An excerpt from the book The McDougall Report: Lifesaving Facts Your Doctor Never Told You by Dr. John McDougall

Trillium Health Products, 1992 - soft cover

Front cover (photo)

Back cover (photo)

from pages 32 - 38


    The dairy industry has convinced people they need to drink milk or take pills to get the necessary calcium.
    · Calcium is a mineral found in the ground (like other minerals, such as iron, magnesium, iodine and potassium). Plants absorb minerals in watery solutions through their roots and incorporate them in their plant parts—roots, sterns, leaves and flowers. Cows, horses, people, and other animals (except carnivores) get their calcium by eating plants.
    · Calcium is abundant in plants. Plants contain sufficient calcium to grow enormous, thick skeletons for horses, elephants, hippos and giraffes. Therefore, plants certainly must provide enough calcium to grow our comparatively small bones.
    · Scientists have studied various populations around the world and found that they all grow normal adult-size skeletons on a wide variety of meal plans with widely different levels of calcium in their diets. You may have observed people in many parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, who consume no milk products after they wean from mother's breast, yet grow bony skeletons of normal size and strength.
    · Scientists have looked for cases of calcium deficiency around the world and have come up empty-handed. A consistent conclusion from the scientific literature has been: calcium deficiency of dietary origin is essentially unknown in humans. In other words, all natural diets contain an amount of calcium above the threshold of need for growing children and for adults.
    Calcium is only one component of bone tissue. Several other minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and other substances come together to form the complex skeletal system. In addition to providing support for the body, the bones also serve to store minerals and are the center for the production of blood cells. The skeletal system is a dynamically functioning organ—not a collection of cement-like support beams.
    · The amount of calcium absorbed from the intestine is determined in part by the body's needs, but mostly is regulated by the activity of the intestinal lining. When we eat large amounts of calcium, most of this mineral is blocked from absorption—only a small percentage is absorbed. By this means, our intestine protects us from much of our dietary foolishness, such as taking in handfuls of calcium pills and gallons of milk. Otherwise, if all that calcium entered our bodies, the kidneys, muscles and many other tissues would become calcified—illness and possibly death would follow shortly.
    · When the diet contains lesser amounts of calcium, the intestinal cells efficiently remove the calcium from our foods and a large percentage of the calcium is absorbed into the body, meeting our needs. Even diets as simple as rice and vegetables contain sufficient amounts of calcium to meet the needs of millions of Chinese and Japanese—without a drop of cow's milk or a single calcium pill.
    · There are other components of the diet that either enhance or inhibit absorption of calcium. For example, there have been studies showing that the fiber, phytates and oxylates found in plant foods will decrease the absorption of calcium from foods. However, this issue has little practical implication, since the effects are never enough to jeopardize the intestines' capacity to obtain all the calcium needed for growth and maintenance of the teeth and bones. Scientific study and the testimony of healthy lives of billions of people following diets consisting mostly of plants proves this issue is only of theoretical interest (and sometimes is used only as a means to frighten vegetarians). One of the reasons mineral deficiency does not develop is because vegetables are loaded with minerals.
    · Estimates of calcium needs based on scientific study (study that has been shrouded by personal and financial interests) vary from 150 mg to 1500 mg per day. The reason for this apparent confusion is because the amount of calcium in the diet really has little to do with how much calcium actually remains in the body. Another nutrient-protein-has much more influence on bone health.
    · You cannot force the growth of stronger bones by dumping more calcium into the gut. The gut is not a passive sieve, and there is no reason to believe that calcium, once in the blood, is necessarily sent to build stronger bones.
    · Calcium balance is largely determined by excess protein in the diet. Excess protein, especially animal protein, changes kidney physiology and causes the loss of calcium into the urine. This loss is made up from the body's calcium store—the bones.
    · It is estimated that from 1 to 4 percent of the adult skeleton is lost per year on the high animal protein American diet.
    · Eventually 50 to 75 percent of the skeleton can be lost, and then the bones break with the slightest provocation. This condition is known as osteoporosis.
    · Osteoporosis is rare in China, Japan and most African countries where the diet is low in meat and dairy products.
    · In contrast, in wealthy countries like America where more animal protein is consumed, the bones are washed out into the toilet.
    · The only way to stop bone loss and actually reverse it is to correct the cause—switch to a diet low in animal protein. Exercise also helps rebuild lost bone.
    · Hormone replacement therapy (estrogen) slows bone loss, but the price is great. (See page 111ff.)

Study: Calcium Supplementation of No Value

     The January 1989 issues of the British Medical Journal carried a two part article in their regular Review section, entitled, "Calcium supplementation of the diet not justified by present evidence" (298:137 & 205, 1989). If you want to understand how so many health professionals arrived at the commonly held, but incorrect conclusion that we must supplement our diet with calcium (or dairy products) for good health, then you should read these classic articles. Some important quotes and points of interest are worth repeating:
     · "In 1986, about $166 million was spent in the United States on calcium supplements, and the cost could rise to $1.7 billion."
     · "The flaws in interpreting early calcium balance studies were appreciated as long ago as 1962, when the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization committee stated that high intakes of calcium were unnecessary and suggested a 'practical allowance' of 400 to 500 mg daily. Many countries, including Britain, follow the recommendations of the committee, whereas other countries follow those of the United States."
    · "No prospective studies of calcium deprivation in children have been reported, and studies of the effects of calcium supplementation are equivocal. Calcium supplements given to children with low calcium diets generally have no effect on speed of growth."
     · "If calcium intake were important, we would expect population studies to show differences in bone mass between populations with different intakes of calcium, and studies in the United States, Denmark, Central America, and Switzerland show that this is not so."
    · The most quoted work to support the notion that higher calcium intakes decrease chance of bone fractures—a study of two communities in Yugoslavia—did not take into account physical activity and calorie intake. This study actually fails to show benefits of larger intakes of calcium in the diet. Other studies suggesting benefits of more calcium in the diet also fail to take into consideration physical activity and energy intake, and are too short in term to allow the body to adjust to new levels of calcium in the diet.
    · ". . .'apparent calcium requirement' for normal subjects in some investigations was less than 300 mg daily."
    · Concerning the idea that eating calcium will restore calcium to bones, "the logic is similar to that which might lead doctors to give ground up brains for dementia."
    · "Yet there is no convincing evidence that the rate of bone loss in the elderly varies with dietary intake of calcium, whereas it is modified with exercise. In addition, there is no evidence for a relation between dietary calcium and the incidence of osteoporosis fractures. Indeed, hip fractures are less common in populations with low dietary intakes of calcium....Worldwide there is a direct relation between calcium intake and frequency of hip fractures." (Hegsted D., Journal of Nutrition 116:2316, 1986).
    · "Dietary calcium deficiency is rare in man. Hence arguments about recommended daily allowances are misleading and largely irrelevant for public health."
     · "Nevertheless, the argument that, with some exceptions, calcium supplements do little harm and may do some good serves neither the public nor the scientific community when the relative risks and benefits remain undetermined."
    · If all this is true, then you may ask, why do we hear so much contrary information from the dairy industry, manufacturers of Tums, other supplement producing companies, and their often well-paid representative doctors, scientists, and dieticians?

Study: Low-Protein, High-Calcium Milk

    "Over the years, doubts have arisen concerning the use of milk as a calcium source in the prevention of osteoporosis, particularly because of the potential offsetting effects of protein and phosphorous. Thus, a new milk product with a higher calcium content and lower contents of protein and phosphorous, and energy was developed:" begins an article by E. van Beresteijn in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (52:142, 1990). The protein in milk causes the kidneys to excrete calcium in the urine at such high rates that intestinal absorption cannot keep up. High phosphorous in milk causes an increase in the activity of the parathyroid gland which causes bone to break down and calcium to be excreted via the kidneys. The end result of both changes can be osteoporosis (as well as kidney stones).
    Sixty subjects from the Netherlands Institute of Dairy Research consumed either high calcium-low protein (HCa-LPr) milk or regular milk for three weeks and then changed over to the other product. Calcium excretion in the urine was, as expected, lower when subjects were on the HCa-LPr milk.
    A recent article suggests the bone loss resulting in osteoporosis in women should be attributed to excess loss of calcium from the body rather than to inadequate calcium intake (Nordin B., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 45:1295, 1987). Animal protein is the primary culprit in causing the loss of calcium from the body. A study paid for by the National Dairy Council showed skim milk added to the diet of postmenopausal women had an adverse effect on calcium balance, causing the women to lose more calcium in their urine than they absorbed in their intestines—even though they were consuming more than 1500 mg of calcium a day (Reeker R., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 41:254, 1985). Because of this, HCa-LPr milk may be a marketable new product for the dairy industry. However, the data presented in this article shows that the subjects on this "improved" milk still excrete large amounts of calcium into the urine—the improvement is probably inadequate to preserve bone. Don't overlook the facts: this new product still has all the other drawbacks of regular milk, including: high allergenicity, excess fat and indigestible lactose, as well as iron, vitamin C and fiber deficiencies.


    Cholesterol is found only in animal products, and as an efficient animal we make all the cholesterol we'll ever need. Cholesterol is not a nutrient.
    · Cholesterol is a waxy substance found only in animals and their byproducts.
    · The cholesterol contents of various muscles is similar. For example, beef contains 85 mg, chicken (skinned, white meat) contains 85 mg, and fish contains 50 to 115 mg of cholesterol in every 3.5-ounce portion.
    · When people switch from red meat to chicken and fish, their blood cholesterol remains virtually the same and their health shows little or no improvement (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 52:825, 1990).
    · No cholesterol is found in any plant.
    · Approximately 40 percent of cholesterol consumed is absorbed through the bowel wall into the bloodstream.
    · Cholesterol is difficult for the body to destroy.
    · Excess is excreted, to some extent, through the liver into the bowel for elimination with the stool.
    · Humans have a limited capacity to excrete cholesterol through their liver. Primarily carnivorous animals, like dogs and cats, have an almost unlimited capacity to excrete cholesterol—feeding them pure egg yokes will not damage their arteries.
    · Cholesterol absorbed in excess of the body's capacity to excrete it will accumulate and be stored in various tissues, like the skin, muscle, tendons, fat, and artery walls.
    · Cholesterol acts like an irritating foreign body when it is deposited under the walls of the arteries—almost like a sliver of wood stuck under the skin. The result is a sore known as an atherosclerotic plaque.
    · Animal fats (saturated) tend to raise blood cholesterol. Vegetable fats (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) tend to lower blood cholesterol.
    · Ninety percent of gallstones are made of cholesterol.
    · Low blood cholesterol in people who eat a rich diet is associated with higher rates of cancer, accidental death, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, and lung disease. These findings have no relation to a healthy diet and low blood cholesterol. Instead they are explained by alcoholism, smoking, differences in metabolism of the rich diet, and pre-existing cancer (Lancet 340:317, 1992; Journal of the American Medical Association 263:2083, 1990).

Study: Cholesterol and Mortality

    "Cholesterol and mortality—30 years of follow-up from the Framingham Study" (Journal of the American Medical Association 257:2176, 1987).
    Cholesterol levels were measured in 1,959 men and 2,415 women between the ages of 31 and 65 years from 1951 to 1955. Doctors then watched these subjects for the next thirty years—observing the course of their health. With each 10 mg/dl rise in cholesterol level, death from all causes was found to increase by 5 percent, and deaths from heart disease increased by 9 percent. According to the authors, "under the age of 50 years, these data suggest that having a low cholesterol level improves longevity. After age 50 years, the association of mortality with cholesterol levels is confounded by people whose cholesterol levels are falling—perhaps due to disease predisposing to death."
     Comment: This long-running study of a population of people living in Framingham, Massachusetts, confirms the benefits of having a low cholesterol level. You would think that everyone would be convinced and all efforts would be directed to lowering cholesterol levels rather than studying the problem over and over again.
    However, controversy continues and will increase over the next few years, as the public awareness of this health issue increases, in part because of the negative financial impact on the industries that sell cholesterol for profit—the beef, pork, chicken, fish, dairy, egg, restaurant and processed food industries. Also, our natural tendency is to resist change—giving up all those rich foods is an overwhelming challenge for many people. People who would rather risk premature death than learn to like vegetables embrace information that supports rich dietary habits and belittles the importance of "warning signs" such as elevated cholesterol levels.