If you think feeding skim milk or 1 percent to your toddler will help keep them from becoming fat, think again.
Since 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have been recommending giving skim or 1 percent milk to kids over age 2 in an attempt to stem childhood obesity. And what has this done? Looking at the statistics, not much. Kids today are heavier than ever.
Now comes a study published in the British Medical Journal, which followed 11,000 children for more than five years. Moms and dads were asked numerous questions about nutrition, including what kind of milk they drank – skim, 1 percent, 2 percent or whole milk – and what other kinds of beverages their children consumed, such as soda, juice and sports drinks. Information was collected on each child’s height and weight, physical activity and other things they ate, including fruits and vegetables.
Right off the bat, researchers found the kids who drank skim and 1 percent milk were much more likely to be overweight than the kids who drank 2 percent or whole milk.
Now that’s a bit disturbing, isn’t it?
But there was something even more off the wall – kids who were normal weight at age 2 and were drinking skim or 1 percent milk were more likely to be overweight at age 4. In other words, the “negative” effect of low-fat milk kept going and going, with kids continuing to put on the pounds.
At first glance, the study is counterintuitive. We know that growing children who consume fewer calories are less likely to be overweight. We know that skim and 1 percent milk have fewer calories. So what we doctors have been saying about using low-fat dairy with your kids ought to make sense.
But in fact, what makes sense isn’t necessarily good science. Science involves observation and evaluation. And what we’re seeing here is more evidence of a recent theory that low-fat products are not as satisfying, which might mean people consume more to feel the same level of satisfaction.
I certainly find this as an adult – a glass of skim doesn’t cut the muster as much as a glass of 2 percent.
So what’s a parent to do? My spin: Concentrate on those things we know will keep a child’s weight down – cut out the sugary snacks, soft drinks, cake and candy. Give them fruit rather than fruit juice – it’s more satisfying. Plan to eat a more Mediterranean diet, and mentor your kids on the right way the eat.
Finally, pull the plug on the TV. A recent study also from the British Medical Journal showed that kids who watch more than three hours of TV a day are more likely to exhibit antisocial and aggressive bullying-type behavior.
To keep your kids healthy, you have to get them off the couch to play like kids.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.