4 million Aussies self-diagnosing food allergies, study reveals
Research conducted by YouGov has revealed that almost a quarter of Australians report self-diagnosing a food intolerance (22%) and more than a third of people who identify as having an intolerance have never consulted a healthcare professional to diagnose or manage their symptoms (35%). The research demonstrated that, of the most common intolerances and allergies (such as gluten intolerance and nut and dairy allergies), lactose intolerance is the most likely to be self-diagnosed, with one in 10 Australians admitting they are unsure of the difference between lactose intolerance and dairy allergy (32%).
Of those who report having lactose intolerance, almost half say they removed dairy entirely from their diet as one of the first steps to relieve symptoms (43%).
Gut health specialist and dietitian Nicole Dynan warns against dietary self-diagnosis and the subsequent elimination of important food groups, as this can raise the risk of negative physical and mental health implications.
“Dairy contains crucial nutrients like calcium and vitamins that can be more difficult to obtain in other food groups and, without them, people run the risk of developing health problems in the long run. It’s important to make sure that you keep up a well-balanced diet that works for you to get all the nutrients your body needs,” said Dynan.
Research also reveals that many people who identify as having lactose intolerance are not aware of the options available to them, with 26% reporting not knowing that lactose-free dairy cheese and yoghurt exist and one in five replacing cow’s milk with plant-based alternatives.
Davina Chan, Senior Brand Manager for Australian lactose-free dairy brand Liddells, said everyone who can enjoy dairy should have the option to do so. “It saddens us to hear that so many miss out on dairy, simply because they are unaware of all the options they have. Whether it’s to obtain the many nutrients found in dairy or to enjoy its great taste, people should have the choice to eat and drink dairy if they want to without the discomfort they may feel from regular dairy,” said Chan.
Research suggests that Australians still want to consume dairy, with 35% of respondents reporting they feel frustrated that they cannot eat and drink dairy food they enjoy.
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