For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended skim or low-fat milk for children after age two, particularly in kids who stand a risk of becoming overweight. But a new study suggests that choosing skim or low-fat milk over whole milk is not necessarily the key in preventing childhood obesity.
“The association [between the consumption of low-fat milk and obesity] was really striking, in that it was present in every single racial ethnic group and every single social strata. So it was quite consistent,” DeBoer, an associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, said in a news release. “And it was also [noted] at both 2 years of age and 4 years of age. The children who drank skim were the heaviest, then 1 percent, then 2 percent and then whole milk. Children who drank whole milk had the lowest weight score.”
The researchers said their findings send a very clear message to parents. That is, lifestyle factors are more important than the choice of milk that children consume.
DeBoer recommends avoiding foods high in saturated fat, decreasing soda consumption and reducing television watching as more effective strategies in cutting down the risk of obesity in children.
“The amount of calories you take in versus the amount you spend – your balance of calories – is going to determine how much you weigh,” DeBoer said. “So the logic has always been, you should drink skim milk because you’re taking in fewer calories. The problem is that only applies to the milk portion of your diet. If drinking whole milk makes you full, so that you aren’t hungry to eat a bag of chips, then that overall would cause you to have fewer calories going in. So there is the possibility for whole milk being a better satiety agent and holding down other calorie consumption.”
The study, written by DeBoer, U.Va. researcher Dr. Rebecca Scharf and Ryan T. Demmer of Columbia University, was published online by the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal.