RFF#77 – While the WHO recommends 400-500 mg of Calcium per day, Health Canada and the FDA recommend 1000mg

The more I learn about nutrition, the more and more confused I get when it comes to the recommended daily nutrient intake levels. The fact of the matter is, no one really knows exactly how much calcium,  sodium, or iron we actually need on a daily basis. Part of this is due to the fact that we’re all different and the amount of Calcium that I need could be very different from the amount of Calcium that YOU need. Not to mention, the amount of Calcium that I require today may be different from the amount that I will need tomorrow. A large part of this is due to the fact that, beyond obvious factors like age and gender, there are many variables that can influence one’s calcium needs…

  • Consumption of foods/nutrients that aid Calcium absorption, such as Vitamin D…with that in mind, another factor influencing absorption is…
  • Exposure to sunlight. As you know, Vitamin D is produced when sunlight is absorbed through your skin, hence if you spend more time in the sun, you’ll probably absorb more Calcium.
  • Consumption of foods/nutrients that inhibit Calcium absorption. This includes chocolate, sugar, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine, giving you yet another reason to avoid these tempting, yet potentially harmful foods.
  • Genes! By now, it’s pretty obvious that genes affect everything. We’ve already discussed that Vitamin D aids Calcium absorption. However, even with adequate Vitamin D, your calcium absorption is dependent on which version of the vitamin D receptor gene you’ve inherited.

All things considered, you can imagine how hard it is to set Calcium recommendations for the entire population. In many ways,  it’s an impossible task, any recommendation will only be an estimated average that may or may not be ideally suited to you.

For me, the large difference between the WHO’s recommendation (400-500mg) and the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendation (1000mg [for adults]) is reassuring. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of dairy products. Though I don’t necessarily advocate for veganism, I definitely think that there are some serious issues with consuming large amounts of milk (largely due to the hormone content). So if you’re like me, you can now rest assured that according to the WHO, approximately a cup and a half of milk (which contains around 500 mg of Calcium) could be enough to prevent you from developing osteoporosis.

I learned about this fact from:

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/en/gsfao_osteo.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15883634

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/world-s-most-cited-nutritionist-debunks-dieting-myths-1.1657609

RFF#26 – There’s no such thing as “hormone free milk”

For starters, all cow’s milk naturally contains estrogen (and other hormones), so semantically speaking hormone free milk doesn’t exist. The “hormone free milk” label you commonly see on dairy products is usually referring to rBST a synthetic hormone administered to stimulate milk production. However, the reality is, rBST is banned in Canada, so in actuality all Canadian milk could potentially say “rBST free milk”.

But the story doesn’t end there. Even though the estrogen in milk is naturally occurring, its presence is worrisome because the amount of estrogen in modern milk is much higher than in previous generations. This is because traditional herding societies use tactics to minimize the amount of estrogen in their milk—namely, they refrain from milking cows during the late stages of their pregnancy, when they produce 33 times more estrogen—meanwhile presently in North America, most cows are milked 300 days a year. As a result, they’re being milked throughout the cow’s pregnancy, leading to potentially higher estrogen levels. This is concerning because it may be a factor contributing to the rise of estrogen related cancers, including breast, uterine, endometrial and testicular cancer.

I learned about this fact from: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/12.07/11-dairy.html