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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Overturning Nutritional Guidelines

"So it's a double-negative with low-fat milk. If children aren't receiving fat, for example from whole cow's milk, they need to make up those calories in some other way. So they may be consuming foods that are higher in calories and are maybe not as good for them."
"And that may be why these children's weight is a little higher."
"A child consuming [one cup of] whole milk had about the same vitamin D levels as another child consuming 2.9 cups of one percent milk -- which is actually a pretty big difference."
Dr. Jonathon Maguire, pediatrician, St.Michael's Hospital, Toronto

A child finishes off a glass of milk in Chicago in a Feb. 4, 2005 file photo. (Nam Y. Huh/CP/AP)
A child finishes off a glass of milk. (Nam Y. Huh/CP/AP)

In a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the results of investigative research on 2,745 children from nine family medicine/pediatric clinics scattered around Toronto between September 2008 and 2014, led to the conclusion that children who were given whole-fat milk were far less likely to become overweight or obese, and two times less likely to have a vitamin D deficiency in comparison with children who drink one percent milk.

The finding of higher levels of vitamin D among children consuming whole-fat milk can be explained by the fact that vitamin D is fat-soluble, so milk with a higher fat content would as a result contain more vitamin D, enabling greater amounts of the vitamin to be absorbed into the child's bloodstream. Milk products in Canada are fortified with vitamin D as a preventive against rickets and for the purpose of promoting the growth of healthy, strong bones and teeth. People living in northern climes notoriously suffer from less vitamin D intake. derived from exposure to the sun, in the winter months.

Health Canada, the National Institutes of Health in the United States, and the American Academy of Pediatrics do all routinely recommend that children under two years of age be given whole milk to drink. But once a child is over two years of age, the advice is to switch to low-fat milk in hopes of reducing the risk of obesity. Despite which, it was found that children who drink lower-fat milk don't necessarily present with less body fat and at the same time fail to benefit from additional vitamin D their bodies would absorb from drinking whole milk, according to the study.

Children aged one to six were studied, and the researchers discovered that those children drinking whole milk had a body mass index score close to a full unit below that of other children who ordinarily consumed one, or two percent milk. Dr. Maguire stressed that the difference relates to having a healthy weight as opposed to being overweight. The study did not however, as not designed to recognize a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the type of milk and a child's weight.

The theory being that those children who drink whole milk may, as a result, have a satiated feeling, eluding the children drinking milk containing less fat. There is a compensatory factor involved where the children absorbing more fat would not be as hungry as those children drinking lower fat milk. For the purpose of the study, parents were asked to fill out questionnaires, the responses to which informed the researchers that 49 percent of the study children drank whole milk; 35 percent were given two percent milk, while 21 percent drank one percent and four percent drank skim milk.

To the study authors this made sense in the figures resulting, where sixteen percent of the children were placed in the overweight category through their BMI levels, and five percent were at the obese level. Whole-fat milk, because of public health campaigns urging people to cut their intake of high-fat foods to prevent cardiovascular disease and obesity, is consumed at half the level it had been 30 years ago. Despite which, medical science is baffled by the fact that childhood obesity has tripled in that same period, leading to the conclusion that fat may not the culprit at all.

"Almost all children in North America receive cow’s milk and parents make decisions every day about what kind of milk to provide [to] their children", explained Dr Maguire. "And the reality is, we just don’t know what [is] the right kind of milk."
"So I think we need to look very carefully at the current guidelines and make sure that they are having the effect that we intended, because the question is really important to so many of us."

A study has found that children who drank a cup of whole milk every day had comparable vitamin D levels to those who drank almost three cups of low-fat milk.
A study has found that children who drank a cup of whole milk every day had comparable vitamin D levels to those who drank almost three cups of low-fat milk.  (Dreamstime)

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