Whole milk better than low-fat milk at preventing childhood obesity
Children who drink whole milk are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, with 18 percent lower odds of being obese compared with kids who drink low-fat milk, a study reports.
The study used data from the TARGet Kids! primary care research network and included 7,467 children aged 9 months to 8 years (mean age 2.6 years, 53 percent male). Parental reports provided data on cow’s milk fat consumption (skim [0.1 percent], 1 percent, 2 percent, and whole [3.25 percent]). Height and weight were measured, while body mass index z-score (zBMI), the primary study outcome, was determined according to the World Health Organization growth standards.
The mean zBMI at baseline was 0.18, with 77 percent of children having normal weight; 16 percent were overweight, 5 percent were obese, and 2 percent were underweight. More than half (56 percent) of the population consumed whole cow’s milk at baseline, 34 percent consumed 2-percent milk, 8 percent consumed 1-percent milk, and 3 percent drank skim milk. The study cohort consumed 1.9 250-ml cups of cow’s milk per day on average. The mean follow-up duration was 2.7 years.
Multivariable analysis showed that every 1-percent increase in cow’s milk fat consumed correlated with a 0.05-lower zBMI score (95 percent confidence interval [CI], −0.07 to −0.03; p<0.0001). Of note, compared with reduced fat (0.1–2 percent) milk consumption, whole milk intake was associated with lower odds of overweight (odds ratio [OR], 0.84, 95 percent CI, 0.77–0.91; p<0.0001) and obesity (OR, 0.82, 95 percent CI, 0.68–1.00; p=0.047).
The findings suggest that guidelines that recommend consumption of reduced fat instead of whole cow’s milk during childhood may not be effective at preventing overweight or obesity.