Dairy-Free Diets Could Harm Young People’s Bone Health


Nut milks like almond, cashew and coconut are all the rage, and many consumers have now substituted those in place of traditional dairy or cow’s milk. But young people could be putting their bone health at risk by cutting out or reducing dairy in their diets.

Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt are great sources of calcium, which is needed for strong bones. Reducing the dairy in one’s diet can be a healthy choice, but only if you continue to get calcium from other food sources like nuts, seeds and fish.

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A survey from the National Osteoporosis Society found that one-fifth of young adults have reduced or decided to go dairy-free through the influence of diet trends. None of these individuals did so under the advisement of a doctor. The survey of 2,000 adults, which included 239 people under the age of 25 and 339 people aged 25-35, found that most of them got dietary advice from bloggers and vloggers on the Internet who suggested or recommended diets that were too restrictive health-wise.

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“Diet in early adulthood is so important because by the time we get into our late 20s it is too late to reverse the damage caused by poor diet and nutrient deficiencies and the opportunity to build strong bones has passed,” said Professor Susan Lanham-New, head of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey and Clinical Advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society.

The importance of dairy-based diets is that they help children and young adults get the recommended amounts of calcium and Vitamin D that help with bone growth and tooth health. Dairy also contains nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels in adults.

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Lack of vitamin D, calcium and overall poor bone health can lead to osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes bones to become brittle and prone to fractures.

The National Institute of Health recommends that adolescents between the ages of 9 and 18 get 1,3000 milligrams of calcium each day. They should also get three daily servings of dairy.  Other sources of calcium can be obtained in one’s diet by eating broccoli, kale, tofu or fortified cereals.

“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,” said a spokeswoman from the British Nutrition Foundation. “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.”

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