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Study Finds 'Clean Eating' Actually Puts Millennials' Health at Risk

Researchers have reason to believe that 'clean eating' isn't all that great, and bloggers and social media may be to blame.
Photo via Flickr user notyourstandard

According to the UK's National Osteoporosis Society, you may look back one day at your younger self and wish that you had been a dirtier eater.

That's because the UK-based health organization has found that 70 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds in the UK are currently or have previously been on diets, and that in addition, 20 percent of those dieters had cut or significantly reduced dairy in their diet. The NOS wants everyone to know that "dairy is an important source of calcium, vital in building bone strength when you are young."


Bottom line: Clean eating may not be so good for you.

Of particular alarm to the NOS is that people under 25 tend to follow health and nutrition bloggers on social media. They say those bloggers are fond of cutting out entire food categories in pursuit of a "clean" eating regime. The reference may be an underhanded dig at Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop and the UK's Hemsley sisters—although the latter have recently said that their recommendation was to avoid foods with additives, not cut out food groups arbitrarily.

The NOS says that clean eating—which can mean different things to different people, but generally means emphasizing meat and fresh produce and avoiding processed food—is now the "most common diet for those aged 25 and under" in the UK. But to the extent that any diet limits calcium, the NOS says, it is a "ticking time bomb," portending significant future problems. The national health charity is therefore launching a campaign to get young people to increase the calcium and vitamin D in their diets; the promotion is called 'A Message to My Younger Self'.

Interestingly, the NOS blames social media for exacerbating the problem, and is using Liz Earle, a so-called wellbeing and beauty expert, as the face of the campaign. She explains that Instagram celebrities and wellness bloggers ramp up the pressure to eliminate "unclean" food groups: "When I was growing up, my meals weren't photographed and shared on social media. The pressure young women are under to match what their idols on Instagram are eating is really high and it's for this reason that I wanted to front this campaign."

ON VICE.COM: The Unhealthy Truth Behind 'Wellness' and 'Clean Eating'

The problem is a big one, according to Professor Susan Lanham-New, a Clinical Advisor to the NOS. She says: "Without urgent action being taken to encourage young adults to incorporate all food groups into their diets and avoid particular 'clean eating' regimes, we are facing a future where broken bones will become just the 'norm'. We know that osteoporosis is a painful and debilitating condition and young adults have just one chance to build strong bones and reduce their risk of developing severe problems in later life."

So, despite what your favorite health guru suggests, it may be time to consider bringing some filthy, dirty dairy back into your diet—stat.