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Updated 19 March 2013

Skimmed milk ineffective against toddler obesity

Giving your toddler skimmed or semi-skimmed milk is unlikely to make inroads against the risk of obesity, a large study conducted among American children has found.

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Giving your toddler skimmed or semi-skimmed milk is unlikely to make inroads against the risk of obesity, a large study conducted among American children has found.

Researchers trawled through data from a long-term probe into the health of 10 700 children born in 2001.

Parents or caregivers were asked about milk consumption when the infant was two and were questioned again two years later, when the child was again weighed and measured.

Overweight or obesity was widespread: 30.1% of the children at two years fell into this category, rising to 32.2% at the age of four.

Children who overweight

But children who were overweight or obese were likelier to drink skimmed milk or semi-skimmed milk, which has one-percent butterfat, than counterparts of normal weight, the probe found.

Low-fat or fat-free milk was consumed by 14% of heavy two-year-olds and 16% of heavy four-year-olds.

This compared with 9% of normal-weight two-year-olds and 13% of normal-weight four-year-olds.

Kids who drank full-fat milk, which has a 3.5% fat component, or reduced-fat milk, which has two-percent fat, also tended to weigh less than counterparts who drank skimmed or semi-skimmed.

US health watchdogs - the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association - recommend that all children drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk after the age of two to reduce intake of saturated fat.

What the study say

The study says that the logic behind this recommendation is to reduce consumption of kilojoules and thus prevent weight gain.

But the reality could be more complex, it cautions.

Milk fat may increase a sense of fullness, thus reducing craving for fatty or kilojoule-rich foods, the authors argue.

Obesity fighters, they argue, should look at other sources of weight control, "such as decreased television viewing, increased physical activity and decreased juice and sugar-sweetened beverage intake, as well as a focus on non-Western diets with higher vegetable content."

The paper, published on Monday in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, was led by Mark DeBoer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

 
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