June 17, 1997

"...should we worry about the small amount of skim milk we are using?"

"My kids hate soy milk, and ask me for regular milk."

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If you have a question or concern about healthy dietary choices, send it to us in an e-mail message, and we'll forward it to Dr. Attwood.


Does Milk Do A Body Good?

QuestionMy mother just fractured her hip, which was, according to her doctor, caused by severe osteoporosis. She drank milk daily since childhood and ate cheese with most meals. She also ate ate meat daily, including beef, poultry, and fish. I'm concerned about the prospects of my own family. We eat very little meat or dairy products. We eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. We don't drink milk as a beverage, but do add skim milk to our breakfast cereals. I've heard that the protein in milk can promote calcium loss.

So, should we worry about the small amount of skim milk we are using?

AnswerI share your concern about osteoporosis. At my age, it seems that more and more friends and acquaintances have brittle bones. Like your mother, most of them consumed milk and other dairy products -- as well as meat -- daily throughout their lives. You are to be complimented on what appears to be an excellent diet to protect your family from this terrible malady in their later years. It's true that excessive protein, especially from animal sources, in the diet tends to promote calcium loss -- even as it is being consumed in the form of dairy products. The acidification of the blood by protein causes the kidneys to excrete calcium.

A diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes supplies adequate calcium, without excessive protein. The thing to remember here is that vegetarians maintain their bone density without dairy products, and the disease is commonly found, like in your mother's case, among people who consume milk and dairy products throughout their lives. Since the overall protein intake in your family's diet is not excessive, I would not worry about any calcium-losing effect of the small amount of skim milk in the breakfast cereal.

Ideally, however, I like to avoid all animal protein. Your skim milk could be replaced by rice or soy milk substitutes.

Question My kids hate soy milk, and ask me for regular milk. Any suggestions?

Answer Rice milk is an excellent alternative. Milk can also be made from nuts, such as almonds. This is even more important now that we are seeing lots of soy allergies.

Rice milk is available in most supermarkets and healthfood stores. I helped produce a video MOOOOOve Over Milk, which shows how to make almond milk at home with a blender.

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