Walk into a school cafeteria and you will find boxes upon boxes of low-fat milk (hopefully without strawberry and chocolate flavoring). Peruse a child’s menu at any restaurant in the U.S. and you will see options like orange juice, apple juice and low-fat milk. And most households with children will always have a carton of low-fat milk within reach. It has become widely accepted that children who consumed low-fat foods (in this case milk) as part of a reduced-saturated-fat diet had lower concentrations of LDL cholesterol, and a lesser risk of obesity and heart disease. This has basically been the status quo for over two decades, but should this be questioned?
Like it or not, there is new evidence to the contrary. A new study of 10,700 preschool-aged children in the United States, by the sister publication of the British Medical Journal, finds that habitual consumption of low-fat milk was associated with higher weight in children. Seems children regularly drinking low-fat milk had a noticeably stronger tendency to pack on the pounds than those who regularly drank whole milk (no data was offered on HDL or LDL levels in the subjects). Researchers found the relationship between skim-milk drinkers and higher body weights held up across all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
So why in the world would this be? Is this study a complete anomaly? Well, not really, as there have been a handful of other studies over the last two decades that have yielded similar results. As to why this might be, one theory is that fatty whole milk fills you up, whereas low-fat milk leaves you feeling less than satisfied, leaving room for all sorts of other treats. And a bit of fat is beneficial for growing brains and bodies. But to be sure, milk (whether it be low-fat or whole) is not likely the leading factor in childhood obesity. That honor would likely go to sugary sodas and sugary snacks.
What are your thoughts on these findings? Do you opt for whole milk or low-fat milk products for your children?