Regular Milk May Beat Low Fat for Kids

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Low-fat milk may not be the best option for kids, though many experts recommend it to fight obesity for children over 2.

Canadian researchers collected height and weight data on 2,745 healthy children ages 1 to 6 years. They took blood samples, and their parents reported how much skim, 1 percent, 2 percent and whole milk the children drank.

After controlling for age, sex, outdoor play and other factors that affect both vitamin D levels and weight, they found that children who drank one cup of whole milk per day had a vitamin D level comparable to that of children who drank 2.9 cups of 1 percent milk, but their body mass index was lower by 0.79 points. The higher the fat content of the milk they drank, the lower the children’s B.M.I. and the higher their vitamin D levels. The study is in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Why this happens is unknown, but the senior author, Dr. Jonathon L. Maguire, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, suggested that vitamin D is better absorbed with fat, and drinking low-fat milk may leave a child hungrier for more calorie-dense food.

“These two things together may make it a double whammy for low-fat milk,” he said. “But this is a small piece of the puzzle. We really need to do the research to answer these very basic questions.”