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Back to Symposium 2012

The Alkaline Diet and the China Study: what does science tell us about the impact of dairy on bone health?

Tanis Fenton Tanis Fenton, PhD, RD

University of Calgary

Many web pages and numerous books for laypersons criticize dairy products for contributing to the diseases of modern civilization. Many of these claim that dairy foods are “acid” producing and play a role in the development of osteoporosis. Some cite as evidence the fact that people in Asian countries—who are usually not high-consumers of dairy products—do not develop this disease. These claims are based on the acid-ash hypothesis and are not supported by scientific evidence. Milk and dairy products do not produce acid when metabolized nor do they cause metabolic acidosis. Moreover, systemic pH is not influenced by diet.

Observations of lower osteoporosis in countries where dairy product consumption is low do not hold when urban environments are compared. The differences in fracture rates in Asian rural locations are likely due to the bone anabolic effects of physical labour. Milk and other dairy products continue to be beneficial to health, providing dietary protein, calcium, and other nutrients.

Epidemiologist and Registered Dietitian, Tanis Fenton reviewed some of the arguments found in these publications, along with the scientific evidence that disproves them.

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