Don’t cry over spilled milk

I’ve come across some research this past week about calcium and its relationship with our bone health.

Apparently, I was not wrong to assert that “we all know how important it is to drink our milk to allow for strong bones,” but I was dead wrong to assume we all know what we are talking about.

I came across a video on Facebook this week:

At first, I couldn’t believe it myself. Since I was in elementary school, I can remember my doctors, teachers, family and the television telling me how important milk was for the calcium in it.

But drinking cow’s milk is not essential to human bone health.

Okay, I will give you a second to let that sink in.

Now, I didn’t just take the word of the Vox video. I don’t believe everything I see on the internet. I looked up scientific studies to either support or deny the claim in bold. The most recent study I found was from last year, and it concluded that there is no correlation between the consumption of milk and the risk of bone fracture. (You can read it in full here.)

This isn’t to say milk doesn’t contribute to health in any way at all. Claims that milk is detrimental to bone health are unfounded. There are benefits.

“…it is a good source of high biological value proteins with polyvalent roles in immune function, as well as nutrient transport and absorption and important vitamins and essential minerals.” -Paula C. Pereira

But it isn’t as important as the government and big dairy has made it out to be. So, if you aren’t a fan of milk, it’s alright. There are better ways to get your calcium and other ways to get the same benefits from other foods.



Applying social construct theory: Race in the News

This week, we talked about social constructs and why they matter. Just yesterday, a story was published about the social construct of race – so we get to apply some of our learning.

Students in the medical field are taught to “embrace racial stereotypes,” linking races to specific diagnoses. For example, sickle cell anemia is thought of as a black disease.

Medical doctors are trained as just that. Most don’t have a background in sociology or anthropology.



“Right now, students are learning an inaccurate and unscientific definition of race…It’s simply not true that human beings are naturally divided into genetically distinct races,” – Dorothy Roberts, sociology professor and co-author on recent race research.

This is the root of significant issues in modern medicine. Race-based medicine is widely accepted. It is very much the norm.

The article goes on to talk about “White Coats for Black Lives,” which came from the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a group where medical students fight for education about racial justice.

This is a great start to changing medical attitudes toward race. But I think this is also a great opportunity for sociologists and anthropologists to create a bridge with the world of medicine, to infuse medical learning with more holistic human understanding.

Pushing for more racial justice education is great, but if we can bridge this gap in ideology and change the roots of inaccurate belief – that would be real change.

This isn’t to say ethnicity doesn’t play any part in health. It is more likely for African-Americans to have sickle-cell anemia. But it also occurs abundantly in populations of India, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Saudi Arabia.

However, understanding that it isn’t a “black disease” is important. Some could say they understand that, but the term “black disease” is just a harmless colloquialism.

To that, I say, language is not harmless. It shapes our social understanding and attitudes.

“It’s not that race is irrelevant to health, but it’s not relevant to health because of innate differences,” Roberts said. “It’s relevant because racism affects people’s health.” (from

Throwing around terms like “black disease” and “white disease” is not only another form of institutional segregation, but it is also harmful to giving unbiased diagnoses.

This is especially disconcerting considering misdiagnosis is said to happen to every American at least once in their lifetime and is the top cause of malpractice suits.

There aren’t many in the medical community who understand social constructionism, especially as it applies to race. It’s time to restructure “modern medicine,” which to me seems a bit archaic in its racial ideology (among other things).

Let’s move forward to create, instead of a machine, a human mechanism truly worthy of modern living.


Metastasizing numbers in the modern world

Most people describe cancer as a modern disease. This isn’t entirely true. While cases of cancer are certainly more common now than ever, cancer has existed since humans have.

Bioarchaeologists haven’t discovered too much physical evidence of cancer, but this is because the technology hasn’t been around long enough. Paleopathology, or the study of disease in ancient human remains, has made bounds since the development of medical technologies like multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) and x-rays. These along with a standardized technique for visual analysis will help scientists make discoveries about cancer from already known remains.


Even with the major changes in technology, there haven’t been too many discovered cases to date. It’s between 200-300 cases. This is where the argument for cancer as a man-made disease comes in.

Some scientists argue that cancer is a modern disease because of several factors, including but not limited to:

  1. the low number of ancient finds
  2. the Industrial Revolution
  3. the obesity epidemic
  4. tobacco use
  5. increased exposure to carcinogens

These factors have one thing in common – civilization. However, what they fail to consider is the expanded lifespan of the modern individual compared with an ancient human and the advancement of medical diagnoses.

cancer mummy

The Siberian Ukok princess died from cancer about 2,500 years ago.

In ancient times, many people went through life without being diagnosed or treated, and they didn’t live long enough for it to have such intense effects. After all, cancer is more likely to develop the older you get. Another flaw with that argument is ancient people were exposed to plenty of carcinogens.

Some radical views suggest cancer is entirely man-made, asserting “there is nothing in the natural world that can cause cancer.” Obviously, this is simply scientifically false. You can be born with cancer. The sun causes cancer, genetics cause cancer and so do chemicals.

You might be thinking, chemicals you say? Aren’t those man-made? Some are, but 99% of the chemicals that get into our systems are naturally occurring.

Understanding this and studying how cancer evolved is essential to modern America. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, the most common forms being breast and lung cancer. One death out of every four is due to this disease. By looking at its evolution, we can try to understand genetically what makes those genes expressed. Studying cancer from this perspective can help develop new treatments, creating a better future.

Medicine and treatments aren’t the only part of surviving cancer. It’s also about the patient’s mental state. Many cancer victims blame themselves. They wonder what they did to deserve it. I hope this information can put that critical voice to rest.

Further Reading:

Read about the Ptolemaic period Egyptian mummy with prostate cancer.

Check out this slideshow of cancer in an Egyptian skeleton.

More about the evolution of cancer.


I feel like a hero – and you are my heroin

That’s right. The heroin epidemic is so out of control in the US, The Cincinnati Enquirer has their own Terry DeMio to report on all things heroin-related.

In more than half of the states, heroin use is on a steep incline.

From 2000 to 2014, there has been a 138.8 percent increase in drug overdoses. 61% of overdoses in 2014 were opioid/heroin-related. Prescribed medications such as fentanyl are becoming more prevalent, and that drug is 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Perhaps most alarming is the numbers in New Jersey, which has been coined Herointown by a group of journalists in the area. This project includes a page dedicated to every person who died from heroin in the state since 2004 and includes more than 5000 people’s names, ages, hometowns and years of death.

And that is only the deceased victims in a single state. Think of how many people are living with this addiction right now.

Besides the visible symptoms like shortness of breath, dry mouth, small pupils, sudden changes in behavior, disorientation and droopy appearance, heroin causes lasting bone damage.

  1. Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is correlated with drug abuse involving a needle. This is a bone infection that travels through the blood stream. Because it is most likely to affect the spine in adults, it can cause lifelong disability. If caught soon enough – which is unlikely to be the case if you are a drug abuser – the infected bone can be removed through surgery.

2. Osteoporosis

Opiate abuse has been linked to osteopenia, which means a decrease in bone density. Eventually, this can take a turn for the worst, becoming osteoporosis. This can cause the bones to become so brittle, a simple fall can cause them to fracture.

3. Arthritis

Because addicts usually also suffer from malnutrition, their joints usually weaken. The nutritional deficiencies negatively affect the body’s ability to repair itself, causing osteoarthritis.

4. Poor Posture

Opiate users are known to have poor posture. The weakening of the muscles that support the spine can increase pain and the risk of injury just from doing everyday activities.

5. Partial Paralysis

The atrophied muscles and bone diseases associated with heroin use can lead to paralysis of the affected areas.

If all of these horrible things – and loads more, by the way – are possible, why are the numbers increasing so dramatically?

Simple economics. The US has seen a decrease in cocaine and Oxycontin use. These drugs have become more expensive and harder to get. More people are turning to heroin, the cheaper drug that can be purchased for only $9 a dose.

However, it isn’t only the poor picking this poison. Remember Cory Monteith from Glee? He died about three years ago from a heroin overdose, horrifying fans across the world. He just didn’t seem like the type.

The truth is, “the type” is everyone. Drugs don’t discriminate. For the wealthy, it is easier to stay on the drugs without being noticed. This is because the malnutrition associated with heroin addicts isn’t from the drug itself. It is from the lifestyle that goes with it, and a poor addict will choose drugs over food.

What can you do about this problem now?

As fellow blogger Patricia Byrne writes: “Stop the silence.”

When you notice symptoms, start the conversation. Don’t let the people around you suffer just because it might be embarrassing or a hard thing to confront.

Saving lives begins with you.

Further Reading:

Learn about who is using heroin in this USNews article.


You might want to stand up for this…

We briefly talked about sedentism in yesterday’s discussion about the Paleo diet. It’s important to understand how detrimental this lifestyle of inactivity really is to our health. It is correlated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

It has even affected the evolution of the human skeleton.

If you compared your bones with your ancestors’ and even a chimpanzee’s bones, you would notice a stark difference in the density of the bones. Our skeletons have become lighter and contain less spongy bone, which results in a higher risk of osteoporosis, a bone disease that makes your bones brittle and fragile, which ultimately leads to fractured bones.

If we think about the history of the modern human lifestyle, the changes in our bones are entwined with the effects of improvements in agricultural technology. Our hunting-and-gathering ancestors were extremely active when procuring suitable nutrition, and they were always looking for food. About 12,000 years ago, they made the switch to farming, which led to a surplus of food, which led to what elitists would call “civilized society.” This meant people could sit down a lot longer, and it’s only gotten worse since then.

The average American can spend up to 22 hours sitting or being inactive per day. This means we aren’t putting enough stress on our bones for them to grow stronger.

Bioarchaeological evidence shows the Neolithic Revolution brought with it a decline in oral health, a decrease in skull size and increases in both nutritional deficiencies and infectious diseases.


We’ve all seen the ‘Got Milk?’ ads, so we all know how important it is to drink our milk to allow for strong bones.(updated 5/11/16)

So why aren’t we also emphasizing providing our bones with necessary activity as well?