Logic would suggest that giving children low-fat milk would help protect them from putting on excess pounds, but the reality is more complex, explained the research team led by Mark Daniel DeBoer, an associate professor in the pediatric endocrinology division at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
They suggested that milk fat may increase the feeling of fullness and reduce a child's appetite for other fatty or calorie-dense foods.
Mittler agreed that the theory might have merit. "Many questions come up about how much [the children] drink as well as the amount of consumption in general," she said.
"So while the AAP and AHA can stand behind their recommendation, more needs to be considered when thinking of your child's overall diet," Mittler said. "Changing to skimmed or low-fat milk may not be the only answer to avoiding obesity."
According to the study authors, rather than giving children low-fat milk, parents might be better off using proven weight control measures, such as increasing children's physical activity levels and consumption of fruits and vegetables, restricting their intake of sugary drinks, and limiting the amount of time they spend in front of the television and computer, the researchers suggested in a journal news release.
But one other expert stands by the AAP/AHA recommendations to give kids low-fat or skimmed milk after age 2.
"The children in the study would have had a greater percentage of obesity if they had been on whole milk," said Dr. Peter Richel, chief of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. "The degree of obesity cited in the study is probably due to our Western cultural habits of unnecessarily larger portions and sugar consumption," he believes. "The children of America have far too much juice and soda, which are loaded with excess calories."
Although the study fo
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