Giving toddlers skimmed or one per cent fat milk could cause them to become overweight or obese, according to the counterintuitive results of a study.
US researchers found healthy-weight two-year-olds who regularly drank these types of milk were 57 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese at four, as those who drank full-fat milk.
Parents with overweight children might like to give their offspring low fat milk to help curb their waistlines, but the researchers said this logic might be misplaced.
Full-fat milk may satisfy children’s appetites better, thereby making them less likely to raid the cupboard for truly unhealthy snacks like biscuits and cakes, they argued.
They drew their conclusions after asking the parents of almost 11,000 two-year-olds what type of milk they gave them: skimmed, one per cent fat, two per cent fat, or full-fat. They then followed up the children two years later.
All the children were participants of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which tracks the long term health of a representative sample of US children born in 2001.
Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, the authors noted: “One per cent / skimmed milk does not appear to restrain body weight gain between two and four years of age.”
The Department of Health advocates children “gradually move to semi-skimmed milk as a main drink” from the age of two “as long as they are eating a varied and balanced diet and growing well”.
However, it warns against giving skimmed or one per cent milk as the main drink until they are at least five, because these “don’t contain enough vitamin A and skimmed milk doesn’t contain enough calories”.
Skimming fat off milk does not affect its calcium content. According to the Department of Health, children aged one to three need around 350mg of calcium a day, which is provided by just over half a pint of milk.
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