Parents are being urged to serve skim milk to their kids, despite some evidence showing that full-fat dairy is what’s needed for growing bodies.
Current health guidelines recommend giving children over the age of two low-fat dairy, including milk and cheese, rather than the regular stuff .
But confusingly, these guidelines go against a new Australian study that shows little or no benefits to young adults who eat low-fat dairy over the full-fat option.
The Dietitians Association of Australia recommends adults and children over the age of two should consume reduced-fat dairy, urging parents to choose the healthier choice when it comes to milk, yoghurt and cheese.
Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend most people eat two and a half to four serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or calcium alternatives – all mostly reduced fat – each day. A serve of dairy equals one cup (250ml) of milk, two slices (40g) of cheese or one tub (200g) of yoghurt.
Health bodies globally recommend reduced-fat dairy products for adults and children aged over two, but the findings from Edith Cowan University researchers and published in the journal Nutrients found that full-fat dairy may be just as beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Dr Therese O’Sullivan examined the eating habits of 860 Australian teenagers from early to late adolescence.
“We have long been recommending people eat low-fat dairy on the assumption that because it has less calories and less saturated fat it is healthier for you, but there was very little out there in terms of good evidence that this is the case,” she says.
“When we examined the cholesterol profile of these teenagers we found that those who ate more low-fat dairy were no better off.
“In fact, we were able to show that for teenage boys, full-fat dairy consumption was associated with a slightly better cholesterol profile than low-fat dairy. Intakes of both low-fat and regular fat dairy products were associated with better blood pressure in boys.”
The researchers also examined the waist-to height ratio of the teenagers in the study to evaluate obesity and found no link between the type of dairy eaten and obesity.
“Given that it has less calories per serve, it was assumed that low-fat dairy would help children and teenagers maintain a healthy weight, but we found that neither low fat nor regular fat products increased risk of obesity,” says Dr O’Sullivan.
“This could be because children and teenagers are actually quite good at regulating their food intake, so eating full-fat dairy makes them feel more full, potentially reducing their consumption of other foods, but this is something that requires further research.”