Every woman with a head on her shoulders knows about the importance of calcium for strong bones to prevent osteoporosis, a serious disease affecting older women. I myself have been a long time consumer of low-fat dairy products for this very reason (plus I love cottage cheese with almost anything). But now we have an added reason to wolf down the calcium.
New research has shown that women with higher intakes of calcium appear to have a lower risk of cancer overall, and both men and women with high calcium intakes have lower risks of colorectal cancer and other cancers of the GI system (this is from the February 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine).
The Institute of Medicine currently recommends 1,200 milligrams of calcium for adults age 50 and older, and the 2005 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend 3 cups per day of low-fat or fat-free dairy products. In the study, the decrease in risk for women was with intake of up to 1,300 mgs per day, after which no further risk reduction was observed. In both men and women, dairy food and calcium intakes were inversely associated with cancers of the GI and one-fifth of men who consumed the most calcium through food and supplements (about 1,530 mg per day) had a 16 percent lower risk of these types of cancer than the one-fifth who consumed the least (526 mg per day). For women, those in the top one-fifth of calcium consumption (1,881 mg per day) had a 23 percent lower risk than those in the bottom one-fifth (494 mg per day) with a most pronounced decrease for colorectal cancer. So what is it about dairy that is so protective against cancer?
Dairy is relatively high in anti-carcinogenic nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and conjugated linoleic acid. Calcium has been shown to reduce abnormal growth and induce normal turnover among cells in the GI tract and breast and it binds to bile and fatty acids, which may reduce damage to the mucous membrane in the large intestine. So the bottom line is: even if you’re dieting, be sure to include that lowfat dairy to protect yourself against disease!