Because dairy products provide shortfall nutrients (eg, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D) and other important nutrients, this study hypothesized that it would be difficult for Americans to meet nutritional requirements for these nutrients in the absence of dairy product consumption or when recommended nondairy calcium sources are consumed.
To test this hypothesis, MyPyramid dietary pattern modeling exercises and an analyses of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006 were conducted in those aged at least 2 years (n = 16 822). Impact of adding or removing 1 serving of dairy, removing all dairy, and replacing dairy with nondairy calcium sources was evaluated. Dietary pattern modeling indicated that at least 3 servings of dairy foods are needed to help individuals meet recommendations for nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, and 4 servings may be needed to help some groups meet potassium recommendations. A calcium-equivalent serving of dairy requires 1.1 servings of fortified soy beverage, 0.6 serving of fortified orange juice, 1.2 servings of bony fish, or 2.2 servings of leafy greens. The replacement of dairy with calcium-equivalent foods alters the overall nutritional profile of the diet and affects nutrients including protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamins A, D and B12.
Similar modeling exercises using consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also demonstrated that nondairy calcium replacement foods are not a nutritionally equivalent substitute for dairy products. In conclusion, although it is possible to meet calcium intake recommendations without consuming dairy foods, calcium replacement foods are not a nutritionally equivalent substitute for dairy foods and consumption of a calcium-equivalent amount of some nondairy foods is unrealistic.