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Obese Latino children who consume at least two servings of any type of cow’s milk daily are more likely to have lower fasting insulin, indicating better blood sugar control, according to a new study.
The study points to milk’s importance for kids, despite its declining consumption.
U.S. milk consumption has consistently fallen over the past few decades. Adolescent consumption dropped by nearly half – to less than a cup daily – between 1977 and 2006, according to the USDA.
“Our findings indicate that obese children who consume at least the daily recommended amount of milk may have more favorable sugar handling and this could help guard against metabolic syndrome,” Dr. Michael Yafi, the study’s first author and professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said in a news release.
“Worryingly, only one in 10 young people in our study were consuming the recommended amount of milk,” Yafi said.
What the Study Says about Milk
Yafi and his team studied medical records of 353 obese children—75% Latinos—over two years.
The team examined children’s daily milk intake, milk types, daily fruit juice and other sugary drinks intake, as well as fasting levels of insulin (the hormone that stabilizes blood sugar and a biomarker for metabolic syndrome risk). Metabolic syndrome is the presence of at least three of five conditions that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke: high levels of blood sugar or triglycerides, high blood pressure, excess belly fat, and low “good” cholesterol levels.
They found that 44% of children who reported drinking less than one cup a day had below the upper normal levels of fasting insulin, compared to 72% of children who reported drinking more than two cups a day.
“Our pilot study suggests that milk intake is not only safe but also may protect against development of metabolic syndrome,” Dr. Mona Eissa, the study’s principal investigator and professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said in a news release.
Should You Consider Milk?
Of course, sugary flavored milk should be avoided.
But Eissa said worries that parents “have started to look at milk as not a good thing.”
“The message to them is not to be scared of milk, or to limit its consumption, and to encourage children of all ages to keep drinking it freely,” Eissa said.
What does the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say?
- Breast milk as the sole source of nutrition for children for about the first 6 months.
- At one year, babies should consume approximately 2 servings of dairy per day, or about 16 to a maximum of 24 ounces of whole milk per day.
- Between two and three years old, children should consume 2.5 servings of dairy per day.
An article by verywellfamily.com explores why milk is still recommended.
However, that doesn’t mean milk is “absolutely necessary for a healthy diet,” writes Dr. Claire McCarthy on healthychildren.org.
“Milk has protein and calcium and is fortified with vitamin D,” McCarthy writes. “Other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, can provide the same nutrients, as can ‘alterna-milks’ such as soy milk or almond milk, although you should talk to pediatrician before you switch to one of those.”
One recent study found that switching from milk to water at school could prevent more than a half-million kids from becoming overweight or obese, and trim the costs of obesity by more than $13 billion.
“The nutrition profile doesn’t change much when people increase their plain-water intake, but we do see a significant drop in their saturated fat and sugar intake,” researcher Ruopeng An said.
See other ways to create healthier food environments for Latino and all kids: