What Australians are shopping for in 2016
More Australians are steering clear of artificial sweeteners, sugary foods and drinks, and fatty meats and dairy products in the supermarket.
One in six Australians is avoiding milk and dairy foods despite have no medical reason to do so, new research shows, alarming public health experts.
A new study involving almost 1200 Australian adults, by the CSIRO and the University of Adelaide, found most avoiders were influenced by celebrities, fad diets, friends and alternative health practitioners.
Regular cow’s milk now competes with goat’s, rice, coconut, soy, nut and oats milks on supermarket shelves. Photo: Scott Barbour
The study, published in this month’s Public Health Nutrition, also found three-quarters were eschewing dairy in an attempt to relieve symptoms such as bloating, stomach cramps and wind.
A smaller number said they simply didn’t like the taste or thought it would make them fat.
More women then men are avoiding milk and dairy foods that are rich in nutrients including calcium, iodine, and vitamins A, D and B12.
New research shows one in six adult Australians is avoiding milk and dairy foods. Photo: Louie Douvis
“The scale of people restricting their diet without a medical reason is very concerning in terms of the public health implications, especially for women,” said CSIRO’s Bella Yantcheva, a behavioural scientist on the research team.
“It means there is potential for nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, or the risk that an underlying health condition could be going untreated.”
Most people need at least two to three serves of dairy, such as cheese and yoghurt, each day, according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines. One cup, or 250ml, of fresh milk constitutes one serve.
Drinking milk reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Photo: Quentin Jones
While consuming dairy can cut the risk of osteoporosis, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes, shoppers are increasingly seeking plant-based alternatives such as rice, nut and oat milks.
Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, who helped develop the national guidelines, said those on dairy-free diets, such as vegans, needed to ensure they get the nutrients in milk from other foods.
“They’re fine for adults but rice, oat and almond milks are not adequate substitutes for young children who also need the protein and riboflavin and a few other nutrients in mammalian milk.”
She said myths, such as the belief that calcium in milk isn’t well absorbed by the body and that milk triggers mucus production, had contributed to the fall in consumption.
“Some think it’s not natural for humans to drink the milk of another mammal but for those who can happily tolerate lactose, milk is a perfectly OK food and no more unnatural than breeding cows and other animals and eating their flesh.”
She also said she was concerned people were self-diagnosing “symptoms” such as bloating as related to their diet, when there might not be a direct link.
“The exact food varies with whatever is trendy at the time and the ‘symptoms’ also vary – often vague such as ‘brain fog’, or feeling unhappy or tired.
“These may have nothing to do with diet and more to do with some other aspect of life such as lack of sleep, overwork or unhappiness in a work or personal relationship.”
The CSIRO and the University of Adelaide researchers also found about a third of the respondents avoiding dairy foods were also avoiding wheat-based foods.
They found about 10 times as many Australians than those diagnosed with coeliac disease were avoiding wheat-based foods.
“The numbers show that cutting out significant, basic food groups isn’t a fad but something far more serious,” said Ms Yantcheva.
“It’s not just about missing out on the food type being avoided and risking your health, but also possibly overconsuming other foods to compensate as well.”