Why do people avoid dairy?
There are many reasons people avoid dairy. Vegans and some vegetarians will avoid dairy products as they do not eat animal products, other people believe that dairy is fattening and is often one of the first food groups to be excluded on a weight loss diet. Other people may suffer from lactose intolerance and will often avoid dairy products altogether in order to find relief from symptoms.
Aside from those who choose to avoid animal products there is little reason to exclude dairy from the diet completely. There is no evidence to support that dairy products contribute to weight gain when included in a well balanced diet, furthermore the Australian Heart Foundation recently updated its recommendations on dairy to include full fat dairy products, with new evidence showing that full fat varieties’ do not pose an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Even people suffering from lactose intolerance should be able to include natural yoghurts and cheese, or even small amounts of milk and milk products in their diet without causing ill effects.
A recent study by the CSIRO has found that 1 in 6 adult Australian’s are choosing to avoid dairy products, with the majority of these people doing so without any formal medical diagnosis. One of the concerns surrounding the avoidance of diary from their diet is the risk it imposes regarding the development of osteoporosis and that, in many cases, the avoidance is unnecessary.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become susceptible to breaks and fractures due to low bone density. Often even just a slight knock will be enough to cause a break in someone with Osteoporosis. People who suffer from breaks due to Osteoporosis often suffer from chronic pain, disability and premature death. Over 1 million Australians suffer from Osteoporosis and this figure is set to rise as our population ages.
We spend our child and adolescent years building up bone density through the consumption of calcium in our diets and vitamin D from sun exposure. Bone density begins to diminish from the age of 35 but if we have built up adequate stores of calcium it takes longer for bone loss to cause any ill effects. Osteoporosis occurs when there is a loss of minerals, such as calcium, and the body is unable to replace the minerals as quickly as they are lost. If the body does not get enough calcium from the diet it will respond by taking calcium from the bones, thus weakening them.
Everyone is at risk of developing osteoporosis however women are at an increased risk due to oestrogen loss after menopause. While Osteoporosis occurs later in life, low bone density (Osteopenia) can occur much earlier without detection.
Other lifestyle factors that contribute to an increased risk include low levels of physical activity, smoking and excessive alcohol intake. It is important for older adults to engage in weight bearing exercise to maintain bone and muscle strength to reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Bone loss as a result of smoking can be reversed at the cessation of smoking and with adequate intake of calcium.
Dairy is a key player in the prevention of Osteoporosis as it is the most convenient source of calcium available. While it is true that we can obtain calcium from non dairy sources, it would take five cups of cooked broccoli to obtain the same amount of calcium you would get from a 250ml glass of milk. Dairy products are also a good source of other bone building nutrients such as protein and other important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamins A, B12 and riboflavin.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends 3 serves of dairy in order to achieve your daily intake of calcium. 3 Serves of dairy includes a 250ml glass of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt and 40g (2 credit card sized slices) of cheese.
So grab that latte or have that milkshake and know that you are doing your bones a favour!
Written by Katherine Ramsden, Nutritionist
Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programs, private dietetic consultations, children’s nutrition & dietetics, school nutrition and Corporate Wellness programs. If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.