The fact that obesity is a clear and present danger to the future health of our children (and our economy) is well-established.  It’s also well-known that milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D — two ingredients necessary for proper growth and good health.  A new study, published in The Archives of Disease in Childhood, looks at obesity’s relationship to the type of milk kids drink, and comes to a curious conclusion:

A recent study analyzed preschoolers’ weights and the type of milk they drank. The heavier kids were actually more likely to be drinking skim or 1 percent milk.

In fact, the children drinking 2 percent or whole milk were less likely to be overweight or obese.

The authors concluded that the recommendation for young children to drink skim milk may not be an effective way to combat obesity. Better recommendations might focus on reducing screen time, increasing vegetables and skipping sugary drinks.


What’s interesting is that the current recommendations regarding the fat content of milk consumed by children have more to do with brain development in children between 1-2 years (whole milk provides more fat for brain myelinization in toddlers) and with the premature development of atherosclerosis in preschoolers and older children (1% or fat-free skim milk deposits less fat in our arteries), than it does with obesity.

Only recently has the AAP addressed the type of milk ingested and obesity, recommending that those toddlers (ages 1-2) who have a family history of obesity or coronary artery disease drink 2% milk instead of whole milk.

Here are some guidelines for normal-weight, healthy children that are generally recommended by pediatricians:

  • 0-12 months (infants):  Breast milk or formula.  (NO whole milk in the first year).
  • 1-2 years:  Whole milk or 2%.  (Nursing mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding AND no milk should be given in a bottle after 12 months old.)
  • 2-4 years:  2% or 1% milk.
  • 4 years and older:  skim milk is preferred, though 1% is acceptable (less fat means more calcium is available for intestinal absorption).


Remember that lots of kids don’t like milk and won’t drink it.  The good news is that you don’t have to fight them over milk:  there are other ways to provide them with calcium, vitamin D, and protein in their diet or with supplements.

It’s probably not helpful to tweak the fat content of the milk you drink based on your body weight or body mass index (BMI).  Most kids don’t drink enough milk to make that much of a difference anyway and, as this study reveals, it’s not helpful for obese children who do.  By the same token, it’s probably not a good idea to continue whole milk in children who are underweight.

The guidelines above are sensible.  For the rest of us:

F Minus






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