Ironically, countries that use the most cow's milk and milk products also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis and fractures and the worst bone health. Insufficient dairy intake and over consumption of acidic foods are to blame. If the body becomes overly acidic, calcium is drawn from our bones to act as neutralizer, which puts us at risk for osteoporosis and fractures (1).
Dr. Campbell of The China Study indicates that acidification is due solely to excess protein consumption, but I disagree with that conclusion. There are many ways for a body to become overly acidic, like excess intake of foods high in sugars, grains, and milk. That's right, milk and milk products are acid forming foods that can actually deplete the body of more calcium and promote the growth of bacteria, fungi and viruses (2). Keeping our bodies in a slightly alkaline state (as opposed to an acidic state) is what helps prevent disease. The best alkaline forming foods are fruits and vegetables. A diet high in theses, particularly foods high in bio-available calcium like kale, collards and broccoli, are the best way to offset the acid created from meat consumption.
Another reason that osteoporosis and fractures are highest in dairy drinkers has to do with something I mentioned in Part II of this series. When the casein from milk binds to our intestinal villi, it prevents the absorption of nutrients - key among them is calcium. So, not only does dairy consumption draw calcium from our bones, but it prevents further absorption of calcium from the foods we eat (3).
The truth is, we don't need as much calcium as we think, especially if we're not overloading our bodies with acid forming foods. Meat and fish should provide us with our primary source of protein, fruits, berries and vegetables (particularly green ones) should provide us with our primary source of calcium, and the sun should provide us with our primary source of vitamin D. However, if you live in a climate where it is winter for six months of the year like I do, it is important to add a supplement. I like the cod liver oil by Green Pastures.
One last thought: if you look at what our paleolithic ancestors consumed, milk was not a part of their diet. They didn't need it, and nor do we.
(1) The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell