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The Bone-Eaters

by Joel Carbonnel(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 76 - May 2002

The skeleton has an important influence on posture and shape in its role as supporter of the human frame. If, for some reason, bones lose their normal rigidity, the human scaffold can no longer properly support the body and this can have dire consequences on its health and appearance. This is exactly what happens in a condition called osteoporosis, also known as widow's stoop.

Loss of height, poor posture, bowed appearance, curvature of the spine, susceptibility to fractures, especially of the wrists, hips and vertebrae, slow healing of such fractures, severe backaches – all these symptoms can be caused by osteoporosis. If the problem was just one of spoiling our looks, that wouldn't be too bad. But, as we have seen before, a loss of beauty usually corresponds with a loss of function. When bones become so brittle that a mere sneeze may fracture a rib, something has to be seriously wrong. Osteoporosis is a very serious disease that can be fatal. It causes more deaths – indirectly, from fractured hips – than cancer of the uterus, cervix and breast combined![1]

Osteoporosis relates to the loss of bone mass, mainly calcium. It is therefore commonly assumed that eating loads of calcium-rich foods is the logical thing to do in order to check this bone erosion. As milk is the best-known calcium-rich food, this assumption has been a godsend to our modern cowboys who have turned their bovine slaves into sick and monstrous milk machines. "Not so long ago, it took four months for a dairy cow to produce her own weight in milk.

Now, some dairy cows produce their own weight in milk in three weeks," says John Robbins.[2] No wonder then that there is surplus milk left over which the dairy lobby is keen to sell. Unfortunately, the milky way is not the right approach to prevent osteoporosis. You can gulp down gallons of milk until the cows come home but it won't make your bones any stronger. Worse, it might even have the opposite effect.

Many studies have shown that the highest rates of osteoporosis are found in countries where people have very high calcium intakes, whilst countries with low calcium intakes have, in general, low rates of osteoporosis. Apart from rare cases where the diet is grossly deficient in calcium, there is no clear correlation between calcium intake and bone density. The solution is not to become 'calcivorous' but to ensure that the calcium you ingest is efficiently absorbed and the calcium in your bones stays there. This has to do with the concept of negative or positive calcium balance.

The body not only absorbs calcium from food but it also excretes calcium via the urinary system. If more calcium is absorbed through digestion than is excreted in the urine, then you are in a condition of positive calcium balance and all is well. But if more calcium is excreted than is absorbed, you will be in a condition of negative calcium balance. To be in a state of negative calcium balance over a long period leads to osteoporosis. Now, a proper concentration of calcium in the blood is needed for a number of metabolic processes such as nerve function, muscle contraction, blood clotting and buffering of the acid/alkali balance of the blood. Owing to the importance of calcium for healthy physiological mechanisms, its level in the blood must be kept within fairly tight limits. The organism cannot tolerate a condition of negative calcium balance, as that would compromise its homeostasis. If the blood is lacking in calcium, the body has to find another source from somewhere else in the system. And there is no better place than its own skeleton, a great storehouse of calcium. As a result, when it is in a state of negative calcium balance, the body robs its bones to save its skin.

But don't blame it because it steals from your bones to 'pay' its blood; blame the lack of health education which leads us to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle.

Diets high in protein, salt, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol and soft drinks; smoking, aluminium-containing antacids, drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics and steroids: all these can contribute to a loss of calcium via the urinary system. The main culprit is an over-consumption of protein, especially from animal sources. An excess of protein tends to acidify the blood, as it leaves an acid ash once it has been metabolized. To buffer this acid residue, the body must raid its skeleton for calcium. Milk and cheese have not only a high concentration of cholesterol but also a high protein content. Let's make no bones about it: to drink the recommended five glasses of milk a day to obtain 1,500 mg of calcium is like – excuse my French – (calcium) in the wind! Scientifically, it is called protein induced hypercalciuria – this time excuse my Latin – or, in other words, a loss of calcium via the urinary system caused by eating too much protein. Clearly, the milkshake is a mistake, as is excess meat, fish, cheese and eggs.

In rich countries, people suffer a lot more from surfeit than deficiency. It has been estimated that the average American woman consumes more than 100 grams of protein per day, which is more than twice the level of the already high Recommended Daily Allowance. An intake of 75 grams of protein per day is enough to compromise your calcium balance. Studies have shown that 30 grams of protein daily are sufficient, providing they are derived from raw, unprocessed foods, and this amount can be secured from a daily serving of three or four ounces of nuts. Plant foods can perfectly well supply our bodies with essential nutrients, whether it is protein, calcium or whatever else it needs. For example, half a cup of humble sesame seeds contains 870mg of calcium, six times the amount of an equal quantity of whole milk.

If you want to maintain or restore your skeletal health, don't pickle your body in an excess of acid-forming food.


1. John Studd, Consultant Gynaecologist, Kings College and Dulwich Hospitals, Vice-Chairman of the National Osteoporosis Society.
2. Robbins John. The Food Revolution. Conari Press. Berkeley, California. 2001.


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About Joel Carbonnel

Joel Carbonnel is unique in combining the disciplines of the Alexander Technique (STAT), the Mezieres Methode (AME), Morphopsychology (SFM), and Natural Hygiene (ISI). From this synthesis he has developed Orthomorphics which is centered around the close relationship of Use, Form and Function. He practises in London and Haywards Heath, and can be contacted on Tel: 020-8747 8583;

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