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Don’t downsize dairy – you may be risking your health

There is some uncertainty about what is the recommended daily intake of dairy foods, but it appears that many Australians, including children, aren’t getting enough.

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Only just over 20 per cent of the population may be consuming enough milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives each day.

Australians may be putting their health at risk as consumption of dairy products, while growing, is still failing to reach recommended levels, according to studies of dietary intake.

CSIRO research shows children are not consuming as much dairy as they should, while adults at the mature end of the age spectrum are also often failing to reach minimum levels suggested by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Meeting dairy nutritional levels has become more challenging and complicated since an overhaul of Australia’s dietary guidelines last year. The NHMC adjusted its dairy servings advice according to age and gender, updating previous broader recommendations released in 2003.

“We used to say everyone needs three serves of dairy a day, but with the new guidelines it is not that simple.”

Amber Beaumont, dietitian

“There is some uncertainty around what constitutes a serve but also how much people need each day, particularly with the new dietary guidelines and recommendations increasing for some of the age groups,” says Amber Beaumont, a Dairy Australia accredited practising dietitian. “We used to say everyone needs three serves of dairy a day, but with the new guidelines it is not that simple.”

The latest recommendations advise 1.5 serves per day for toddlers aged one to two years, with suggested intake rising to 3.5 serves for those aged 12 to 18. Advice differs slightly between boys and girls in the 4 to 8 and 9 to 11 age groups.

Another big change came in the older age brackets, with four serves a day recommended for women aged more than 50, compared to two previously, while men in the 70-plus bracket are advised to have 3.5 serves.

The changes follow a review of nutrient reference values, which raised calcium requirements. As a result, the dairy servings were increased for children and adolescents, who need the nutrient for bone growth, and for older age groups at risk of osteoporosis.

The guidelines also say the evidence base has strengthened for “the association between the consumption of milk and decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers”.

New science supports the view that milk, cheese and yoghurt can help protect against high blood pressure, stroke and the risk of developing Type II diabetes, in addition to providing benefits such as bone health and maintaining muscle mass, Dairy Australia says.

Calcium is probably the best-known nutrient in dairy, but the food group also provides vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, carbohydrate and protein.

Getting the dairy message across, though, is proving difficult.

The CSIRO research found that that two out of three children between nine and 16 years old were not meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines for dairy, while 95 per cent of 14 to 16-year-old females were not consuming the recommended amount.

Inadequate intakes may make children vulnerable to broken bones and a range of other health concerns, Dairy Australia warns.

CSIRO research group leader Dr Malcolm Riley says the results are “startling” and highlight the need for greater education and awareness. Dairy requirements tend to be overshadowed by other food-group needs, such as often-heard calls for increased consumption of fruit and vegetables.

“There is a lot of time spent promoting fruit and vegetables because we know they are in need of increase, but it appears dairy foods are in the same category, but they haven’t got the same attention.”

Dr Malcolm Riley, CSIRO researcher

“There is a lot of time spent promoting fruit and vegetables because we know they are in need of increase, but it appears dairy foods are in the same category, but they haven’t got the same attention,” Dr Riley says.

A study by Professor Leonie Segal and James Doidge from the University of South Australia’s Sansom Institute of Health Research found only just over 20 per cent of the population may be consuming enough milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives each day. Almost no women over the age of 50 and no men over the age of 70 met the new guidelines, according to the research published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health last year.

August 28th, 2014
Topic: DAIRY MILK, FITNESS HEALTH Tags: , , , ,

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