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Dairy Is Part of a Sustainable Diet

03 July 2015

UK - The consumption of dairy products in the UK has seen a decline in whole milk and a rise in low fat milk products and a gradual rise in cheese consumption.

According to Professor Ian Givens from the University of Reading, milk is an important source of essential minerals and has more calcium and phosphorous than meat and cereals.

Speaking at the Dairy UK seminar - How Good? How Green Does Dairy Deliver? - in London, Prof Givens said that milk and dairy products are a good source of the minerals needed for bone growth but he raised concerns that among young girls particularly between the ages of 11 and 18 and even ages four to 10 years old there is a trend for them to turn away from milk consumption.

He said the difference in consumption of milk and dairy products between young girls and young males was concerning and could be partly attributable to an increase in childhood rickets, as dairy products are also a source of vitamin D.

“If you want an amount of phosphorous and calcium in the diet, you can provide it through milk with less energy intake than other foods,” Prof Givens said.

Prof Givens said that the deficiency in the diet of calcium and phosphorous among young girls could also be storing up problems for them in later life and could lead to osteoporotitic fractures.

He added that other recent studies had also shown that there are concerns about the lack of iodine in the diets of pregnant women and women of child bearing age because of the lack of milk and dairy products in the diet.

“As milk consumption increases so the iodine status increases,” he said.

“Milk is still the biggest source of iodine.”

Another concern raised by people turning away from milk consumption was that it was generally replace with consumption of soft sugar-rich drinks and studies had shown that this change in diet had led to an increase in adipose fat and fat around the liver and was contributory to the onset of type 2 diabetes.

A study conducted by Reading University has shown that there is a lower risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease with the consumption of milk and dairy products.

This is largely because when milk is take out of the diet it is largely substituted by soft drinks, chips and fried potatoes. A high dairy diet is also associated with a diet that includes more fruit and vegetables than a non-dairy diet.

As far as the cost of a high dairy diet is concerned in relation to the price paid compared to the nutrients obtained and the cost to the environment, a dairy diet has a lower cost in providing essential vitamin B12, iodine, calcium, protein and energy than non-dairy diets.

He concluded that dairy has high nutrient density and high consumption is not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

He said that there are worrying problems emerging mostly related to reduced consumption, especially in young females and changing this should be a priority.

Initial results from UK diet modelling suggest high dairy diets are associated with ‘healthier’ diets and the financial and environmental cost of providing nutrients by a high dairy diet are not higher than by a low dairy diet.

“Milk and dairy products can be part of a nutritionally adequate, financial and environmentally sustainable diet,” he said.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock

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