Study suggests obese children who consume recommended amount of milk at reduced risk of metabolic syndrome

May 25, 2018, European Association for the Study of Obesity
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Vienna, Austria (23-26 May) suggests that obese children who consume at least two servings of any type of cows' milk each day are more likely to have lower fasting insulin, indicating better blood sugar control.

"Our findings indicate that who consume at least the daily recommended amount of milk may have more favourable sugar handling and this could help guard against metabolic syndrome", says author Dr. Michael Yafi from McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, USA. "Worryingly, only 1 in 10 young people in our study were consuming the recommended amount of milk."

Metabolic syndrome is defined as the presence of at least three of five conditions that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke—high blood pressure, high levels of or triglycerides, excess belly fat, and low "good" cholesterol levels. At least a third of Americans are thought to have metabolic syndrome, while one in three American and teens are overweight or obese. Previous studies have shown that milk protects against metabolic syndrome and diabetes in adults, but studies investigating the effect of milk consumption on metabolic health and metabolic syndrome risk factors in obese children are scarce.

To investigate this further, Dr. Yafi and colleagues assessed daily milk intake and its association with fasting levels—the hormone that stabilises blood sugar and a biomarker for metabolic syndrome risk—in obese children and adolescents attending a paediatric weight management clinic. A high insulin level is a sign of or prediabetes, and can also signify metabolic syndrome.

They conducted a retrospective chart review of 353 obese children and adolescents aged 3 to 18 years between December 2008 and December 2010. Information on fasting serum insulin was available for 171 children at their first visit. The research team also recorded information on daily milk intake, milk types, daily fruit juice and other sugary drinks intake, fasting blood glucose, and insulin sensitivity. They used an upper normal level of fasting insulin (19 microunits per ml; uiu/ml) to link the results to insulin resistance.

Over half of the participants were male, three quarters were Hispanics, and had an average age of 11.3 years. On average, just one in ten children (13%; 23/171) reported drinking the daily recommended milk intake of three cups or more. Girls reported drinking less milk than boys, but no difference in intake was noted by ethnicity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise two to three cups of low fat (1% or 2%) milk a day for children over the age of two. The study also found that under half (44%) of children who reported drinking less than one cup a day had fasting insulin levels of less than 19 uiu/ml, compared to almost three-quarters (72%) of children who reported drinking more than two cups a day.

Overall, children who drank less than one cup of milk each day had significantly higher levels of fasting insulin (median 23 uiu/ml) than those who drank less than two cups a day (15 uiu/ml), or at least two cups a day (13 uiu/ml). After adjusting for other aspects that might affect insulin levels including race, ethnicity, gender, level of physical activity, sugary drinks intake, glucose levels, and type of milk based on fat content, the researchers found lower fasting insulin levels among children who drank at least two cups of milk a day. No association was noted between milk intake and blood glucose or lipid levels.

Dr. Yafi concludes: "Many studies have linked to childhood obesity. In contrast, our pilot study suggests that milk intake is not only safe but also protective against . We should encourage our children, especially those with obesity who are at higher risk of insulin resistance and poor glycaemic control, to consume the recommended daily amount of ."

The authors acknowledge that their findings show observational differences rather than cause and effect. They point to several limitations, including the small sample size, and that the study includes mainly Hispanic children making the generalizability of the findings to other ethnicities uncertain.

Explore further: Could intermittent fasting diets increase diabetes risk?

Related Stories

Could intermittent fasting diets increase diabetes risk?

May 20, 2018
Fasting every other day to lose weight impairs the action of sugar-regulating hormone, insulin, which may increase diabetes risk, according to data presented in Barcelona at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, ...

Culprit in reducing effectiveness of insulin identified

April 26, 2018
Scientists at Osaka University have discovered that Stromal derived factor-1 (SDF-1) secreted from adipocytes reduces the effectiveness of insulin in adipocytes and decreased insulin-induced glucose uptake.

Drinking non-cow's milk associated with lower height in children

June 7, 2017
Children who drink non-cow's milk—including other animal milk and plant-based milk beverages—are shorter than children who drink cow's milk, new research suggests.

Children's milk drinking habits analysed

January 19, 2018
New research shows a direct relationship between the consumption of cow's milk, and socio-demographic factors.

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

November 16, 2016
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.

Low vitamin D levels may contribute to development of Type 2 diabetes

December 5, 2011
A recent study of obese and non-obese children found that low vitamin D levels are significantly more prevalent in obese children and are associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This study was accepted for publication ...

Recommended for you

Obesity linked to increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer

October 12, 2018
Women who are overweight or obese have up to twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer before age 50 as women who have what is considered a normal body mass index (BMI), according to new research led by Washington University ...

The metabolome: A way to measure obesity and health beyond BMI

October 11, 2018
The link between obesity and health problems may seem apparent. People who are obese are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and heart disease. But increasingly, researchers are learning that the connection ...

Being overweight or obese in your 20s will take years off your life, according to a new report

October 10, 2018
Young adults classified as obese in Australia can expect to lose up to 10 years in life expectancy, according to a major new study.New modelling from The George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney also ...

Asthma may contribute to childhood obesity epidemic

October 9, 2018
Toddlers with asthma are more likely to become obese children, according to an international study led by USC scientists.

'Genes are not destiny' when it comes to weight

October 9, 2018
A healthy home environment could help offset children's genetic susceptibilities to obesity, according to new research led by UCL.

What did americans eat today? A third would say fast food

October 3, 2018
(HealthDay)—Americans' love affair with fast food continues, with 1 in every 3 adults chowing down on the fare on any given day.


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.