Food and Behaviour Research

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Detecting iodine deficiency risks from dietary transitions using shopping data

Mansilla R, Long G, Welham S, Harvey J, Lukinova E, Nica-Avram G, Smith G, Salt D, Smith A, Goulding J. (2024) Sci Rep 14(1): 1017. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-50180-7. 

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Abstract:

Plant-based product replacements are gaining popularity. However, the long-term health implications remain poorly understood, and available methods, though accurate, are expensive and burdensome, impeding the study of sufficiently large cohorts.

To identify dietary transitions over time, we examine anonymised loyalty-card shopping records from Co-op Food, UK. We focus on 10,626 frequent customers who directly replaced milk with alternative milk. We then use product nutritional information to estimate weekly nutrient intake before and after the transition.

83% who converted to alternative milk saw a fall in iodine (44%), calcium (30%) and vitamin B12 (39%) consumption, with 57% reducing iodine purchase by more than 50%.  The decline is even higher for those switching dairy and meat products.

Our findings suggest that dietary transitions - such as replacing milk with alternative milk - could lead to nutritional deficiencies, notably iodine, which, if not addressed, may represent a significant public health concern, particularly in countries which do not mandate salt iodisation.

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