Trendy dairy alternatives such as soya and almond milk may be putting people’s health at risk, researchers say.
Consumption of milk-alternative drinks is soaring as part of a ‘clean-eating’ fad.
But scientists at the University of Surrey warn that these products do not contain nearly enough iodine – a crucial mineral.
Dairy milk is the main source of iodine in our diet, providing 40 per cent of the average daily intake, so switching to plant-based alternatives may impact health.
An estimated 70 per cent of teenage girls in Britain are iodine-deficient, and doctors are also concerned that pregnant women are not consuming enough of it. In the first British study of its kind, researchers examined the iodine content of 47 milk alternatives including soya, almond, coconut, oat, rice, hazelnut and hemp.
The products on average contained 2 per cent of the iodine found in cows’ milk, the British Journal of Nutrition reports.
Iodine is required to make thyroid hormones, which help keep cells and the metabolic rate healthy. It is especially important for the brain development of babies, particularly while they are in the womb.
Professor Margaret Rayman, an expert in nutritional medicine at the University of Surrey, said: ‘Many people are unaware of the need for this vital dietary mineral and it is important that people who consume milk-alternative drinks realise that they will not be replacing the iodine from cows’ milk which is the main UK source of iodine.
‘This is particularly important for pregnant women.’ Dietitian Dr Sarah Bath, lecturer in public health nutrition at Surrey, added: ‘If avoiding milk and dairy products, consumers need to ensure that they have iodine from other dietary sources, where possible.’
Of the drinks tested 14 were soya, 11 almond, six coconut, six oat, five rice, three hazelnut and two hemp. They were each compared to semi-skimmed milk.
‘Clean’ diets that often focus on avoiding processed foods and eating raw produce have combined with a supermarket price war to wipe £240?million off the value of milk sales over the past two years.
Earlier this year the National Osteoporosis Society warned of the clean-eating fad after finding that more than a fifth of young adults had severely cut their milk intake.