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Drinking whole milk may reduce risk for obesity in children, analysis suggests

By Brian P. Dunleavy
Drinking whole milk may reduce risk for obesity in children, analysis suggests
Drinking whole milk, instead of skim, may decrease a child's risk for obesity, according to an analysis of previous studies. Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Children who drink whole milk have a lower risk of being overweight or obese, a new analysis has found.

In an article published Monday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from St. Michael's Hospital of Unity Health Toronto concluded that whole milk-drinking kids were 40 percent less likely to have an unhealthy weight than their peers who consumed reduced-fat or skim milk. Their results were based on analysis of data from 28 studies.

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"The majority of children in Canada and the United States consume cow's milk on a daily basis and it is a major contributor of dietary fat for many children," study co-author Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital, said in a statement.

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"In our review, children following the current recommendation of switching to reduced-fat milk at age two were not leaner than those consuming whole milk," he added.

Maguire and his colleagues reviewed the data from the selected studies -- all of which evaluated the relationship between consumption of cow's milk and body weight. Taken together, the studies included nearly 21,000 children, adolescents and teens.

Notably, none of the included studies found that kids who drank reduced-fat milk had a lower risk of being overweight or obese. And, 18 of the 28 studies suggested children who drank whole milk were less likely to be overweight or obese.

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According to Maguire, the findings challenge international guidelines that recommend children consume reduced-fat cow milk instead of whole milk starting at age two to reduce their risk for obesity.

Maguire next plans to explore this issue further in a randomized controlled trial designed to establish the cause and effect of whole milk and lower risk for obesity.

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"A randomized controlled trial would help to establish cause and effect but none were found in the literature," he said. "All of the studies we examined were observational studies, meaning that we cannot be sure if whole milk caused the lower risk of overweight or obesity. Whole milk may have been related to other factors which lowered the risk of overweight or obesity."

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