New Zealand teenagers, particularly young women, could be risking their mental and physical health when they cut whole food groups such as red meat from their diet. The group is the target of the latest nutrition campaign from Beef + Lamb NZ Inc (B+LNZ).
Restrictive diets appear to be on the rise among the general population with ‘free from’ products gaining traction in the food supply, explains B+LNZ nutrition manager Emily Parks. She notes that individuals with allergies have an array of safe products to choose from while those without allergies can select gluten-free or dairy-free products at their leisure.
“Iodine deficiency was in the spotlight recently. Examples of parents swapping cow’s milk for coconut milk and iodised salt for non-iodised sea salt were used as case studies for the rise in the deficiency usually limited to developing countries.”
One population group known for restrictive diets are teenagers, especially adolescent girls. In New Zealand, they are the group most likely to limit red meat consumption. Parks says this is a concern as iron deficiency and anaemia are also most common among this group.
“Adolescent girls, already under an ever-present pressure to be thin, are becoming increasingly vulnerable in our current food environment which offers a plethora of alternatives to foods traditionally eaten.”
She points to a recent Finnish study which found vegan adolescents had lower intakes of saturated fat, cholesterol, niacin, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Among the small group of participants, three vegans suffered from borderline anaemia and all had lower levels of ferritin – an iron-storing blood protein – than non-vegans. However, both vegan and non-vegan adolescents had lower iodine concentrations than recommended.
“Regardless of foods or food groups being restricted, adolescents should be encouraged to replace restricted foods with nutritionally adequate alternatives,” argues Parks.
Lean red meat makes an important contribution to dietary iron and teenagers should be encouraged to eat moderate portions of red meat regularly, she advises.
This article appeared in Food NZ magazine (October/November 2016) and is reproduced here with permission.