Milk is great for your bones – but do you know why? The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently recommends that everyone over the age of nine drink three cups of milk each day. This sounds like a lot; but the amount isn’t unmanageable once you factor in the dairy in the cheesy foods, milk-based soups, and other drinks that most people consume daily. But why go to all this trouble to take in milk? What good does it really do? The answer comes down to calcium. Currently, the National Institute of Health recommends that the average adult consume between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium daily. In this blog post, those of us at Bluegrass Dairy and Food take a closer look at why we need so much of the mineral and consider how it can help us build – or, more importantly, maintain – strong bones.
Most people know that calcium is a mineral found in milk – but few could explain what it actually does for the body. The answer? Quite a lot. Calcium is integral to building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, helps set the heart’s rhythm, aids in blood clotting, and facilitates nerve impulse transmissions. Interestingly, a whopping 99% of the body’s calcium resides in the bones, with the other 1% scattered across our tissues and in our blood. That calcium adds up; a full two pounds of an adult’s body weight can usually be attributed to calcium.
Calcium is clearly important to our bone and overall – but how exactly do we use it? Most of us tend to think of our bones as relatively static. They grow with us into adulthood, but then they stay fairly constant – right? Wrong. Bones exist in a state of constant flux. As living tissue, our bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt by bone cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts, respectively. Generally speaking, the rate of bone-building surpasses bone-destruction until we reach our 30s; then, we tend to see greater rates of bone destruction. This is a normal occurrence, but it can be problematic for those who don’t consume enough calcium for optimal bone maintenance or are genetically predisposed to have lower bone mass. In later years, this can lead to a condition called osteoporosis, or weakened bones.
According to an article published in the Harvard School of Public Health’s The Nutrition Source, people who want to stave off osteoporosis need to set the strongest possible foundations for bone health during their early years and limit their bone loss as adults. An important aspect of these preventative measures is getting enough calcium in the first place, so that the body doesn’t need to steal calcium from the bones to maintain itself. While calcium can be found in dark leafy greens and dried beans, dairy products have the highest concentration of readily-absorbable calcium. In short: drink your milk! Your bones will thank you for it.