Study Links Milk Deficit To Metabolic Disorder In College Kids
March 15, 2013

It Does A Body Good: Milk Deficit Linked To Metabolic Disorder In College Kids

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

This week New York City´s ban on large-sized soft drinks was overturned by a judge, but another somewhat less controversial drink was the subject of a study that found most young adults kids aren´t getting enough of it.

A new study from University of Illinois´s College of Agricultural suggests that college-aged kids who don´t consume at least three servings of dairy daily could be three times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who do. The results of the study were published in the January issue of Food and Nutrition Sciences.

“And only one in four young persons in the study was getting the recommended amount of dairy,” said Margarita Teran-Garcia, a UI professor of food science and human nutrition. Her work has included research that expands on our understanding of gene-environment interactions.

According to the current study, three-fourths of the 18- to 25-year-old college applicants surveyed are at risk for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It has become an increasingly common problem in the United States, and researchers are still uncertain whether the syndrome is due to one single cause. However, all the risks for the syndrome are related to obesity.

Metabolic syndrome occurs when a person has three of the following risk factors: abdominal obesity, including extra weight around the middle and upper parts of the body — also known as central obesity — in which the body may be described as “apple shaped”;  high blood pressure; high blood sugar; and unhealthy cholesterol and lipid levels.

Teran-Garcia explains that having metabolic syndrome can greatly increase a person´s chances of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

A growing body of data suggests that dairy products can actually guard against obesity and the health problems that accompany extra weight, but researchers do not yet understand how or why.

“It may be the calcium, it may be the proteins. Whatever the mechanism, evidence suggests that dairy products are effective in attaining and maintaining a healthy weight,” Teran-Garcia added.

The study, which is part of the Up Amigos project, a collaboration between researchers at University of Illinois and and the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosί in Mexico, looked at 339 Mexican college applicants. Each individual filled out a food frequency questionnaire and was then evaluated for metabolic syndrome risk factors. In this study the analysis controlled for sex, age, physical activity and family history of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers are now continuing to follow the university applicants to further look at how changes in their BMI, weight, and eating and exercise habits affect the their health over time.

The researchers also wanted to find out whether it wasn´t perhaps what the students weren´t drinking as much as what they were drinking that led to health complications. The study´s authors suspected that students were drinking high-calorie sugar-rich beverages like soda and juice drinks in place of milk. However, they found that a roughly quarter of the group drank these sorts of beverages in addition to dairy products, contributing surplus calories.

Teran-Garcia added that this research could be important to Hispanics in the United States because many have a genetic predisposition for very low HDL (good) cholesterol.

“And obesity is now a more serious public health problem in Mexico than in the United States,” said Teran-Garcia. “According to new data from a national Mexican survey, 72 percent of adults are overweight or obese in contrast to 66 to 70 percent of U.S. adults.”