"The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick-maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato,
'Twas enough to make a man stare."
- English nursery rhyme

To four groups of learned individuals, each so skilled in his or her craft and profession, having never studied the science of nourishment, nor having been required to take courses in nutrition to learn their individual art, this column is so dedicated.

To the butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, and medical doctors.

Yesterday (July 16, 2012), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded an $8.3 million grant to doctor Lynda Bonewald (no, I did not make the name up!) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to study "the relationship between osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) as people age."

Well, duh, I could have told you that as most people get older, they become couch potatoes and their bone and muscle masses decrease due to a lack of stress-bearing exercise. I would have come to that conclusion for only $8.30 and saved American taxpayers a small fortune, especially in this ridiculously wasteful economy.

Although Dr. lists no conflicts of interest on her grant applications, let it be known that in the past, she had been financed by the National Dairy Council and the Dairy Research Institute.

In January of 2011, the journal Nutrition Research included a study which received no publicity in the New York media. Korean scientists (Park HM, Heo J, Park Y) in Seoul (Yong San Medical Center) determined that plant sources of calcium lower the risk of osteoporosis in women. In their study, researchers concluded: "In this population of low-dairy consumers, intake of calcium from meat and dairy products was not related to risk of osteoporosis and bone mineral density. Our results suggest that high dietary intake of calcium, especially plant calcium, reduces the risk of osteoporosis and increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal Korean women. Vegetables may be an important source of calcium and may also provide vitamins and minerals that exert additional beneficial effects on the bone."

In 1992, B.J. Abelow and colleagues published a study of cross-cultural associations between hip fractures and nutrition. Focusing upon dietary calcium and protein intake, their paper (Calcified Tissue International 50:14-18, 192) should have been accepted as an important tool towards understanding the etiology of bone disease.

Here's what medical doctors and others should have learned from Abelow's research:

Nations in which calcium intake averaged 1000 or more milligrams per day experienced the highest rates of hip fractures. Nations in which very little calcium was consumed exhibited low rates of hip fractures. This is contrary to what doctors are taught in medical schools., and dairy industry marketing representatives wish us to believe.

Nations in which animal protein intake was high also experienced high rates of hip fractures. The opposite was also true. Nations in which animal protein intake was low had low rates of hip fractures.

Cow's milk is a "great source" of calcium. Cow's milk is a "great source" of animal protein. Nations eating such "great sources" of calcium and animal protein experience the highest rates of crippling bone disease. Recently, Americans were advised by the National Science Foundation to increase their intake of calcium by drinking more milk and eating more cheese. That dangerous message is reinforced each day by milk ads.

Unfortunately, that advice is harmful to the health of consumers. That information will not benefit the butchers, bakers, or candle stick makers to whom this column is partially dedicated. The medical doctors should gain enormous financial rewards by treating more patients as a result of increased dietary calcium intake.

Abelow's explanation has received little attention. He believes that elevated metabolic acid production associated with a high animal protein diet might lead to chronic bone buffering and bone dissolution. Subsequent studies have supported such a conclusion.

In 1994, the American Journal of Epidemiology (volume 139) reported:

"Consumption of dairy products, particularly at age 20 years, were associated with an increased risk of hip fractures...metabolism of dietary protein causes increased urinary excretion of calcium."

In 1995, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (vol.61:4) reported: "Dietary protein increases production of acid in the blood which can be neutralized by calcium mobilized from the skeleton."

The 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 female nurses, published in the American Journal of Public Health (1997, volume 87), concluded:

"There is no significant association between teenaged milk consumption and the risk of adult fractures. Data indicate that frequent milk consumption and higher dietary calcium intakes in middle aged women do not provide protection against hip or forearm fractures...women consuming greater amounts of calcium from dairy foods had significantly increased risks of hip fractures, while no increase in fracture risk was observed for the same levels of calcium from nondairy sources."

Robert Cohen

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