Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Chairman of Nutrition Harvard University

For years, women have been admonished to drink milk and eat yogurt so that they will have enough calcium to keep their bones strong. Calcium supplements have become big business, and foods like orange juice have been fortified with calcium.

How good is the science supporting all this calcium to fight bone loss? We talk with a medical writer and a top nutrition scientist about a different dietary approach to osteoporosis prevention.

Guests for This Show:

Michael Castleman is a medical journalist and author of more than a dozen books. His latest, co-authored with Amy Joy Lanou, PhD, is Building Bone Vitality: A Revolutionary Diet Plan to Prevent Bone Loss and Reverse Osteoporosis.

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, is Chairman of the Department of Nutrition and Frederick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard University’s School of Public Health. The photo is of Dr. Willett.

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Air Date:September 4, 2010

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  1. SNH

    Dr. Nelson..thanks for your informative post. You sound like a doc we’d all like to have!

  2. Lisa Nelson MD

    As a primary care MD, I am very grateful for your accessible presentations of evidence that support lifestyle change over pharmaceuticals (when appropriate, which is most of the time). I frequently send patients to your website and newspaper column.
    Reading through the comments on osteoporosis, I can’t help noting the frequent anxiety over “bone loss” in patients who are having a hard time giving up their calcium. I thought it might be helpful to remind people that bone loss is not itself a disease, but rather a normal consequence of aging. What matters is the quality of the bone that remains, and as of yet we do not know how to directly measure this.
    Bone density tests, and the drugs devised to maintain bone density, were a well meaning attempt by the medical industry to fight fractures in the elderly, which are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. However fighting normal bone aging is not the goal. I would like to reassure listeners that preserving their agility (stretching and yoga are 2 good approaches), getting regular aerobic and weight bearing exercise and eating a healthy plant based diet are the best ways to preserve all around health.
    Perhaps it is time to leave bone density tests in the pile of questionable studies, along with PSA and screening mammograms in women under the age of 50.
    Lisa Nelson MD

  3. Connie

    What a POWERFUL show today! This information needs to get out more. I can’t believe there isn’t more being done to correct one of the biggest medical falsehoods are our time.
    Even growing up (80-90s), my parents NEVER made me drink my milk, or take calcium supplements like some kids I knew. They did make me take Shaklee multi-vitamin supplements every day just in case I wasn’t getting all I needed, but they lived by “Eat whole foods, and get outside to run, climb, and play!” It’s really common sense — green leafy veggies, fruits, etc are the key to health, once again!! You can’t get around a good diet by taking pills! When will American’s learn!?
    I’ll add only that, if another show about this is aired again, it needs to *equally* highlight the importance of weight bearing exercises for bone health. I think only the Dr. from Harvard mentioned this, but it needs shouted from the rooftops just as loudly as the diet changes. Remember, it’s DIET & EXERCISE… but not just walking; one needs to be working the bones, as well!
    Kudos to you for standing up and doing such a gusty show!

  4. KJS

    Though you should consult your personal healthcare provider, my doctor has instructed me to take 5,000 units per day and that there should be no toxicity issues or side effects. Vitamin D is available in 2,000 unit capsules in my pharmacy so I would think that a dose between 2,000 and 5,000 IU would be generally safe.

  5. MLB

    Dr. Willett did not answer the question about how much Vitamin D is too much? We see it added to milk, to multivitamins, and other supplements, not to mention what occurs naturally in food. At what point does it become toxic, and what are the effects?

  6. Paul43

    Read this book called by some people as the greatest book ever written so far on nutrition— you will no longer drink the poison called milk and you will learn just how much Protein a person actually needs.
    Not what the billionaire MILK & MEAT INDUSTRIES con us into believing.
    The — CHINA STUDY by Colin Campbell

  7. PAM

    I loved the information in this interview. Is it possible to get a transcript of the interview for informational purposes?
    Thanks, Pam

  8. CS

    This was a very good show and I think we have learned new things about improving osteoporosis today. I plan to get Dr. Castleman’s book. I might have been doing the wrong supplementation for quite a while.

  9. Marianne H.

    I may have contributed to the wisdom on this episode because I am a participant in the HARVARD NURSES HEALTH STUDY. I am also elderly, petite, and white. All features of someone prone to osteoporosis. However, my bone density studies indicate only osteopenia (thin bone) and I am really considering the wisdom of taking Reclast. My diet is high in fruits and vegetables, and my exercise program is pretty good so I am probably on the right track without it.

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