Whole Milk And Less Of It Better For Children, Says Study
July 3, 2013

Whole Milk And Less Of It Better For Children, Says Study

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggestions that children drink at least three cups of milk each day, and that low-fat or fat-free versions of the beverage are the healthier, are being challenged by a pair of Harvard Medical School experts.

In the July 1 edition of the journal JAMA Pediatrics, authors David S. Ludwig and Walter C. Willett of the Boston-based institution explain that their research "questions the scientific rationale for promoting reduced-fat milk consumption at these levels in children and adults and reconsiders the role of cow's milk in human nutrition."

Ludwig, who is also affiliated with the Boston Children's Hospital New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, argues dairy products that have artificial sweeteners added to them are actually harmful to a person's health, according to a Daily Mail report by Ryan Gorman. As long as people eat the right foods, he added, it isn't a bad idea to drink less milk.

"Americans are consuming billions of gallons of milk a year, presumably under the assumption that their bones would crumble without them," Ludwig wrote in the study. "On a gram for gram basis, cooked kale has more calcium than milk. Sardines, nuts, seeds, beans, green leafy vegetables are all sources of calcium."

One cup of cooked kale has 94 milligrams of calcium, and one cup of cooked spinach has 245 milligrams, Gorman of the Daily Mail reports. In comparison, one cup of low-fat milk has 314 milligrams of calcium. Of course, persnickety young eaters may balk at consuming extra servings of greens, and in those situations the researchers report milk is still a good choice for bone health. However, they advise parents to choose the milk they serve their kids wisely.

According to Mary MacVean of the Los Angeles Times, Ludwig and Willett (also of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston) believe until additional research is conducted on the subject, the USDA should stop recommending children be given low-fat milk instead of whole milk and should focus on limiting their consumption of flavored milks.

Reduced fat chocolate milk, which Gorman refers to as a "school lunch staple," has 158 calories, 64 of which come from solid fats and added sugars. Perhaps more surprisingly, they warn low-fat or skim milk might actually result in a greater total amount of calories consumed by a child.

As Boston Globe staff writer Deborah Kotz explains, the authors believe if a youngster who normally eats two 60-calorie cookies and a cup of whole milk switches to lower calorie, lower fat skim milk, he or she may feel less full. That could result in the child compensating by eating an additional cookie, and according to Willett and Ludwig say, "this substitution of refined starch and sugar for fat might actually cause weight gain."

"We're not arguing that milk should be eliminated from the diet, but that a broader range of recommendations might be more appropriate," Ludwig told Kotz. "We just don't see any benefit for focusing on reducing fat. We think it's a holdover from a paradigm that evolved in the late 20th century based on the relatively simplistic idea that fat has the most calories per gram and that eliminating fat will reduce weight gain."