The number of overweight and obese infants and children, aged 0 to 5, has increased from 32 million worldwide in 1990 to 41 million in 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Obesity in childhood has been linked to a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of developing diseases prematurely, including diabetes and heart disease. In the United States, childhood obesity is a serious problem. Among children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19, the prevalence of obesity is 18.5%, or approximately 13.7 million. Obesity has been linked to various health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer. Excess milk consumption has been linked to cardiovascular and cancer risk. Most children in North America consume cow’s milk every day. As obesity rates rise in the United States, doctors recommend that children 2 years of age and younger consume low-fat cow’s milk to reduce weight gain and its associated complications.
Now, researchers have found that babies who drink whole milk have a 40% reduced risk of being overweight or obese compared to those who drink low-fat milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants switch from whole milk to reduced-fat milk at age 2, while the NHS guidelines have issued similar recommendations, but also said that fat in milk provides calories for babies. and contains important vitamins. A team of researchers from St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, wanted to assess the link between fat consumption in cow’s milk and the risk of being overweight or obese in children between the ages of 1 and 18. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed 28 studies from seven countries, involving approximately 21,000 children. Researchers found that those who drank low-fat milk had a reduced risk of adiposity (weight gain) and were less likely to develop obesity. In addition, 18 of the 28 studies showed that babies who consumed whole milk had a 40% lower risk of becoming overweight or obese.
The researchers said ten of the 28 studies did not find a connection between eating whole milk and a lower risk of becoming obese. However, they said none of the studies have shown that drinking low-fat milk can reduce the risk of obesity. The study results test current Canadian and international guidelines that recommend children to drink low-fat cow’s milk instead of whole milk when they reach the age of two to reduce their risk of obesity. It is possible that babies who drink whole milk are thinner as they feel fuller after drinking than those who consumed the same amount of low-fat milk. Hence, they are less likely to snack on other food items, such as bread, cookies, and chips, which can lead to obesity. The researchers hope to further explore the cause and effect of whole milk and how it reduces the risk of obesity through a randomized controlled trial. They added that the studies they looked at were all observational studies, which means they aren’t sure whether whole milk caused the reduced risk of obesity or that it could be related to other factors.
Dr. Jonathan Maguire, lead author and pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital, commented, “Most children in Canada and the United States consume cow’s milk daily and is a major contributor to dietary fat for many children. Our previous data showed that consumption of whole milk in children is very little associated with the occurrence of non-HDL cholesterol, which is a marker of cardiovascular disease, but not more likely to have high non-HDL cholesterol. In our review, infants who followed the current recommendation to switch to low-fat milk at age two were no thinner than those who consumed whole milk. We need to learn more to understand how fat metabolism in children works. Randomized trials will be needed to determine which cow’s milk fat minimizes the risk of excess fat. “
Edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.
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