Rebecca Scharf and Mark DeBoer, both of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and Ryan Demmer of Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University said the study involved 10,700 pre-school children.
At age 2 the children body mass index was calculated and parents were asked what type of milk they gave their children. The children, a representative sample of U.S. children born in 2001 and tracked long-term for health were examined again at age 4.
Eighty-seven percent of the children drank whole or 2 percent milk at age 2 and 79.3 percent at age 4, the study said.
The study, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, found across racial/ethnic and socio-economic status subgroups, those who drank 1 percent skim milk drinkers had higher BMI scores than those who drank 2 percent whole milk drinkers.
Consumption of 1 percent or skim milk was more common among overweight/obese preschoolers, potentially reflecting the choice of parents to give overweight/obese children low-fat milk to drink, the researchers said.
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