Low-fat dairy products are no better for children’s health than their full-fat alternatives, a new study has suggested.
Parents may believe that switching children to reduced-fat milk and other dairy products could have positive impacts in terms of their health and weight, but new research has found that making the switch might not be as beneficial as thought.
The study, published in the medical journal Advances in Nutrition, a collaboration between ECU, the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the United States, reviewed 29 global studies that looked at full-fat dairy consumption in children.
The findings suggest that children who consume full-fat milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter show no higher risk of obesity or heart disease.
In fact, researchers found no clear link between whole-fat dairy consumption and weight gain, high cholesterol or high blood pressure in children.
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“Parents are overwhelmed by conflicting advice for kids' nutrition, especially when it comes to full-fat versus low-fat dairy,” said lead study author Dr Therese O’Sullivan, from Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia.
“Dietary guidelines in Australia and other countries recommend children primarily consume reduced-fat dairy products to maintain a healthy weight and good cardiovascular health.
“We found studies were consistent in reporting that whole-fat dairy products were not associated with increased levels of weight gain or obesity.”
Reduced-fat milk products are widely recommended for both adults and children over the age of two due to their lower energy and saturated fat content.
But analysis found children eating low-fat alternatives replaced missing calories with other foods.
“This suggests that low-fat dairy is not as filling as whole-fat dairy, which may lead kids to consume more of other foods. Health effects may depend on what these replacement foods are,” Professor O’Sullivan added.
“Dairy is a good dietary source of nutrients for healthy development, including protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and several vitamins.
“Even though the fats found in whole-fat dairy are mostly saturated fats, they don't appear to be associated with the same detrimental health effects observed with foods like fatty meats.”
Professor O’Sullivan is now calling for further research and advice so parents can make informed decisions on their children’s diet.
“We need more good quality research to inform evidence-based guidelines for parents, even if that means rethinking what we thought we knew about dairy,” she says.
According to the NHS the total fat content of dairy products can vary a lot. It is therefore suggested that parents look at the nutrition information on product labels.
“To make healthier choices, look at the nutrition information on the label to check the amount of fat, including saturated fat, salt and sugar, in the dairy products you're choosing,” the site reads.
This latest body of research echoes Canadian research which last year found that children who drink whole milk appear to have a 40% lower risk of being overweight or obese than children who drink reduced-fat milk.
Additional reported SWNS.