk the best source of calcium?

Recommendations for calcium intake range depending on age but in general people 50 and younger should get at least 1000 mg per day with older people at least 1200 mg.  Milk is a good source of calcium but certainly not the only source. 1 cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium.  Similar levels of calcium can be found in calcium fortified Orange juice, leafy green vegetables and certain fishes. So if you don’t like milk don’t worry there are other ways to get your calcium.  Calcium supplements are also available for people who can’t get enough from their diet

 

 Is it recommended to drink three glasses of milk per day?

Although probably no great harm for most people, there could be some risks for some people to consume large amounts of milk.  For instance those that are lactose intolerant should avoid this.  Milk as well as other dairy products is high in saturated fats which carries risks of heart disease. High lactose intake has also been implicated in some increased risk for ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

 

Is there a correlation between calcium intake and lower risk of fracture?

There has been a lot of focus on this recently. Traditionally the benefits of calcium as it pertains to reduction of fracture risk have been theoretical. The body derives calcium from 2 main sources. First is our dietary intake and when that is inadequate it pulls it from the bones. While the calcium pulled from the bones can be replaced it can also lead to a condition where the bones are weakened. So intuitively you would think that poor calcium intake will lead to weaker bones and thus more fractures. Large studies though have been conducted that showed some risk for more fractures in those that consumed a very calcium poor diet (less than 700mg per day) There was no reduction in fracture risk more consumption . In fact in those with extremely high calcium intake the risk of fractures also increased. So currently my suggestion would be to get enough but not too much calcium.

Excessive calcium intake carries other risks such as development of gallstones and kidney stones and recently has been shown to increase risk of heart disease

 

Is there a correlation between calcium intake and prevention of osteoporosis?

Since our peak bone mass is reached by the age of 30, getting proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D is important in adolescence and early adulthood.  As we get older and the mineral density in our bones diminishes the importance of getting appropriate calcium and Vitamin D again arises. The exact amounts are still a bit controversial but we do know that too little and too much are no good.

Please send us your Myth or Fact: Milk is Good for your Bones – An Interview with Dr. Jack Choueka questions or any questions to our friendly staff via our online Contact Form. You may also contact us at 718-283-7400 or visit our office at 6010 Bay Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11204.

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