Skimmed milk ineffective against toddler obesity

March 18, 2013, Agence France-Presse

Giving your toddler skimmed or semi-skimmed milk is unlikely to make inroads against the risk of obesity, a large study conducted among American children has found.

Researchers trawled through data from a long-term probe into the health of 10,700 children born in 2001.

Parents or caregivers were asked about milk consumption when the infant was age 2 and were questioned again two years later, when the child was again weighed and measured.

Overweight or obesity was widespread: 30.1 percent of the children at age 2 fell into this category, rising to 32.2 percent at age 4.

But children who were overweight or obese were likelier to drink skimmed milk or semi-skimmed milk, which has one-percent butterfat, than counterparts of normal weight, the probe found.

Low-fat or fat-free milk was consumed by 14 percent of heavy children age 2 and 16 percent of heavy children age 4. This compared with nine percent of normal weight children age 2 and 13 percent of normal-weight children age 4.

Kids who drank full-fat milk, which has a 3.5-percent fat component, or reduced-fat milk, which has two-percent fat, also tended to weigh less than counterparts who drank skimmed or semi-skimmed.

US health watchdogs — the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association — recommend that all children drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk after age 2 to reduce intake of saturated fat.

The study says that the logic behind this recommendation is to reduce consumption of calories and thus prevent weight gain.

But the reality could be more complex, it cautions.

Milk fat may increase a sense of fullness, thus reducing craving for fatty or calorie-rich foods, the authors argue.

Obesity fighters, they argue, should look at other sources of weight control, “such as decreased television viewing, increased physical activity, and decreased juice and sugar-sweetened beverage intake, as well as a focus on non-Western diets with higher vegetable content.”

The paper, published on March 18 in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, was led by Mark DeBoer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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