Impact of Low Fat Dairy Foods on Children’s Health

Though dairy foods are an important source of nutrition to children, they are high in saturated fat content. This study focuses on the impact of reducing the fat content of dairy products in children’s diet, on the health of the children. Children were randomly assigned to two groups; one fed on reduced dairy fat content and the other group fed on normal dairy products, but with reduced screening times. After 24 weeks, it was observed that the study group had reduced saturated fat intake, but no alteration in either the energy intakes or body fat content.

Dairy foods are rich in vitamin D and calcium, which are essential for growth and bone development. However, these foods are also a very rich source of saturated fatty acids. Australian children are advised to consume diary foods with low fat, yet 60 percent of them consume dairy products with high fat content. Thus, changing the dietary patterns to substitute high fat content with low fat content dairy foods would be advisable, although this change has not been evaluated before. This study was conducted on children, with the involvement of their parents, to assess the effects of reduction in the fat content in dairy products.


  • A total of 96 families with children in the age group of 4-13 years were involved in this study. One group was educated on fat reduction in dairy products, while the other was educated on reducing television screenings at home and encouraging their children to actively participate in drawing, reading and board games.
  • The study group (reduced fat intake) included 76 children; the comparison group included 69 children.
  • Measurement of blood levels of lipids, waist circumference and body mass index of all the children were taken and questionnaires on food intake were filled, at the beginning of the study, after 12 weeks and at 24 weeks.


  • At the end of 24 weeks, those in the study group had an average saturated fat content of 24 g, while those in the comparison group had 32.7 g. The consumption of regular-fat dairy foods reduced from 88 percent to 14 percent by week 12, in the study group.
  • The levels of pentadecanoic acid, a dairy-fat biomarker, were reduced only in children belonging to the study group.
  • Though dairy fat was reduced, there was no significant difference between the total energy intakes in both the groups.
  • The body mass indices and waist circumferences were also similar in both the groups, at the end of the study.

Shortcomings/Next steps
The changes in blood lipid levels as a result of intervention could take longer than the study period; hence, the results in this study could be biased. There were baseline differences in the fat intakes of children in each group. Each family knew the group they belonged to and this could have affected the results of the study.

This study demonstrated that intervention by altering just a single parameter, namely the fat content in dairy products, in children’s diet could affect the total saturated fat content. It was found that with adequate family education, adoption of a reduced-fat content diet of dairy products was a feasible goal. Irrespective of the fat content of dairy products, the levels of calcium and vitamin D were similar in both groups. The levels of vitamin A were higher than the recommended levels in both. Also, mere reduction of screenings and getting children involved in various activities could change dietary behaviors. The total energy consumed did not vary, irrespective of the fat content in dairy products. However, the reduction in saturated fats by varying dairy fat content could lower the risk of heart diseases.

For More Information:
Altering the Fat Content of Dairy Products
Publication Journal: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2011
By Gilly Hendrie; Rebecca Golley
From the University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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