Research suggests low-fat milk may not curb toddlers’ weight gain

Children who drink full-fat milk weigh less on average than drinkers of skimmed or semi-skimmed, US survey finds

Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 06:00


Switching to low-fat milk to curb your toddler’s weight gain doesn’t seem to work, according to a new study by American researchers.

Overweight and obese children were more likely to consume skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, the survey of almost 11,000 children found. The average weight of children who drank full-fat milk was also lower than that of children who drank skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, according to the study.

When researchers looked at weight gain over time, they found no overall difference between children who drank skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and those who drank full-fat milk. Milk fat may increase a feeling of fullness and so reduce the appetite for other fatty/calorie dense foods, they say. Rather than recommending low-fat milk, it may be better to stick with other weight-control options for which the evidence is sound, such as cutting down on TV watching and sugary drinks, and increasing exercise and fruit and vegetable intake, they suggest.

The Irish Heart Foundation, in line with counterparts in the US, says parents should consider giving children aged two to five years low-fat milk in order to reduce their fat intake. However, the authors of this study say the evidence to back up this stance is mixed.

They surveyed the consumption patterns of almost 11,000 children at age two and again when they were four. At both ages, the prevalence of overweight/obesity was high, affecting about one in three of the children. The findings suggest low-fat milk confers no overall advantage, although the authors say it is possible overweight kids might have gained more weight had they not drunk it.