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Osteoporosis – The Real Issue

Below is the original letter to the “Forum Editor” of Straits Times and TODAY.  Slightly edited versions of this letter were published by both newspapers at end-Nov / early-Dec 2003.

Dear Sir,

Osteoporosis – The Real Issue

In conjunction with World Osteoporosis Day recently, there has lately been many articles about osteoporosis in the newspapers.

These articles keep repeating the same standard advice – take milk and dairy products, do outdoor exercises, don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol.

Yet they never mention the two biggest culprits that cause bone loss among people in modern society, namely

  1. Excessive consumption of carbonated drinks and other foods containing sugar.
  2. Excess consumption of meat and other high-protein foods – including milk and dairy products.

Among other reasons, carbonated drinks, meat and dairy foods contain high levels of phosphorus, which lead to calcium being depleted from the bones.

This is why a country like the United States, despite its people taking lots of calcium in milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream, etc, has one of the world’s highest rates of osteoporosis!

Encouraging people to take milk and dairy products is not the best solution. While these foods do provide calcium, they also contribute to calcium loss because of the high protein / high phosphorus content.

Incidentally, it is a medically known fact that fat is needed for the body to absorb calcium. Thus, if you want to get calcium from your milk, it is best to drink full-cream or full-fat milk, not low-fat milk! And preferably to take milk with meals, not on its own.

The emphasis on milk is also not helpful for Asian societies, where up to 80 percent of the adult population are intolerant to milk.

The richest dietary sources of calcium are, in fact:

  1. Seeds and nuts, particularly sesame seed, which contains 14 times as much calcium as milk.
  2. Seaweed, which contain seven to 14 times.

Yet these foods are almost never mentioned because we tend to get our health information – and misinformation – from Western sources.

Finally, the focus on calcium alone is grossly inadequate. Calcium by itself will build big bones but not strong bones.

For strong bones, we need a host of other minerals such as magnesium, zinc, boron, etc.

Again, these minerals are abundant in seeds, nuts and seaweed, less so in milk and dairy foods.

Yours sincerely,

David Tio
Osteopathic Treatment Centre

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