If you are feeding your toddler or young child reduced-fat milk to avoid obesity, you are not alone. Both the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have given this idea thumbs up for the past 50 years, recommending kids start on skim milk by the age of two at the latest. However, this recommendation appears to be lacking in solid science, and research is finding that in fact, toddlers and young children who drink whole milk grow up to be slimmer than children who drink skim or low-fat milk.
Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine sifted data from the birth cohort of the well known Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to evaluate the relationships between type of milk consumed and weight status among preschool children. Their study examined records for 10,700 youngsters age two to four living in the U.S., expecting to find results that substantiated the thinking that kids who drank skim milk were thinner.
But just the reverse was what they actually found. Their data showed that children drinking full-fat milk were thinner than those drinking reduced-fat milk.
“We were quite surprised,” said study co-author Dr. Mark DeBoer referring to the lower body mass index he and his team mates found in children drinking full-fat milk.
However, this is not the first study to come up with such results. In 2010, researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston found that substituting reduced-fat milk in two year old’s did not prevent weight problems in early childhood. Toddlers who drank full-fat milk showed lower body mass indexes in this study too.
An editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics written by Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, and nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willet, from the Harvard School of Public Health argued that there is little data supporting the notion that drinking reduced-fat milk leads to better health outcomes.
- Reduced-fat foods don’t reduce calorie intake. Eating reduced-fat foods is not as satisfying or filling, so people end up eating more.
- Reduced-fat milk raises levels of triglycerides. When fat is reduced in the diet, consumption of high-glycemic index foods is increased, causing levels of triglycerides to become elevated.
- When sugary flavored reduced-fat milk replaces full-fat milk, kids consume much more sugar, increasing their risk of diabetes.
Even as far back as 2005, research as Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that dietary calcium and reduced-fat milk were linked to weight gain, but dairy fat was not.
Whole Milk is What Nature Intended
The breast milk of mammals has a high fat content across the board. Human breast milk is 50 to 60 percent fat, and its cholesterol content is almost 6 times greater than what is found in the average diet of adults. Before the advent on formula and nursing bottles, mothers nursed with breast milk well beyond the first year or two of life, yet those children did not have the problem of obesity as children of today do. In fact, the soaring rates of obesity did not begin to occur until shortly after the advice was given to switch one or two year olds to reduced-fat milk.
Researchers from the UK have found that breastfeeding beyond six months actually confers protection against obesity. This further supports the notion that a high fat diet is what nature intended for all of us, including toddlers and young children.
There is a correlation between the amount of fat in breast milk and the amount of fat in the human brain, which is also about 60 percent. This is the level of fat required for proper functioning of the nervous and endocrine systems. The growth and development of a healthy child is powered by growth hormone, which is made from fat and cholesterol, the primary source of this being the fat in whole milk.
Fat also fuels the energy needed for cognitive and physical investigation and learning. The fact that teenagers naturally seek out a diet high in fat to fuel energy levels is often condemned by ‘health’ authorities, but common sense says the teens are following the map laid out by nature.
Today’s stratospheric asthma rates and food allergies also got going shortly after the push to feed kids reduced-fat milk. This is not surprising, because the fat in whole milk contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a substance that provides protection from asthma, food allergies, and also many types of cancer. When fat is stripped from milk, that protection is no longer there.
The absorption of fat soluble vitamins is dependent on a good amount fat in the diet. Our ancestors grew up drinking whole milk, and one look at photos of people in history books reveals they didn’t suffer from obesity.
When research results and common sense thinking line up so perfectly, it’s time to pay attention. When you buy whole milk, be sure to choose organic milk from grass-fed cows.