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Dairy Choices Do Not Affect Weight Loss In Kids

April 29, 2011

Australian researchers in a new study found that kids who use low-fat choices in place of regular dairy products consume less saturated fat but do not seem to lose weight.

They found that neither weight nor body mass index (BMI) had noticeably changed after six months of being on low-fat and reduced-fat dairy products.

Researchers Gilly Hendrie and Rebecca Golley of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found that instead of losing weight, kids who reduced their fat intake appeared to compensate by eating more calories from other sources.

Dr. Frank Franklin, a retired professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not involved in the study, said despite the findings, there could be other benefits to cutting back on saturated fat.

He told Reuters Health that reducing saturated fat can help kids ward off heart disease as they grow up.

For the study, Hendrie and Golley divided 145 kids ages four to 13 into two groups. They asked one group of kids to replace their dairy products with low-fat options for six months, while the second group got no dietary advice.

Both groups of kids consumed similar amounts of dairy products, and total calorie intake for both groups remained fairly consistent and stable during the study, which was supported in part by Dairy Australia — a dairy industry made up of several organizations representing different areas of the industry.

Kids were interviewed about their dairy eating habits at the beginning of the study, and at the third and sixth months of the study as well. Nurses also drew blood and measured BMI and waist circumference.

The low-fat group consumed less fat overall. At the end of the study, researchers found that 13.3 percent of total calories in this group came from saturated fat, compared to 16.6 in the comparison group.

It’s a significant change, noted Franklin, but it is still above the recommended 10 percent by the US Department of Agriculture. He said that American children generally are closer than Australians to getting the recommended amount.

Researchers also noticed a small drop in cholesterol levels in the low-fat group, but both their waistline and BMI were no different.

Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council (NDC), which represents the industry in the U.S., said this finding is in line with other research on kids, where milk shows either a positive or neutral impact on body composition.

“A lot of researchers say that if we just get people to consume low-fat or reduced-fat products, we can have an impact on weight,” Miller told Reuters Health.

But Hendrie and Golley’s study found that kids made up for the lost calories from other sources. So looking at milk alone isn’t that helpful, Miller said.

Franklin noted that it is safe to switch to leaner dairy products, which have less cholesterol but keep the same amount of nutrients. “The only thing given up is saturated fat, which you don’t need,” he added.

Hendrie and Golley reported their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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