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Dairy-free diets putting young girls at greater risk of brittle bones

Wednesday 17th January 2018
Teenage girls who are needlessly cutting dairy out of their diets are putting themselves at increased risk of brittle bones, new research shows. Image: baibaz via iStock
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There is a chance that radiographers may be finding themselves in increasing demand, as a growing number of young women are cutting out dairy from their diets, putting themselves at risk of developing weaker bones that are more susceptible to fractures and breaks.

Data from the UK's Food Standards Agency shows that just five per cent of the country's population is lactose intolerant, yet as many as one in five teenage girls are taking steps to significantly reduce their dairy consumption, falsely believing that it is bad for them.

This is the finding of recent research published in the UK Nutrition Journal, which shows that one in six 13 to 19-year-olds have given up dairy altogether and are not replacing it in their diets with anything else, meaning they are putting themselves at risk of growth issues, as well as brittle bone conditions such as osteoporosis.

Almost one-fifth (19 per cent) of teenage girls are even claiming that they are intolerant to cows' milk so that they can stop consuming dairy, which suggests that attitudes to this food group need to change.

Sophie Medlin, a lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at King's College London, explained: "Many teenage girls are completely unaware the majority of calcium needed for good bone health is stored in the body during your early years and your opportunity for strengthening bones ends after the age of 30.

"Iodine is also critical for a functioning metabolism and proper growth and development -  cows' milk is one of the richest sources of both in the UK diet."

If attitudes towards dairy don't change, a whole generation of girls is essentially putting themselves at risk of brittle bones, meaning fractures and breaks will be more likely, creating more demand for radiographers.

However, they currently have a key role to play in educating the population about the importance of dairy consumption for bone health or, if lactose intolerance is an issue, of getting the nutritional benefits provided by dairy from a substitute.

Written by Megan Smith

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