Children who drink whole milk less likely to be overweight, study finds

TORONTO — Plenty of people opt to drink skimmed milk over whole milk, believing it is healthier and less fattening. While that is certainly true from a purely calorie-based perspective, a surprising new set of research finds that children who drink whole milk are actually 40% less likely to be obese or overweight than kids drinking reduced-fat milk.

The comprehensive meta-analysis, which consisted of nearly 21,000 children, was performed by St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health in Toronto.

In total, 28 studies from seven different countries were included in the research, and each study had focused on the effect of drinking milk on children’s weight. Interestingly, not a single one of those scientific endeavors concluded that drinking reduced-fat milk lowered a child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese. However, 18 of the analyzed studies suggested that drinking whole milk did lower children’s risk of becoming overweight or obese.

These findings are especially noteworthy because they directly contradict numerous international health guidelines that recommend young children drink skim milk instead of whole milk in order to foster a healthy body weight.

“The majority of children in Canada and the United States consume cow’s milk on a daily basis and it is a major contributor of dietary fat for many children,” says Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead author of the review and a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital, in a release. “In our review, children following the current recommendation of switching to reduced-fat milk at age two were not leaner than those consuming whole milk.”

Moving forward, Dr. Maguire would like to conduct further, more extensive research into the matter in order to determine the cause and effect relationship between whole milk and lower obesity risk.

“All of the studies we examined were observational studies, meaning that we cannot be sure if whole milk caused the lower risk of overweight or obesity. Whole milk may have been related to other factors which lowered the risk of overweight or obesity,” he concludes. “A randomized controlled trial would help to establish cause and effect but none were found in the literature.”

The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.