Calcium – The Myths and the Magic

100 people were asked the question, “Where can you get calcium in your diet?”  They all answered, “Milk!  Yogurt!  Cheese!”

100 people were asked the question, “Why is it so important to drink milk?”  They all answered, “Calcium!  Protein!  It’s good for your bones!”

100 people were asked the question, “What happens if you don’t have enough calcium in your diet?”  They cheered, “Osteoporosis!  Hip fractures!”

The crowd began to stir, wondering why they were being asked such ridiculous questions with obvious answers.  Exchanging glances of confusion.  What kind of Family Feud practice game is this when the answers are so easy?

And then someone in the crowd raised his hand.  He said, “There’s more to the calcium story than you think.”  Everyone froze and looked up.  Who is this guy?  What is he talking about?

He spoke a little more loudly this time when he realized he had everyone’s attention.  “Calcium does make your bones strong.  That’s one of only two components of your bones, so of course it’s important.  But you’ve got it all wrong!  Milk, cheese, yogurt, and all those dairy products you’re consuming to make your bones strong are actually making your bones weaker!”

There were whispers all around.  Who is this guy?  Is he for real?  What planet is he from, thinking dairy is bad for us?  Could it be true?  What about all the commercials?  The celebrity endorsements?  The pictures on the labels.  What about everything I’ve always been taught?!

The stranger in the crowd saw the opportunity to shed some light on the situation.  His captive audience was clearly confused.  He seized the moment and grabbed the microphone from the emcee.  “It’s all wrong.  You’ve been duped.  We’ve ALL been duped.  And it’s time to wake up.”

Here is what he explained to the crowd:

“Consuming animal protein lowers the pH of your blood, creating an acidic environment in your blood stream, a condition known as acidosis.  Your body cannot remain in this dangerous state of acidosis.  Fortunately, the human body is pretty smart.  It figured out a way to neutralize the acid.  It finds calcium phosphate, uses the phosphate to neutralize the acid and it excretes calcium in the urine.  Genius, right?  The only bad thing is that there is only one source of calcium phosphate in the body – your bones.  What happens when you take too much calcium from your bones?  Osteoporosis.”

Someone in the crowd raised a hand.  “So what you’re saying is that by eating any kind of animal protein – meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or dairy – that we’re actually causing bone loss?”

The man with the mic nodded slowly and sadly.  “Yes, you’ve got it right.  The very things we thought were healthy for our bones are really their biggest detriment.  When you look around, it’s so obvious!  As a country, we consume more dairy per person than any other.  We have access to all the ‘best’ calcium supplements – there are commercials all day every day for calcium supplements!   If milk and cheese is so high in calcium and so good for us, and we’re eating it hand over fist, we should have the strongest bones in the world.   Instead, we have the very highest rates of osteoporosis. ”

With a shrug of the shoulders, he left us with this, “Just look around you.  Be open to seeing what’s really there.  Be open to tuning out the messages you’ve heard your whole life.  We’ve got it all wrong.  The science explains it, but you don’t need to be a scientist to understand it.  You also don’t need to be a genius to do something about it.  Take control of your own health.  Take responsibility for your own health education.  You’ll be glad you did.”

Just as quickly as he came, the man with the mic stepped down from his platform.  I’m sure I caught a small smile and a moment of pride.  He knew he had done the right thing in speaking up.  He knew at least someone in the crowd had heard him.  He knew for at least one person he might have made a difference.  And for that, he was surely glad.   He’ll never know how many others have heard his story since.


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