India has world’s worst rate of osteoporosis


By Russell Eaton
Author of The Milk Imperative

An extensive study published in Jan. 2006 revealed that Indians are increasingly being afflicted with osteoporosis. This study, conducted by the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, shows that an estimated 61 million Indians suffer from osteoporosis.

Commenting on the study, the director-general of the World Health Organization (Gro Harlem Brundtland) said that osteoporosis will see a manifold increase in the developing world.

In India both genders are affected by osteoporosis, as shown by another study by the Britannia New Zealand Foods and the Arthritis Foundation of India. This has revealed that in cities like Kolkata and Chennai, 45 per cent of men have brittle bones!

The World Health organization reveals that one out of three adult females in India suffers from osteoporosis, making India one of the worst affected countries in the world. The Arthritis Foundation of India says there has been an estimated 200 per cent jump in cases across Asia in 10 years.

Why is osteoporosis increasing at such an alarming rate in India? The answer unfortunately is simple: a dramatic increase in milk consumption in India in recent years has gone hand-in-hand with a dramatic rise in osteoporosis. In 2002, some 18,000 million liters of milk where produced by Operation Flood’s cooperative unions each day. As a result, milk consumption in India has risen from a low of 107 grams per day in 1970 to over 220 grams per day in 2002 – people in all parts of India are now able to buy and consume dairy milk without scarcity of supply. Since 2002, the increase in milk production and consumption in India has risen enormously, growing at a rate of over 4% per year according to FAO. This makes India the fastest growth market in the world in milk production and consumption.

Further proof of the link between milk consumption in India and osteoporosis comes from an alarming study conducted by TS Syamala and M Sivakami. The report, published by the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bangalore in Jan. 07, shows that Indian women are now attaining menopause at an early age of 30. Premature menopause puts women at higher risk of being affected with osteoporosis, heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension and breast cancer.

According to the Study, early menopause results in decreased oestrogen levels and this in turn promotes an increased incidence of osteoporosis. The report, which was presented in the Indian Parliament, said that in India 3.1 per cent of women are already in menopause by the age of 30-34, and which rises to eight per cent for the age bracket of 35-39 with the incidence of menopause being quite rapid after the age of 40-41. The study goes on to say that ‘nutrition and premature menopause are strongly interlinked’.

In the book The Milk Imperative the link between dairy milk consumption and premature menopause is examined, together with the supporting evidence. The sequence of events goes something like this: milk consumption ► harmful calcification ► premature menopause ► lack of oestrogen ► onset of osteoporosis.

An increase in calcium utilization is associated with the earliest physical signs of puberty. We conclude that longitudinal data demonstrates a change in bone mineral metabolism during early puberty associated with maturation of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and physical changes of breast development. These changes lead to increases in multiple aspects of calcium metabolism during early puberty.(Stevan A, et al, Calcium Absorption, Bone Mass Accumulation, and Kinetics Increase during Early Pubertal Development in Girls, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 85, No. 5 1805-1809).

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