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New Study on Dairy and Nutrient Intakes: What’s Really Going On?

dairy nutrition

Does dairy really provide better nutrition than non-dairy sources of calcium?

A new study came out recently, funded by the National Dairy Council and administered by the Dairy Research Institute, concluded that replacing a serving of dairy with a serving of non-dairy calcium sources causes a drop in nutrients.

Wait a second. A study funded by who?

The thing about studies is that you can interperet data in lots of different ways, and when you see something funded by an advocacy group, you have to question whether they were biased in that interpretation. I’m not saying that all studies that advocacy groups fund are a problem, just that you should take them with a grain of salt. Or quinoa. ANYWAY. The Vegan R.D., Ginny Messina, turned this study on its head, and her interpretation of the data is very interesting:

Here are some other things that happened when dairy products were replaced with nondairy foods. The amount of saturated fat and sodium both dropped. And the amounts of vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium all increased. The study didn’t analyze vitamin C, vitamin K, iron or fiber, none of which are found in dairy products and all of which would be provided by the nondairy composite.

So we can flip this around and look at the effects of replacing plant sources of calcium with dairy foods: Doing so causes a drop in fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and in the minerals potassium, magnesium and iron. Vitamins C and K, and potassium and magnesium are all important for bone health, by the way.

Of course, who’s to say you can trust a vegan advocate like me or Ginny any more than the National Dairy Council, right? The Harvard School for Public Health looked at dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium, though, and they concluded the same thing:

While calcium and dairy can lower the risk of osteoporosis and colon cancer, high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.

Plus, dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones. [emphasis mine]

You may not be ready to cut out dairy products, but even just cutting back on dairy consumption can help with bone and heart health. Try replacing a serving a day or even just a few servings a week with non-dairy sources of calcium, like dark leafy greens. Your body will thank you!

Image Credit: Dairy Nutrition photo via Shutterstock

3 comments
  1. Melissa Cadle

    Thanks for this! I have a B.A. in psychology and about 3 semesters of graduate classes under my belt so I learned a long time ago to look at who is funding the study that you get your information from… we need to keep educating people to do the same!

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