A new study has found that one in six Australian adults – mostly women – are choosing to avoid milk and dairy foods, and are doing so without medical diagnosis.
A study by CSIRO and the University of Adelaide has revealed many Australians are avoiding milk and dairy foods and, as a result, many women are not getting their recommended daily serves of dairy.
The survey, which randomly selected 1184 individuals from the Australian electoral roll, found the decision to avoid some or all dairy foods was influenced by a range of sources from outside medical practice such as the internet, media and friends.
Bella Yantcheva, behavioural scientist on the research team, says that the scale of people restricting their diet without a medical reason is "very concerning in terms of the public health implications, especially for women".
"It means there is potential for nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, or the risk that an underlying health condition could be going untreated," she says.
Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella says dairy foods are important for everyone, but especially for women due to the calcium content.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 2.5 daily serves of dairy or dairy alternatives to help women achieve their required calcium levels, in particular to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, says Sandra.
Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of the rapid decline in levels of the hormone oestrogen during menopause. When oestrogen levels fall, bones lose calcium and other minerals much faster.
"If women are choosing not to consume dairy, they need to make sure that their calcium needs are being met by ensuring their dairy substitutes are calcium fortified, or by including other rich sources of calcium such as canned sardines and salmon (which include bones)," says Sandra. "Yoghurt, with live cultures, and fermented dairy products are a particularly healthy food choice for women, and is often well tolerated when other dairy foods are not; I would encourage women to include yoghurt regularly in their diet."
Read more about calcium and how to meet your daily requirements.