The dairy industry may be central to Ireland’s image abroad but the vast majority of our older people do not consume enough of its produce, a new study suggests.
Over 96 per cent of over-60s are not consuming the Department of Health’s recommended guideline of three or more servings a day, according to the research.
That means just 3.5 per cent of those studied were getting their three-a-day of milk, cheese and other dairy products.
The study, which was part-funded by the dairy industry, also found consuming dairy, especially yoghurt, makes a significant contribution to vitamin B and vitamin D levels in older adults.
Those that consumed the most dairy had significantly better blood levels of specific vitamins, including B12, B2, B6 and folate.
On average, men and women had a little over one portion of dairy per day with men consuming less than women.
Those who consumed the most dairy, including cheese, also had the lowest body-mass index, an indicator of body weight, the survey of 4,300 adults found.
Both men and women consumed more cheese than milk and continued to do so even as they aged. The authors suggest that because cheese is consumed consistently across genders and age, it could be a possible vehicle for food fortification with micronutrients such as vitamin B and vitamin D.
“The data suggests that older adults appear to be missing out on a relatively healthy and easily available source of vitamins and micronutrients,” said lead author Dr Eamon Laird, research fellow at the centre of medical gerontology at Trinity College Dublin.
The study, the largest nutritional survey of older adults, was led by Trinity researchers working with scientists from the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, Coleraine, and the Mercers Institute for Successful Ageing at St James’s Hospital, Dublin.
A spokeswoman for Trinity said the National Dairy Council contributed €50,000 to the cost of the research, with the Government and the Northern Ireland administration providing €2.5 million.