Thursday, 02 June 2016 01:21

Warning – Dairy avoidance a risk to health, especially for women: CSIRO, Adelaide Uni

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Warning – Dairy avoidance a risk to health, especially for women: CSIRO, Adelaide Uni Image courtesy of khumthong, freedigitalphotos.net/images

If you are avoiding milk and dairy foods in your diet without a medical diagnosis advising you to steer away from them, you might want to think again, if a study by the CSIRO and the University of Adelaide is anything to go by.

The study has found for the first time that one in six adult Australians are choosing to avoid milk and dairy foods — the majority without a medical diagnosis — which the CSIRO and the University of Adelaide say leads to public health concerns, particularly for women.

It seems the study found that the vast majority of avoiders  74%  are making this choice to relieve adverse gastrointestinal symptoms such as cramps, bloating or wind.

Far fewer participants, however, cited not liking the taste, or because they thought it’s fattening, for not including dairy in their diets.

{loaposition peter}The CSIRO’s Bella Yantcheva, behavioural scientist on the research team, warns that people who restrict their diet without a medical reason run the risk of potential nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, or underlying health conditions going untreated.

“The scale of people restricting their diet without a medical reason is very concerning in terms of the public health implications, especially for women.”

The study also revealed that the decision to avoid some or all dairy foods is influenced by a range of sources from outside medical practice such as the internet, media, friends or alternative practitioners – and that more women are avoiding milk and dairy foods than men.

These study results follow the CSIRO and Adelaide University team’s similar findings on wheat avoidance, which showed around 10 times as many Australians than diagnosed with coeliac disease are avoiding wheat-based foods.

But the study on dairy consumption reveals that even more people are avoiding dairy products and, in fact, that around one third of the respondents avoiding dairy are also avoiding wheat-based foods.

“The numbers show that cutting out significant, basic food groups isn’t a fad but something far more serious,” Yantcheva says, pointing out that, according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, both dairy and grain-based foods are important for a balanced diet.

In fact, Yantcheva says they contribute significantly to the intake of fibre, protein and a wide range of essential vitamins and nutrients, on top of calcium in dairy’s case.

“It’s not just about missing out on the food type being avoided and risking your health, but also possibly overconsuming other foods to compensate as well,” Yantcheva cautions.

And, as Yantcheva points out, citing the Australian Dietary Guidelines, milk, cheese and yoghurt have various health benefits and are a good source of many nutrients, including calcium, protein, iodine, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.

According to the guidelines, both dairy and grain-based foods are important for a balanced diet.

And, if you want to follow a balanced diet, and continue to eat dairy foods, the Australian Dietary Guidelines for women aged 19-50 years recommend  serves of dairy or dairy alternatives per day, increasing to four serves per day after the age of 50.

For men between 19 and 70 years, the guidelines recommend they should consume 2½ serves a day, and increase to 3½t after the age of 70.

And, a serve of dairy is equal to 250mls of milk, two slices or 40g of cheese, or a 200g tub of yoghurt.

The CSIRO/Adelaide University paper is published in this month's issue of Public Health Nutrition.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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