Whole-fat milk consumption associated with leaner children, research finds

November 16, 2016 by Kelly O'brien
milk

Children who drink whole milk are leaner and have higher vitamin D levels than those who drink low-fat or skim milk, new research suggests.

Children who drank whole (3.25 per cent ) milk had a Body Mass Index score that was 0.72 units lower than those who drank 1 or 2 per cent milk in the study published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

That's comparable to the difference between having a healthy weight and being overweight, said lead author Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital.

The study did not assess why consuming higher fat content milk was associated with lower BMI scores. But Dr. Maguire hypothesized that children who drank whole milk felt fuller than those who drank the same amount of low-fat or skim milk. If children don't feel full from drinking milk, they are more likely to eat other foods that are less healthy or higher in calories, said Dr. Maguire. Therefore children who drink lower fat milk may actually consume more calories overall than those who drink whole milk.

The study also found that children who drank one cup of whole milk each day had comparable vitamin D levels to those who drank nearly 3 cups of one per cent milk. This could be because vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning it dissolves in fat rather than water. Milk with higher fat content therefore contains more vitamin D. There may also be an inverse relationship in children between and vitamin D stores, according to the study; as children's body fat increases, their vitamin D stores decrease.

"Children who drink lower fat milk don't have less body fat, and they also don't benefit from the higher vitamin D levels in whole milk," said Dr. Maguire. "It's a double negative with ."

The study's findings differ from Health Canada, National Institutes of Health and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommending two servings of low fat (one per cent or two per cent) milk for children over the age of two to reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Dr. Maguire said the findings indicated a need to closely examine existing nutritional guidelines around milk fat consumption to make sure they are having the desired effect. Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years while consumption of whole milk has halved over the same period.

"What kind of milk our children should be consuming is something we need to seek the right answer for," said Dr. Maguire.

For this study, researchers studied 2,745 children ages two to six years attending well-child visits. They surveyed parents, measured height and weight to calculate BMI and took blood samples to assess vitamin D levels. All were enrolled in the Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!), collaboration between children's doctors and researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children. The program follows children from birth with the aim of preventing common problems in the early years and understanding their impact on health and disease later in life.

Of those studied, 49 per cent drank whole milk, 35 per cent drank two per cent milk, 12 per cent drank one per cent milk and four per cent drank skim milk. Less than one per cent of drank some combination of the four types of .

Explore further: Children who drink non-cow's milk are twice as likely to have low vitamin D

Related Stories

Children who drink non-cow's milk are twice as likely to have low vitamin D

October 20, 2014
Children who drink non-cow's milk such as rice, almond, soy or goat's milk, have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who drink cow's milk, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association ...

Supplements and cow's milk play biggest roles in determining vitamin D levels in children

January 14, 2013
Taking a vitamin D supplement and drinking cow's milk are the two most important factors that determine how much vitamin D is in a child's body, new research has found.

Does heart disease begin in childhood?

July 15, 2015
Are the first signs that someone is at risk of developing cardiovascular disease detectable in toddlers and preschoolers?

Pesticide in milk years ago may be linked to signs of Parkinson's

January 6, 2016
(HealthDay)—Men who drank milk that may have been tainted with a pesticide when they were young might be more likely to develop signs of Parkinson's disease, according to a study published online Dec. 9 in Neurology.

Children breastfeeding after first birthday should take vitamin D supplements, study says

February 18, 2016
Children who are breastfeeding after their first birthday should take a vitamin D supplement to prevent health problems such as rickets, new research suggests.

Skimmed / semi-skimmed milk does not curb excess toddler weight gain

March 18, 2013
Switching to skimmed milk in a bid to curb excess toddler weight gain doesn't seem to work, indicates research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Recommended for you

Is rushing your child to the ER the right response?

October 16, 2017
If a child gets a small burn from a hot pan, starts choking or swallows medication, parents may struggle to decide whether to provide first aid at home or rush them to the hospital, suggests a new national poll.

Happier mealtimes, healthier eating for kids

October 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Parents who struggle to get their children to follow a healthy diet may want to make dinnertime a pleasant experience, new research suggests.

Children born prematurely have greater risk of cognitive difficulties later in life

October 11, 2017
Babies born preterm have a greater risk of developing cognitive, motor and behavioural difficulties and these problems persist throughout school years, finds a new study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Helping preemies avoid unnecessary antibiotics

October 5, 2017
(HealthDay)—Researchers say they have identified three criteria that suggest an extremely premature infant has a low risk of developing sepsis, which might allow doctors to spare these babies early exposure to antibiotics.

Got a picky eater? How 'nature and nurture' may be influencing eating behavior in young children

October 3, 2017
For most preschool-age children, picky eating is just a normal part of growing up. But for others, behaviors such as insisting on only eating their favorite food item—think chicken nuggets at every meal—or refusing to ...

Anxious moms may give clues about how anxiety develops

September 27, 2017
Moms may be notorious worriers, but babies of anxious mothers may also spend more time focusing on threats in their environment, according to a team of researchers.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RichManJoe
5 / 5 (2) Nov 16, 2016
Dieticians are my number one enemy. Most of my life I have heard avoid fats. No bacon, no whole milk. How much pleasure have these people who act like they have all the answers taken from me.
dogbert
4.3 / 5 (3) Nov 16, 2016
I always wonder why this surprises people. As you remove the fat from milk, the same volume of [reduced fat] milk has more lactose. Disbetics make the same mistake, often choosing lower fat but higher lactose milk.

And, of course, dietitians recommend low fat milk to diabetic patients.
btb101
not rated yet Nov 17, 2016
Considering that whole milk has over 20 bovine growth hormones in it, it is small wonder how it can be considered healthy.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.