The milk myth. We don’t think there is a need to call on to any busters for this one. Believe it or not, we know how to bust myths too, with Science!
Got Bone Density?
The catchphrase “Got Milk?” has been in commercials, radio spots, and plastered on billboards next to smiling faces. Pictures of Shaq and Taylor Swift with milk mustaches grace the sides of busses and the pages of magazines. These words have become so ingrained, that drinking milk has become a part of American pop culture. Is there any truth behind the advertising? Arrowhead Health Centers offers a number of services to help you keep your bone health in tip-top shape. A primary tool, bone density testing, allows our family practice providers decide which treatment or prevention options are right for you. We also want to provide you with the information you need to take the best care of your bones. Here’s the real scoop on cow’s milk.
Bone Density in a Nutshell
An important part of understanding any health benefits of milk is also understanding what bone is, how it’s maintained, and what bone density means. These dense, rigid organs are composed of mineralized bone tissue. This tissue consists of bone cells and the framework outside of those cells, also known as the matrix. This matrix is made up of the structural proteins, such as collagen, and inorganic mineral salts, mainly calcium and phosphate salts.
Bone is considered an active tissue, it is constantly being built up and broken down in a process called remodeling. This is accomplished by osteoblasts, the bone building cells, and osteoclasts, the bone breakdown cells. Bone density, or bone mineral density (BMD), is the amount of bone mineral in bone tissue. This is measuring the amount of the mineral salts in the bone matrix per volume of bone, or how “dense” with minerals the bone tissue is. Poor density means weaker bones.
Calcium and Bone Density
Bone is built mainly in early years, accumulating calcium and setting the stage for bone health in later life. What is becoming clear is that our bones do not stockpile infinite amounts of extra calcium. The previously held belief was a “savings account” theory of sorts. One that proposed that excess calcium was saved up, and that storage could be carried with you throughout the years. The more calcium stored, the longer it would take to deplete. Recent studies of milk consumption and fracture rate have challenged this idea. Regardless of the bone density achieved in early life and how much calcium you intake on a daily basis, by age 70 your bones will contain less calcium (less dense) than they were at age 30. After a certain age, our bones lose density regardless of calcium and Vitamin D intake.
Excess calcium has actually been shown to have a negative effect on bone density. Since bone tissue is constantly being remodeled, any extra calcium incorporated into the bones must be processed. When composing bone matrix, approximately 50% of osteoblasts die in the process. The more they build, the more they die. The number of times a cell can be replaced is fixed. This means that with excess calcium consumption, as the work and cell death rate increase, the capacity replication is exhausted sooner. If our bone building cells can only replicate a certain number of times, and a large chunk of that is used early, there will be less cells for later. Bone loss increases as we age, and with a lack of osteoblasts, bone replacement can’t occur. This can even lead to osteoporosis.
The bottom line? Health benefits of milk do exist. Despite these benefits, milk does not always increase bone density and is not completely effective in guarding against bone loss. The same nutrients can be gotten from other sources as well. Milk can be helpful, but it is not necessary.
DEXA Scans for Bone Density
Bone health is an extremely important component of overall health. Low bone density is a leading cause of fracture and injury, and can be a major challenge later in life. Knowing the facts about the foods you are familiar with is also an important tool. Regular physical exercise and a healthy diet can help bone health, but density loss as we age puts each of us at risk. A widely diagnostic test to assess bone density is the DEXA scan, which provides important information about your bone health and any risk you may have for developing osteoporosis. Arrowhead Health Centers does offer DEXA scans, and our dedicated health professionals are here to guide you in the right direction for your bone health. If you have any questions about bone density or would like to schedule your DEXA scan, call us at (623) 777-5587.