Life-course perspectives of milk consumption among young Norwegian women and their knowledge of milk as a source of iodine: a qualitative study

  • Sigrun Henjum Department of Nursing and Health Promotion, Faculty of Health Sciences, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
  • Synne Groufh-Jacobsen Department of Nutrition and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Sports Science, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway
  • Inger Aakre Department of Seafood and Nutrition, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway
  • Laura Terragni Department of Nursing and Health Promotion, Faculty of Health Sciences, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
Keywords: attitudes; food choice trajectories; food practices; knowledge of iodine; life-course perspective; milk; Norway; young women


Mild to moderate iodine deficiency has been found among young Norwegian women of reproductive age. In Norway, cow’s milk is the main source of iodine; however, milk consumption is decreasing, particularly among young women. This study aimed to investigate milk consumption practices in young Norwegian women and their attitudes toward milk consumption from childhood to young adulthood in a life-course perspective and their knowledge of milk as a source of iodine. Convenience sampling was used to recruit 30 bachelor students (women, 18–25 years old) from five different study programs. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to interpret milk consumption practices from a life-course perspective. Five focus group interviews were conducted using a semistructured interview guide. The transcribed interviews were coded according to emerging themes related to milk consumption practices and turning points. Milk consumption practices were dynamic and changed over time and were influenced by several factors: family traditions, school milk subscription, friends and social media, social acceptance, availability, price, and attitudes toward health and the environment. Young women tend to be in a phase of life in which milk is not part of their food practices. Most of the women were not aware of the consequences of omitting milk from their diet and had limited knowledge of iodine and how to secure adequate dietary iodine intake. Awareness of possible consequences of omitting milk from the diet should be promoted along with information on how to secure adequate iodine intake


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Synne Groufh-Jacobsen, Department of Nutrition and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Sports Science, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway

¨Phd research fellow


  1. Henjum S, Aakre I, Lilleengen AM, Garnweidner-Holme L, Borthne S, Pajalic Z, et al. Suboptimal iodine status among pregnant women in the Oslo Area, Norway. Nutrients 2018; 10(3): 280. doi: 10.3390/nu10030280

  2. Brantsæter AL, Knutsen HK, Johansen NC, Nyheim KA, Erlund I, Meltzer HM, et al. Inadequate iodine intake in population groups defined by age, life stage and vegetarian dietary practice in a Norwegian convenience sample. Nutrients 2018; 10(2): 230. doi: 10.3390/nu10020230

  3. Henjum S, Brantsæter AL, Kurniasari A, Dahl L, Aadland EK, Gjengedal ELF, et al. Suboptimal iodine status and low iodine knowledge in young norwegian women. Nutrients 2018; 10(7): 941. doi: 10.3390/nu10070941

  4. Zimmermann BM. The role of iodine in human growth and development. Semin Cell Dev Biol 2011; 22(6): 645–52. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.07.009

  5. The Norwegian Directorate of Health. Utviklingen i norsk kosthold 2019 [The development of the norwegian diet]. Oslo, Norway: The Norwegian Directorate of Health; 2018.

  6. Dahl L, Opsahl JA, Meltzer HM, Julshamn K. Iodine concentration in plant-based milk products available on the Norwegian market. Tidsskr Norske Laege 2021; 1.

  7. Henjum S, Lilleengen AM, Aakre I, Dudareva A, Gjengedal ELF, Meltzer HM, et al. Suboptimal Iodine Concentration in Breastmilk and Inadequate Iodine Intake among Lactating Women in Norway. Nutrients 2017; 9(7): 643. doi: 10.3390/nu9070643

  8. Næss S, Markhus MW, Strand TA, Kjellevold M, Dahl L, Stokland A-EM, et al. Iodine nutrition and iodine supplement initiation in association with thyroid function in mildly-to-moderately iodine-deficient pregnant and postpartum women. J Nutr 2021; 151(10): 3187–96. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab224

  9. Abel MH, Korevaar TIM, Erlund I, Villanger GD, Caspersen IH, Arohonka P, et al. Iodine intake is associated with thyroid function in mild to moderately iodine deficient pregnant women. Thyroid 2018; 28(10): 1359–71. doi: 10.1089/thy.2018.0305

  10. Garnweidner-Holme L, Aakre I, Lilleengen AM, Brantsæter AL, Henjum S. Knowledge about iodine in pregnant and lactating women in the Oslo Area, Norway. Nutrients 2017; 9(5): 493. doi: 10.3390/nu9050493

  11. Kjaernes U. A sacred cow: the case of milk in Norwegian nutrition policy. Regulating markets, regulating people: on food and nutrition policy. Oslo: Novus Publishers; 1993, pp. 91–106.

  12. Lyngø IJ. Et melkedrikkende folk: melkens nye status i mellomkrigstidens Norge. Arr – Idehistorisk Tidsskrift 2007; 19(2–3): 27–40.

  13. Andresen A, Elvbakken KT. From poor law society to the welfare state: school meals in Norway 1890s–1950s. J Epidemiol Community Health 2007; 61(5): 374. doi: 10.1136/jech.2006.048132

  14. Lien M. The Norwegian nutrition and food supply policy. Accomplishments and limitations of a structural approach. Oslo: National Insitute for Consumer Research (SIFO)); 1990.

  15. Rustung E. Kostholdsstudier (Dietary studies). Oslo: Tanum, Petlitz Boktrykkeri; 1940.

  16. Norwegian Directorate of Health. Kostråd om melk og meieriprodukter [Dietary advise for milk and dairiproducts]. 2018. Available from: [cited 31 January 2019].

  17. Delormier T, Frohlich KL, Potvin L. Food and eating as social practice – understanding eating patterns as social phenomena and implications for public health. Sociol Health Illn 2009; 31(2): 215–28. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2008.01128.x

  18. Bisogni CA, Falk LW, Madore E, Blake CE, Jastran M, Sobal J, et al. Dimensions of everyday eating and drinking episodes. Appetite 2007; 48(2): 218–31. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.09.004

  19. Jastran MM, Bisogni CA, Sobal J, Blake C, Devine CM. Eating routines. Embedded, value based, modifiable, and reflective. Appetite 2009; 52(1): 127–36. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.09.003

  20. Devine CM. A life course perspective: understanding food choices in time, social location, and history. J Nutr Educ Behav 2005; 37(3): 121–8.

  21. Devine CM, Connors M, Bisogni CA, Sobal J. Life-course influences on fruit and vegetable trajectories: qualitative analysis of food choices. J Nutr Educ 1998; 30(6): 361–70. doi: 10.1016/S0022-3182(98)70358-9

  22. Wethington E. An overview of the life course perspective: implications for health and nutrition. J Nutr Educ Behav 2005; 37(3): 115–20.

  23. Falk LW, Bisogni CA, Sobal J. Food choice processes of older adults: a qualitative investigation. J Nutr Educ 1996; 28(5): 257–65. doi: 10.1016/S0022-3182(96)70098-5

  24. Silverman D. Interpreting qualitative data: a guide to the principles of qualitative research. London: Sage; 2015.

  25. Palmer M, Larkin M, de Visser R, Fadden G. Developing an interpretative phenomenological approach to focus group data. Qual Res Psychol 2010; 7(2): 99–121. doi: 10.1080/14780880802513194

  26. JHarris JE, Gleason PM, Sheean PM, Boushey C, Beto JA, Bruemmer B. An introduction to qualitative research for food and nutrition professionals. J Am Diet Assoc 2009; 109(1): 80–90. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.10.018

  27. Krueger RA, Casey MA. Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2009.

  28. Guest G, MacQueen KM, Namey EE. Applied thematic analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2011.

  29. Saunders B, Sim J, Kingstone T, Baker S, Waterfield J, Bartlam B, et al. Saturation in qualitative research: exploring its conceptualization and operationalization. Qual Quant 2018; 52(4): 1893–907. doi: 10.1007/s11135-017-0574-8

  30. Roos GM, Hansen KV, Skuland AV. Consumers, Norwegian food and belonging: a qualitative study. Br Food J 2016; 118(10): 2359–71.

  31. Chortatos A, Terragni L, Henjum S, Gjertsen M, Torheim LE, Gebremariam MK. Consumption habits of school canteen and non-canteen users among Norwegian young adolescents: a mixed method analysis. BMC Pediatr 2018; 18(1): 328. doi: 10.1186/s12887-018-1299-0

  32. Stead M, et al. Why healthy eating is bad for young people’s health: identity, belonging and food. Soc Sci Med 2011; 72(7): 1131–9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.12.029

  33. Nolan-Clark DJ, Neale EP, Probst YC, Charlton KE, Tapsell LC. Consumers’ salient beliefs regarding dairy products in the functional food era: a qualitative study using concepts from the theory of planned behaviour. BMC Public Health 2011; 11: 843.

  34. Bugge AB. Young people’s school food styles: naughty or nice? Young 2010; 18: 223–43. doi: 10.1177/110330881001800206

  35. Bere E, Glomnes ES, te Velde SJ, Klepp K-I. Determinants of adolescents’ soft drink consumption. Public Health Nutr 2008; 11(1): 49–56. doi: 10.1017/S1368980007000122

  36. Eurostat. Estimated average age of young people leaving the parental houshold by sex. 2019.

  37. Steffensen K, Ekren RR, Nygård G. Studenters økonomi og studiesituasjon. Norske resultater fra Eurostat student V i et europeisk perspektiv. Norway: Statistics Norway; 2015.

  38. Murray DW, Mahadevan M, Gatto K, O’Connor K, Fissinger A, Bailey D, et al. Culinary efficacy: an exploratory study of skills, confidence, and healthy cooking competencies among university students. Perspect Public Health 2016; 136(3): 143–51.

  39. Bugge AB. Food advertising towards children and young people in Norway. Appetite 2016; 98: 12–18. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.12.008

  40. Lacroix M-J, Desroches S, Turcotte M, Guérard GP, Paquin P, Couture F, et al. Salient beliefs among Canadian adults regarding milk and cheese consumption: a qualitative study based on the theory of planned behaviour. BMC Nutr 2016; 2: 48. doi: 10.1186/s40795-016-0087-1

  41. Marquis M, Dubeau C, Thibault I. Canadians’ level of confidence in their sources of nutrition information. Can J Diet Pract Res 2005; 66(3): 170–5. doi: 10.3148/66.3.2005.170

  42. Douglas M. Purity and danger: an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge; 2003.

  43. Atkins P. Liquid materialities: a history of milk, science and the law. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge; 2016.

  44. Zimmermann MB. The importance of adequate iodine during pregnancy and infancy. World Rev Nutr Diet 2016; 115: 118–24. doi: 10.1159/000442078

How to Cite
Sigrun Henjum, Synne Groufh-Jacobsen, Inger Aakre, & Laura Terragni. (2021). Life-course perspectives of milk consumption among young Norwegian women and their knowledge of milk as a source of iodine: a qualitative study. Food & Nutrition Research, 65.
Original Articles