Children drinking full-fat milk are less likely to be overweight than those who consume semi-skimmed, studies have revealed.
Researchers believe whole milk makes youngsters feel more full so they are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods or guzzle fizzy drinks.
A review of 14 scientific studies found children aged one to 18 given blue-top milk were almost 40 percent less likely to be overweight or obese. This was compared with those who drank semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
The NHS advice is for older children to consume lower-fat milks because ‘having too much fat in your diet can result in you becoming overweight’.
But Dr. Jonathon Maguire, review author and a pediatrician at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said: ‘Children following the current recommendation of switching to reduced-fat milk were not leaner than those consuming whole milk.’
Children who drink cows’ milk are taller, with stronger bones and teeth, studies show. Whole milk can be given to youngsters from the age of one, but there are concerns it could cause obesity, as it is at least 3.5 percent fat.
That is why dairies skim off some of the creams from the milk, producing skimmed milk which is no more than 0.3 percent fat, 1 percent milk or semi-skimmed which is 1.5 to 1.8 percent fat.
The Canadian researchers analyzed studies including 21,000 children, comparing those drinking full-fat milk with those consuming milk with 0.1 to 2% fat.
Across 28 studies, including three from the UK, none showed that children drinking low-fat milk had lower odds of being overweight. But 18 out of 28 studies showed that children who consumed low-fat milk were more likely to be overweight or obese.
The researchers suggest this could be because skimmed milk is less filling so children may eat too much of other calorific foods and snacks afterward.
When 14 studies were analyzed separately, they showed that children who consumed full-fat milk were 39 percent less likely than those who consumed skimmed or semi-skimmed milk to be overweight or obese.
Among children aged two to 11, based on seven studies, every one percent increase in the fat content of the milk they drank meant a quarter lower odds of being obese or overweight.
Experts point out that whole milk contains trans-palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid found in dairy products which is believed to lower levels of bad cholesterol.
But researchers cannot be sure that full-fat milk helps children stay a healthy weight, they conclude in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It may just be that parents dish out whole milk to children who were underweight to start with, in order to fatten them up, or give overweight children skimmed milk to help them slim down.