Whole-Fat Milk


New research suggests that those children who drink whole milk are leaner and have higher vitamin D levels than those who drink low-fat or skim milk.  Those who drank whole milk with a 3.25% fat content had a body mass index score that was 0.72 units lower than those who drank 1% or 2% milk. This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

They believe this is comparable to the difference between having a healthy weight and being overweight, according to Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital and lead author.  

Consuming higher fat content milk and its association with lower BMI scores was not assessed.  Dr. Maguire did hypothesize those children who drank whole milk felt fuller than those who drank the same amount of low fat or skim milk.  If our children don’t feel full from drinking milk, they are more likely to eat other foods that are less healthy or higher in calories, so children drinking lower fat milk may actually consume more calories overall than those drinking whole milk.

It was also determined that children who drank 1 cup of whole milk each day had comparable vitamin D levels to those who drank nearly 3 cups of 1% milk.  There may be an inverse relationship in children between body fat and vitamin D stores, according to the study. As children’s body fat increases, their vitamin D stores decrease.  Those children that drink lower fat milk do not have less body fat and they don’t benefit from the higher vitamin D levels of whole milk.

Health Canada, National Institutes of Health and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommending 2 servings of low fat milk for children over the age of two to reduce the risk of childhood obesity, does not agree with the above consensus.

The findings indicated a need to closely examine existing nutritional guidelines around milk fat consumption to make sure they are having the desired effect.  Researchers studied 2,745 children ages 2 to 6 years attending well child visits. Parents were surveyed; then they measured the children’s height and weight to calculate BMI and took blood samples to assess the vitamin D levels.  Applied Research Group for Kids enrolled the children and collaborated between children’s doctors and researchers from St Michael’s Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children. This program follows children from birth with the aim of preventing common problems in the earl years and understanding their impact on health and disease later in their life.

Of the children studied, 49% drank whole milk, 35% drank 2% milk, 12% drank 1% milk and 4% drank skim milk.  There were less than 1% of children who drank some combination of the four types of milk.

Dr Fredda Branyon