Dairy-free diet putting people at risk

1 June 2016

 One in 6 people are risking their health by choosing to avoid milk and dairy foods, warn CSIRO scientists.

 They say it’s part of a growing trend that has seen people bypassing their doctors and self-medicating.

 And they say it’s particularly concerning for women who are more prone to both food avoidance behaviour and osteoporosis.

 The study of almost 1200 Australian adults reveals the vast majority of those choosing not to eat dairy products are doing so to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms such as cramps, bloating or wind.

 Far fewer participants cited taste preferences or weight management as reasons for eliminating dairy from their diet.

 Alternative medicine practitioners who were proponents of elimination or “detox” diets were often behind people’s decision to avoid some or all dairy foods, the researchers found.

 Lead researcher Bella Yantcheva says the study has important implications.

 “The scale of people restricting their diet without a medical reason is very concerning in terms of the public health implications, especially for women,” says Ms Yantcheva, a behavioural scientist.

“It means there is potential for nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, or the risk that an underlying health condition could be going untreated,” she says.

 These results follow similar findings on wheat avoidance, which showed around10 times as many Australians than diagnosed with coeliac disease are avoiding wheat-based foods.

 The latest study reveals that even more people are avoiding dairy products and, in fact, that around one third of those who avoid dairy are also avoiding wheat-based foods.

 “The numbers show that cutting out significant, basic food groups isn’t a fad but something far more serious,” says Ms Yantcheva.