While dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are rich in important nutrients, the full-fat varieties of these foods can contribute too much saturated fat in children’s diets. However, a recent study assessed the impact of switching to reduced-fat dairy products on kids’ weight and found that even though they took in less saturated fat, the low-fat dairy had no effect on total calories or body fat. Bottom line, the low-fat dairy may help them be healthier, but it won’t help them be less hefty.
The 24-week randomized control trial involved 93 families with 4- to 13-year-olds. The families were randomly assigned to one of two groups, either one that educated parents on switching to reduced-fat dairy or a control group where parents learned about reducing TV viewing time. Saturated fat, calorie and nutrient intake along with BMI and waist circumference, in addition to blood levels of lipids were taken at the beginning of the study and again at weeks 12 and 24.
Although there were no differences in dairy intake between the groups, saturated fat intake in the reduced-fat dairy group was 3.3 percent lower. Researchers also found a decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels in the low-fat education group. While this group took in more calcium, magnesium and carbohydrates than the control group, there were no significant differences in total calorie intake or body fat measures.
For children who are overweight, choosing lower-fat dairy products may improve their saturated fat and cholesterol levels, but other measures may need to be taken to help them reach a healthy weight. When it comes to reducing this risk of obesity, increasing the amount of high-fiber, plant-based foods in the diet (nuts, grains and vegetables) may be more beneficial than nutrient-rich dairy products.