The dairy dilemma: Low-fat is not necessarily better for kids

March 02, 2020

Children who consume full-fat dairy products do not show an increased risk of obesity or heart disease, according to an Edith Cowan University (ECU) research finding that raises questions about the current dietary advice for children.

Published today in Advances in Nutrition, the ECU research reviewed 29 studies from around the world that examined consumption of full-fat dairy products in children.

The researchers found there was no clear link between the consumption of whole-fat dairy products and weight gain, high cholesterol or high blood pressure in children. However, most studies were observational, with a lack of good quality trials noted.

The systematic review of research was a collaboration between ECU, the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the United States.

Not the enemy first thought

The study's lead author, Associate Professor Therese O'Sullivan from ECU's School of Medical and Health Sciences, said the findings highlighted the need for better evidence in this area.

"Dietary guidelines in Australia and other countries recommend children primarily consume reduced-fat dairy products to maintain a healthy weight and good cardiovascular health," she said.

"We found studies were consistent in reporting that whole-fat dairy products were not associated with increased levels of weight gain or obesity.

"Reduced-fat dairy is generally recommended for both adults and children over the age of two years due to its lower energy and saturated fat content.

"However, studies suggest children who consumed low-fat over full-fat dairy were actually replacing those calories from fat with other foods.

"This suggests that low-fat dairy is not as filling as whole-fat dairy, which may lead kids to consume more of other foods. Health effects may depend on what these replacement foods are."

Conflicting advice

With childhood obesity an important issue, the need for evidence-based guidelines for parents has never been greater, according to Associate Professor O'Sullivan.

"Parents are already overwhelmed by conflicting advice for kids' nutrition, especially when it comes to full-fat versus low-fat dairy," she said.

"We need more good quality research to inform evidence-based guidelines for parents, even if that means rethinking what we thought we knew about dairy."

Fats are not all equal

Associate Professor O'Sullivan also said whole-fat dairy may play an important role in a balanced diet for growing children.

"Dairy is a good dietary source of nutrients for healthy development, including protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and several vitamins," she said.

"Even though the fats found in whole-fat dairy are mostly saturated fats, they don't appear to be associated with the same detrimental health effects observed with foods like fatty meats."

Towards the future

Associate Professor O'Sullivan is also leading ECU's Milky Way Study in collaboration with the University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute. The randomised controlled trial is investigating the effects of dairy fat intake in children, and results are expected in mid-2020.
-end-
'Whole-fat or reduced-fat dairy product intake, adiposity, and cardiometabolic health in children: a systematic review' was published in Advances in Nutrition.

Media contacts: Ben Jones, Senior Communications Adviser, 08 6304 2381, pr@ecu.edu.au

Tori Pree, Communications Coordinator, 08 6304 2208, pr@ecu.edu.au

Edith Cowan University

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.