By Sasha Emmons
A surprising new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood undercuts what pediatricians and parents have long thought: that drinking low-fat milk is part of a healthy diet to keep your child's weight in check. In fact, researchers found kids who drink skim or 1 percent are actually more likely to be overweight than those who drink 2 percent or whole.
"We were very surprised," says study author Mark Daniel DeBoer, M.D., an associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, VA. "Our original hypothesis was that skim and 1 percent milk would be associated with lower baseline weights and less weight gain. Instead we found that children drinking skim and 1 percent were heavier, potentially because when children are overweight their parents are more likely to give them skim milk. We next looked at weight gain over time and were surprised that children drinking 1 percent or skim were more likely to become overweight over the time frame."
How could a drink with less saturated fat lead to a higher body mass index (BMI)? Dr. DeBoer says a more definitive, randomized study is needed to learn more. "One piece of speculation is that 2 percent or whole milk may induce satiety better, and decrease the amount of other unhealthy calories a child ingests," he says.
Confused parents shouldn't necessarily make a switch back to whole milk. Instead, focus on avoiding sugary beverages and juice, watching less TV and getting more exercise, which have much more impact than your choice of milk.
More latest news on milk:
How Many Cups is Enough?
Most kids over age 1 need two 8-ounce cups of milk per day-no more, no less-to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D and iron, report researchers at the University of Toronto. Drinking more than two cups daily was associated with a reduction in iron stores, which could lead to iron deficiency.
Certain Kids May Need More
Namely, those who are overweight, Latino, and African American. Some 29 percent of overweight children are deficient in vitamin D, compared to 21 percent of normal-weight kids, according to a recent study in Pediatrics. That number climbs to 34 percent of obese and 49 percent of severely obese kids. Higher rates of D deficiency were also found in Latino and African American children.
Milk Does an (Older) Body Good
In the first study to examine the relationship between drinking milk as a kid and physical performance in old age, researchers from Bristol University found that childhood milk intake was associated with faster walking pace and significantly better balance as a senior citizen. The credit goes to milk's stores of calcium and protein.