The study commissioned by FrieslandCampina (Hong Kong) Ltd and conducted by the Hong Kong Baptist University Centre for the Advancement of Social Sciences Research was in conjunction with "World Milk Day” on June 1, on which the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) promotes the goodness of milk.
A total of 429 respondents between the ages of 21 and 70 were surveyed to study the diet and exercise habits of their children, themselves and elders at home, including their daily dietary and dairy intake, exercise habits and number of hours they used electronic devices for leisure.
The Department of Health recommends that children and teenagers aged two to 17 should have two servings of milk and alternatives daily, while adults and elderly should have one to two servings of milk daily.
Among elderly respondents, 77.2% expressed their preference for milk and 50.2% of them agreed that they needed to increase their milk intake. Nonetheless, based on the survey, 85.6% of elderly respondents drank less than six cups of milk per week, below the department’s recommendation.
The survey also revealed that picky eating was a cause of concern across respondents of different age groups, with 46% of parent respondents believing their children were picky eaters and more than one-third of them (36.5%) admitting that they themselves were picky eaters.
The survey also found that misconceptions about milk are common across all respondents. Among them, 59% thought that milk is unsuitable for people who were lactose intolerant.
Among those who believed they do not need to increase their milk intake, 57.9% of the elderly respondents believed nutrient from milk is replaceable by other foods, and 32.1% of parent respondents believed milk can cause fat.
Furthermore, 32.5% of parent respondents thought that milk is for the supplement of calcium only, and 19% of them believed milk is only suitable for children and the elderly.
Samson Chim, chief dietitian of VNS Nutrition and Health Centre, expressed concern saying, "In the food pyramid, milk is placed as a separate food category to emphasise their [sic] irreplaceable importance. Many nutrients contained in milk, including proteins, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A, etc., cannot be produced inside the human body, must be ingested from food, and are very important for cell growth, muscle development, vision, and healthy bones and teeth at all stages of life."
The results also revealed respondents' other misconceptions about lactose intolerance.
"Very few toddlers and children (0.5%-3.5%) in Asian countries are allergic to milk,” said Chim.
He added that the common reason for discomfort in drinking milk is lactose intolerance, of which the possibility is increased when one stops taking milk for a long time.
He said those with lactose intolerance can try to start taking one-third of a cup of milk and gradually increase the portion, or add milk into a cooking recipe in order to allow the body to slowly adapt to it.
Exercise also important
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pointed out that overweight and obese children are more likely to stay obese into adulthood and to develop non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, at a younger age.
According to the Centre for Health Protection, as of the school year 2016/17, overall overweight and obesity detection rate of primary school students of Hong Kong accounted for 17.6%.
While the WHO recommends children and adolescents aged five to 17 do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, the survey indicated that the children’s amount of exercise was 65.2% lower than recommended.
The WHO also recommends adults aged 18 to 64 do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity. The results indicated that parent respondents did 65 minutes of exercise per week on average — 56.7% lower than recommended.
As the decision-makers at home, it was recommended that parents should revise their own dietary habits, and set a good example to their children by taking one serving of milk per day. The same applies for balancing time spent on electronic devices and exercise.