Full-fat milk good for young children, study finds

Full-fat milk good for young children, study finds

Dairy
Official advice for children to avoid drinking full fat milks should be revised, according to new university research.

Official advice for children to avoid drinking full fat milks should be revised, according to new university research.

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A world-first study has found whole fat milk is just as good for kids as low fat.

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A world-first study has found whole fat milk is just as good for kids as low fat.

Research from Edith Cowan University in Perth has found current public health advice may need to be revised.

The research, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this week, debunked recommendations children over the age of two should consume low fat dairy products.

The Australian dairy industry has already laid out its top priorities for dairy foods in the next Australian Dietary Guidelines, which includes ensuring milk, cheese and yoghurt continue to be recognised as an integral part of a healthy, sustainable diet.

The four-year process to review the Australian Dietary Guidelines has begun with the completion of the first stakeholder activity - an Online Scoping Survey to determine the priorities of the review.

A global study last month found big consumers of dairy foods have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those who avoid dairy.

People who eat lots of dairy, measured by levels of fatty acids in their blood, were less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

The recently released CSIRO online tuckerbox dietary recommendations for children caused controversy by advocating for plant-based foods but recognised the importance of dairy.

"Cheese and other dairy foods not only provide complete protein, but they are also the best source of calcium for our bodies," the CSIRO advised.

"Calcium is the main mineral component of our bones, teeth and nails so it is a very important part of our diets."

ECU's Associate Professor Therese O'Sullivan led the recent investigation into the consumption of full-fat dairy products in children as part of the Milky Way study.

Over a three-month period, 49 healthy children aged four to six were randomly allocated to receive either whole fat or low-fat dairy products in place of their normal dairy intake.

Dairy products were home delivered every fortnight in plain packaging at no cost to the participants, to ensure purchase price wasn't a factor.

Neither group knew whether they were consuming whole fat or low-fat dairy, while any left over products were weighed each fortnight to assess the children's overall intake.

For the first time, researchers comprehensively measured the children's obesity, body composition, blood pressure, and blood biomarkers to monitor the effects of their dairy consumption.

Regardless of whether they were consuming whole fat or low-fat dairy, both groups of children took in similar amounts of calories.

Although children consuming low-fat dairy took in less calories and fat from dairy, they naturally turned to other foods and drinks to make up this difference.

Professor O'Sullivan said the findings showed no significant differences between the groups' obesity or cardiovascular health.

"It had previously been thought young children would benefit from low fat dairy products due to their lower levels of saturated fats and lower density of energy, in turn helping avoid obesity and risk of associated cardiometabolic diseases," she said.

"Our results suggest healthy children can safely consume whole fat dairy products without increased obesity or adverse cardiometabolic effects.

"With consideration of our results and previous research, future revisions of dietary guidelines should consider recommending children aged two and over can consume either whole fat or reduced fat dairy."

Dietitian and PhD candidate on the study Analise Nicholl said this would make life easier for parents.

"This evidence-based approach would help simplify parents' dairy choices and allow children to consume dairy according to their individual preference."

'Whole-fat dairy products do not adversely affect adiposity or cardiometabolic risk factors in children in the Milky Way Study: a double-blind randomized controlled pilot study' was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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