July 18, 2007

Calcium and other Fascinating Dairy-Related Items



Of course not. It's just a post about milk.

But it seemed about time to say something about Milk and Calcium and Dairy, because it's one of those subjects that tends to be in the health news quite a bit. Studies fly around saying contradictory things. One day milk is a Miracle Beverage that builds strong bones and cures diseases and makes you skinny, and the next day it's like, "meh, maybe not so much, never mind." Then a few weeks later it's back to "well hooray, maybe it's pretty damn good for you after all," then someone else says "no it's not, that's a lie!" You get the idea.

Cranky Fitness does not intend to resolve the debate over milk. To the extent that a blog can drink a beverage, Cranky Fitness drinks milk and likes it.

So instead, let's throw a couple recent studies out there, and we can all continue to believe what we already did, and continue to do what we were already doing. Because that's pretty much how it works with health reporting, isn't it?

But who knows, perhaps the odd reader or two may see a study here and have a change of heart about milk. (And by odd, Crabby means random, not strange--oh well, never mind. If you find yourself here at Cranky fitness with Crabby, "odd" may indeed be the right word).

And yes, Crabby knows a lot of you may be vegans or can't do dairy for health reasons. She hopes that those of you who know better than Crabby about non-dairy alternatives can pipe up in the comments and offer advice. Crabby is more lactose-enthusiastic than lactose-intolerant, so she's never had to familiarize herself with what-all is out there.

So, to review: there was earlier research that seemed to suggest that eating and drinking lots of dairy products helped you lose weight. But more recently, thinking on this seems to have changed. The FTC and even made the Milk People stop using this claim in their ads. For more on this aspect, Diet Blog has a summary.

But what about calcium? Don't you need it for bone health? And isn't it better to get it from food than from supplements?

Well, yes, apparently. A recent study of calcium intake and bone health compared 3 groups of women:

Women who got 70% or more of their daily calcium from supplements;

Women who got 70% or more of their calcium from dairy products and other foods; and

Women who got their calcium more equally from both sources.

The researchers (from Washington University School of Medicine) found that women who got most of their calcium from food had healthier bones than women who got it mostly from supplements. And this was true even though the supplement takers had a higher average calcium intake.

But before you toss those supplements--the group that got their calcium from both sources had the highest intake and the healthiest bones.

And another recent study, of dairy consumption and health (this time looking at men, 2400 of the British variety) found that those who regularly consumed milk, cheese and yogurt were less likely to develop risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

There is probably a lot more research about milk out there, but it's already getting pretty tedious and that feels like enough for today. Crabby promises she won't be this boring very often, but every now and then she reminds herself she has a Health blog and might want to do some occasional actual Health News reporting. Don't worry, it won't last long!

For much more entertaining health and fitness news, you're much better off visiting Sister Skinny or Fitness Fixation. Crabby knows she's mentioned both these blogs before, but hell, they're really great. And today is a Special Day over at Fitness Fixation, because fierce but adorable Kelly has been reduced to parading around in a leotard. She'll tell you why, in her usual demure and polite way.

And those of you who often comment? Do not feel like you have to say anything about the freakin' milk. Crabby's feelings will not be hurt if you find yourselves on other subjects, or without much to Moo about at all.


  1. I adore a good ice cold glass of milk - almost as much as I love my wine. :-)

    Growing up, we kids only had milk in our cold cereal, we weren't allowed to drink it because we'd go through it too fast so I'm a bit concerned about how much calcium I got as a child (I didn't like cheese and we didn't have much of it anyway).

    I brought up my kids that we drank milk at meal times so the two boys are healthy milk drinkers. My daughter drank quite a bit of milk but has switched to soy milk. I think she'd like to be a vegetarian, she's given up all beef products, but she does enjoy chicken and fish.

    Probably more than you wanted to know.

  2. Good Morning Crabby,

    I can't handle much cow dairy as it messes up my sinuses though I do indulge in proper top quality ice cream. My husband is somewhat lactose intolerant. We use goat feta, and I put goat milk in my coffee. We keep sheep cheese around and it's absolutely wonderful.
    Lack of calcium isn't always because you're not getting it in your diet. You need other minerals in order for your body to absorb it. Pounding down the calcium won't do you a lick of good if you don't have the necessary (magnesium? potassium? sorry, can't think of what it is right now) mineral.
    Meanwhile, I miss cow dairy. We had dairy catttle when I was young and fresh, full cream milk is wonderful. So's the butter you shake yourself. I put cream on everything when I was young, including hamburger.
    Soy milk goes in bread and I use it on cereal. Nut milks, such as almond, are very taste especially when made into custard.

  3. I like milk. I always have. I basically only use skim milk. As to whether or not it helps you lose weight, I am skeptical. I would buy it if they said celery. If I understand correctly, we expend more energy eating celery than it gives. Other than celery, any food can make you fat.

  4. Sorry, I hate milk. I am a known milk hater. It tastes, well disgusting to me. I even get a little nauseous seeing other people drinking it. Do not get me wrong, I put a little in m coffee and I like ice cream, cheese and yogurt but milk- yuck.

    I actually like skim milk on my cereal because it tastes the least like milk to me. (normally I am not into fat free anything)

    It is a fallacy that dairy products are the only source for calcium. Calcium is in many foods like leafy greens for example.

    Other factors in healthy bones are amount of exercise, magnesium intake, and vitamin D intake. So, it isn't good at all to pound down buckets of milk to prevent bone loss and not do anything else.

  5. Mmmmmm. Milk. As long as it is organic, I'm there!

  6. I wasn't much of a milk person before I got pregnant. Cheese, yogurt and ice cream - definitely. Milk - not so much.

    However, the pregnant me has been consuming it like it's going out of style. My husband is lactose intolerant and the whole gallon is still gone before the expiration date. I now have to limit it (like many things) due to the gestational diabetes, but I still down around a couple of cups a day.

    Husband gets a small carton of Lactaid when he wants cereal. I don't know how he can drink it - it's disgusting.

    Chocolate soy milk, however, is very tasty. :)

  7. I love milk

    and cheese, and yogurt, and cottage cheese, and cream, and buttermilk,


    Thanks for the mention. (You need to warn me when you do that- I've got that feeling, "Ah! Company's coming short notice and the house is a MESS!"

    But don't interepret that as complaining because I'm always very grateful! I mean, grateful.)

    Can't wait to see Kelly in that leotard!

  8. I was raised to drink milk, but it does Bad Things to me, so I eventually had to swear off milk altogether. I can handle yogurt and cheese in moderation, though. And my mom, deeply concerned about osteoporosis, has me on calcium supplements. :p

    But, I don't miss the moo juice. I never really liked it that much anyway.

    Apropos of almost nothing, my boyfriend and his family think it's strange that I've always eaten my cereal dry.

  9. I think you'll be suprised about how much people want to talk about milk.
    I heard a study (no reference, so maybe I imagined it) that people who drink milk were healthier and thinner or something like that. And I thought "doesn't mean it's related." As in, people who drink milk may be more health conscious to begin with and as such, exercise, limit bad fats, do other healthy things besides drinking milk. In my experience, people who drink milk have a more balanced diet than the nondrinkers who (unless medical reasons) were more the chips for supper with a litre of coke crowd. just my thoughts.
    (I drink it and LOVE it.)

  10. I think I would die if I couldn't have dairy. Which is being dramatic. But anyway. Husband consumes yogurt like he's afraid it will go out of fashion tomorrow and there will be none left in the world so happy to see any study that show this could benefit him.

  11. I don't drink milk, mainly because I don't like to expend valuable calorie budget on beverages. When I drink my calories, I just get hungry again a few minutes later and end up consuming more calories than is good for me.

    But I eat yogurt. Lots of it. And I eat cheese on hard training days.

  12. I LOVE milk. I like it really cold. It settles my stomach when I don't fell well. As far as drinking empty calories, milk makes me feel more full than water, so I don't mind those calories. I also love yogurt, but that seems to need so much sugar that those calories tend to bother me. For some reason though, the calories in ice cream don't seem to bother me one bit!! Ha-ha!

    I have switched to milk that is not produced with growth hormones in the cows. I have two boys and that seems like a no brainer for me even though it costs a little more, and NEVER goes on sale.

  13. i love milk and always have - i remember growing up and drinking it w/everything... even pizza... now i drink non-fat milk w/my cereal and couldn't be happier - i also try and have a yogurt once a day as well as take a calcium vitamin... :o)

  14. I'm lactose intolerant. :(

    I still eat a cup of yogurt a day though (thank goodness for lactaid pills) and I drink Almond milk which I like very much. I also take calcium suppliments.

    As long as I can eat squash I'm not complaining! :)

  15. I love Milk! Unfortunately since Weight Watchers my consumption has went down, as my nice big tall glass is like a million points, but hey, I eat cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.

    NSV= Non-Scale Victory ;)

  16. Wow, who would believe milk could be so interesting!

    I've worked on a dairy farm where we milked over a thousand cows twice a day. Nice creatures cows.

  17. I likes da milk. It is good.
    Particularly in the ice cream form...altho I wouldn't turn down a cold class of vanilla soy milk. And cheese? I'd die if I couldn't eat cheese.

    I imagine the calcium suppliment people got less calcium as yo uneed other nutrients and inerals to aid int he calcium uptake...and certain things leach calcium from you. Did the study you looked at note their total diet or jsut their calcium uptake. I'm curious...

  18. Hi everybody!

    Oh dear.

    So it's confession time: today is Most Significant Other's birthday (nickname coming soon), and I was sort of thinking a nice boring calcium post would get maybe five comments, because, well, who can think of anything to say about milk?

    So I ran off to purchase and wrap presents and do a few other accumulated chores and well... whoops. And it's almost time to take my gal out to dinner.

    You people have all this great information, thoughtful remarks, and funny observations about milk! Who knew? I want to appreciate all your comments individually but instead will have to appreciate them collectively this evening.

    (Although I did want to congratulate Holly on being freed by her doctor from Knee prison because I think I ran out on the last post she was here for too!)

    Thanks all for your patience, which I will continue to rely on as I'm going off for a 3 day weekend soon. But I love reading your comments, as do the many other readers of Cranky Fitness who haven't worked up the nerve to leave them yet themselves.

    thanks again!

  19. Newbie here, wading in on the milk issue:

    I was raised on skim milk. It's the only kind I'll drink. It's also the only fat-free dairy I'll tolerate. Fat-free sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc., all taste like wallpaper paste to me. As for whole milk, I associate it with a sour taste, so I think I got a glass of the spoilt stuff when I was very young. But whatever the reason, the idea of whole milk is repugnant to me.

    Still, I've never been much of a milk drinker. I'll only drink a glass or two of cow's milk a year - and then only when it's ice cold and I'm chasing down something chocolate. I am so unaccustomed to reaching for the milk that, more than once, I have poured Diet Coke on my cereal before I realized what I was doing.

  20. While I've always loved the taste of milk, I no longer drink it, and feel that it's far over rated!

    The article I read about this (and almost blogged on myself) said that the women with the healthiest bones also had "thicker" bodies. HMMMMM....so what about that. Think women have always known to be at higher risk of osteoporosis than heavy women. So is it the milk? or is it the weight?

    Makes sense that it could be either. Milk does contain calcium and vitamin D (although MANY are supplemented with D2 which is useless). But strong bones are also associated with heavier workloads on the bones, whether it's heavier workload due to excess weight or resistance training I don't think matters.

    I do agree that cheese and yogurt is good for you. These are both fermented products. (Just like fermented soy is better). I don't believe milk is harmful, except that it is a lot of sugar that isn't very sustaining. I use a little in coffee and tea, but otherwise I avoid it. (mainly I use cream in recipes that call for milk)

  21. Milk is pretty much no good unless you happen to be a baby cow. It's also, I think, an acquired taste. The doctors thought I was allergic when I was born (why, who the freak knows) anyhow when I was age four or five they changed their minds -- I was indeed not allergic.

    My mom was soooo happy that she pretty much forced it on me and I hated it. I can't think of anything worse than having to drink milk. Ugh. We drink soy at my house. Unless you're say under three and then you get the breastmilk. Thankfully, that's none of us anymore.

    A very happy and fun birthday to your nice health care plan; have fun tonight!

  22. Just the thought of milk makes me feel very, very sick inside. I am most definitely lactose intolerant but as a child I was forced to drink a whole glass of milk every night at dinner. I was never made to eat fruits or veggies but I would cry and have to drink milk.

    For that reason, I can't even stand soy milk. (I'll drink a little choclate Silk, every now and again) It's just too much like milk and brings back the "horror" of my childhood.

    And I definitely won't do any sort of cheese. That's just as sickening to me (and just as bound to make me sick). I can build up tolerances to ice cream if I eat it a whole lot. But soy ice cream is certainly not all too bad, but not easy to come by.

    I was thinking about the whole calcium thing earlier in the week and realized I don't get anywhere near as much as I should. I completely ditched by middle school which is also when I became a vegan (living on whatever my parents would buy me). So I suppose it's no wonder I'm only 4'11" and shorter than everyone on both sides of my family. Oh and osteoporosis definitely runs in my family, with several of the women on my mom's side having hunched over backs and the like. So maybe I need to change things...

    But milk is a scary, disgusting thing....

  23. All I have to say is... I'm French! You can't take my camembert cheese away from me! ;)

    More seriously, I'm not a huge milk-lover myself (I can only tolerate about 100-150 ml a day, and whole milk is too 'heavy' for me), but dairy as a whole leaves so many possibilities that I'd find it too bad to pass on them. But maybe that's just my current take on 'eat everything in moderation'; I don't like the idea of cutting down a complete group of foods anyway (okay, except the trans-fats-laden stuff, but that's kind of a special category that I won't deem as 'necessary to the human body').


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