Any time I can find science that doesn’t freak people out, and in fact calms fears, I am thrilled. When formerly demonized foods/nutrients like eggs, salt, coffee, or whatever are rebutted, I jump for joy. For a long time, I’ve been skeptical about the low-fat/fat-free dairy push and hype. Not only skeptical, but worried with the obesity panic that one year-olds are put on skim or low-fat milk and are not getting enough fat. When my daughter was in Kindergarten, she was teased by peers for choosing 1% milk, “That has fat in it, you’ll get fat!” Teens who worry about weight drink diet soda instead of milk…
I’m not here to push people to eat or drink one thing over another. Those are personal decisions. But I am happy to share that a recent review of available research can help allay fears about fat in dairy. If you like full-fat cheese, or 2% milk, if your child only eats whole-fat yogurt, you are not harming your child, and there are those who feel dairy fats are actually beneficial. (Lots of science is ongoing on this topic.) And they taste so, so good (to me anyway.) So, enjoy the milk that tastes good to you and your child—even if it’s whole milk! Enjoy your cheese and your yogurt smoothie…
The study: (from the abstract)
The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease.
We have conducted a systematic literature review of observational studies on the relationship between dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease. We have integrated these findings with data from controlled studies showing effects of several minor dairy fatty acids on adiposity and cardiometabolic risk factors, and data on how bovine feeding practices influence the composition of dairy fat.
The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk. Although not conclusive, these findings may provide a rationale for future research into the bioactive properties of dairy fat and the impact of bovine feeding practices on the health effects of dairy fat.
Here is what I wrote in my book, Love Me, Feed Me about dairy and fat:
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage all Americans to increase intake of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products to the recommended daily amounts: 2 cups for children two to three years of age, 21⁄2 cups for children four to eight years of age, and 3 cups for those nine years of age and older. Milk is the number one food source of three of the four nutrients the DGA identified as lacking in the American diet: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
The following are some thoughts on serving dairy:
- Try not to focus on serving recommendations. Aim for an average over several days. If you try to push a certain number of servings every day, that invites pressure, and you know what that does.
- No studies show that fat-free dairy for small children lowers body mass index (BMI), and there is concern that fat-free dairy tactics cause some young children to not get enough fat. Infants and toddlers less than two years of age need 30 to 40 percent of their calories from fat, and dairy can help provide that. Another study showed that the kids who drank whole milk actually had the lowest BMI scores of the children studied.
- After age two, children need about 25 to 30 percent of their calories from fat. The recommendation is to switch to 2 percent or 1 percent milk at that time.
• Diets too low in fat can result in vitamin deficiencies, as vitamin A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, meaning they need to be ingested with some fat so they can be absorbed by the body.
The bottom line is to enjoy what tastes good. If your teen will only drink 2 percent milk or even whole milk, but it is within the framework of a healthy feeding relationship, I believe you can feel good serving those choices.