If you’ve ditched cow’s milk you could be damaging your health.
That’s according to the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS), which has warned young people who cut out dairy produce face developing osteoporosis in later life.
A survey by the charity found four in 10 young adults have tried “fashionable diets” that often involve avoiding dairy, gluten, grain and sugar, while more than a fifth had severely restricted their intake of milk and cheese.
However, according to PA, the charity warned that restrictive diets among younger generations will lead to widespread health issues in later life, including osteoporosis which causes bones to become brittle and break.
Charity adviser Professor Susan Lanham-New told the Daily Telegraph: “By the time we get into our late twenties it is too late to reverse the damage caused by nutrient deficiencies.
“Without urgent action being taken to encourage young adults to incorporate all food groups into their diets[…]we are facing a future where broken bones will become the norm.
“Osteoporosis is a painful and debilitating condition and young adults have just one chance to build strong bones.”
Dairy foods are a source of calcium, an essential nutrient for the health and strength of bones.
It’s unclear why young people are cutting out dairy, but the NOS report suggests it could be linked to celebrity trends on social media sites like Instagram.
According to the BBC, nearly half of 16 to 24 year olds say they have an intolerance to cow’s milk and dairy products, yet only 24% had actually had their condition diagnosed by a doctor.
The NOS campaign to improve the nation’s bone health, A Message to My Younger Self, is being supported by nutrition expert and skincare guru Liz Earle.
She told PA: “When I was growing up, my meals weren’t photographed and shared on social media.
“The pressure young women are under to match what their idols on Instagram are eating is really high.”
A spokeswoman from the British Nutrition Foundation told the BBC: “While it’s not necessarily dangerous to cut out dairy from your diet it’s important to ensure you get enough calcium from other sources.
“Dairy tends to make the biggest contribution to our calcium intakes and so this needs to be replaced by other sources such as bread, cereal, canned fish, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables as well as choosing dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium.”
In a statement given to The Huffington Post UK, Dominika Piasecka, a spokesperson for The Vegan Society, raised concern that some media outlets are “exaggerating” the NOS findings, “making it sound like dairy is the only source of calcium and failing to note the alternative sources that can be easily obtained on a vegan diet, such as calcium-fortified plant milk and soya yoghurt, and calcium-set tofu”.
“Other sources include kale, pak choi, okra, spring greens, dried figs, chia seeds and almonds,” she added.
“Damage to the environment and animal welfare concerns are likely to lead people to make the decision to avoid dairy products. We encourage those curious about vegan diets to visit The Vegan Society’s website which has extensive information and research on all aspects of plant-based nutrition.
“Any diet, vegan or non-vegan, could be lacking in nutrients if they are not adequately planned. It is the position of the British Dietetics Association, the largest association of food and nutrition professionals in the UK, that ‘well-planned plant-based, vegan-friendly diets can be devised to support healthy living at every age and life-stage.’”