Trinity’s Centre for Medical Gerontology have released the largest study to date on diets in older adults. The study involved 4,300 people aged over 60 from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) and found that 96% of this group are consuming less than the Department of Health (DoH) recommended allowances of three or more dairy servings per day. Only 3.5% were consuming this recommended amount.
Dairy provide integral nutrients for our body including Calcium, Vitamin C and D, and proteins, which even one glass of milk can provide our recommended intake of these nutrients across age groups. However the study found that on average men and women had a little over one portion of dairy per day with men consuming fewer total dairy portions than women. Both genders consume more chess than milk regardless of age, and thus the study advocated that cheese should be marketed as a “ possible vehicle for food fortification of micronutrients such as B-vitamins and vitamin D.”
Finally the study demonstrates that dairy and specifically yoghurt provides “a significant contribution” in this age group to their vitamin B and D levels, and the 4% consuming the recommended dairy allowance or above had “significantly better blood levels of specific vitamins including B12, B2, B6 and folate.” Furthermore Professor Anne Molloy in the Department of Clinical Medicine, Trinity and senior investigator of the study said “Milk, yogurt and cheese are natural sources of micronutrients and protein, which are needed to maintain healthy bone and muscle throughout life. The Department of Health’s guidelines recommend three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day. We are concerned that this study shows that older Irish people are foregoing an opportunity to boost their intake of specific nutrients including B-vitamins, which can play an important role in healthy ageing.”
The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers from the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at Ulster University, Coleraine and the Mercers Institute for successful ageing St James’s Hospital Dublin, co-investigators of the TUDA ageing cohort. This was funded by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), Cross-Border Research and Development Programme, and the National Dairy Council, Ireland.
Lead author of the study and Research Fellow at the Centre for Medical Gerontology at Trinity, Dr Eamon Laird said: “We found it significant that intakes of dairy rich foods were generally inadequate, and particularly so in men. Increased intakes of dairy foods were linked with better micronutrient status and those with the highest intakes of dairy (including milk, yogurt and cheese) had the lowest, (within the normal range), of BMI, a proxy for body fatness. The data suggests that older adults appear to be missing out on a relatively healthy and easily available source of vitamins and micro-nutrients.”
These results suggest a strong link between the need for dairy and strong nutrient intake. However under-consumption in this group could be linked to those trying to avoid other health complications entailed with dairy (such as cholesterol levels) or dietary changes (such as more health-conscious diets or a rise in veganism.) Furthermore these statistics could further support groups lobbying against the unsustainability of Ireland’s agricultural industry; according to Bord Bia In 2015, total Irish milk output was estimated at 6,982 million litres and according to the 2016 consensus over 12% of the population is 60 or over.
Ireland’s is over producing dairy but providing poor education or monitoring on health.