Sunday 22 October 2017

Ill-advised diet trend of cutting dairy is 'worrying'

A glass of milk contains the same calcium as 10 servings of baked beans (Stock picture)
A glass of milk contains the same calcium as 10 servings of baked beans (Stock picture)

Orla Walsh

The newest diet trend for under-25s of 'clean eating' is worrying. A healthy interpretation of 'clean eating' is reducing processed foods in your every day diet while focusing more on a variety of whole foods.

This does not mean cutting out certain foods or food groups from your diet. However, the survey from the Osteoporosis Society showed that one in five young people didn't follow this concept and had cut out or significantly reduced dairy. This leaves a gaping nutritional hole in their diet.

Dairy is most famous for keeping our bones healthy. This is because it provides protein, calcium and phosphorus which are necessary ingredients for bone health. Removing dairy from your diet while under 25 can have life-long consequences as it's a crucial time for bone growth and development. Although about 90pc of the skeleton is formed by the age of 18, our bones continue to thicken until we are about 30. We should be investing in our bone health when we are young.

After the age of 30, our bones act like our savings account. The more deposits we make when we are young, the more withdrawals we can count on later in life. Osteoporosis, or reduced bone strength, is often viewed as a disease of old age. However, it's now recognised as a disease that can stem from poor bone health growing up that manifests itself in older age.

Osteoporosis can sometimes be referred to as a 'silent disease' because bone loss occurs gradually and without symptoms for many years. When you do discover you have osteoporosis, it may be as a result of a significant break that may occur when you least expect it. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will experience a broken bone due to their osteoporosis. What may surprise people is fractures, particularly hip fractures, can lead to death. For example, the overall mortality is reported to be about 20pc in the first 12 months after hip fracture.

In the long term, cutting out dairy, without any medical reason to do so, may put a huge cost on a person's health. The financial burden placed on the Government in years to come is also worth considering.

One in three older people fall every year and two out of three people will fall again within six months. Hip fractures are one of the most serious injuries caused as a result of a fall. The average length of time spent in hospital is about 18 days. The inpatient cost of treating a hip fracture is €12,600.

The human body easily absorbs calcium from dairy foods. That is why dietitians encourage people to consume it.

Although people will argue that calcium is found in other foods, such as peas, beans and green vegetables, you need to look at it practically. A glass of milk contains the same calcium as 10 servings of baked beans. To eat your recommended intake of calcium from broccoli would need to munch down on over 60 spears of it.

If these young girls are exchanging dairy for rich sources of calcium such as oily fish and tofu, then we need not worry. But are they?

Orla Walsh is a nutrition expert

Irish Independent

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