Low-Fat Milk May Not Be As Healthy As We Thought, Says Harvard Expert

by | July 3, 2013 at 1:02 PM | Drink, Health

 

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Melanie Haiken, Forbes.com Contributor

Got milk? Well, you might not really need it, according to the current issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Pediatrics. Reduced-fat milk is high in sugar and may be contributing to the obesity epidemic, argues Harvard professor of pediatrics David Ludwig, MD.

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One cup of 2-percent milk contains 12.3 grams of sugar, more than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and almost as much as a chocolate chip cookie. Consider that the recommendations for sugar intake call  for just 12 grams a day (three teaspoons, at 4 grams each) for children. So one serving of milk a day would put a child over the limit, two cups a day would top a woman’s limit of 5 teaspoons, and three cups a day would top a man’s limit of 8-9 teaspoons.

A glass of low-fat milk also provides 122 calories, which may not sound like that much, but by the time you’ve drunk your three servings that’s 366 calories that might be better used elsewhere.

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 In fact, Ludwig says, humans evolved on a diet free of milk, and milk consumption in general is nutritionally unnecessary, as a healthy diet can provide adequate calcium through beans, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and certain types of fish. (Of course, ask any parent; getting kids to eat greens, nuts and fish is another story.)

Recently revised guidelines from the USDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which call for three glasses of reduced-fat milk a day, should be reconsidered, the study argues. The guidelines were drafted with the intent to discourage the consumption of sugary beverages, with the exception of reduced fat milk. That exception may be misguided, opine the study’s authors, who also include noted Harvard nutritionist Walter Willett, MD.

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Ludwig, a pediatric endocrinologist with a PhD in nutrition, specializes in childhood obesity. He also developed the popular Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program for kids at Boston Children’s Hospital. He has published several studies showing that a low glycemic (low sugar) diet may be more effective than a low-fat diet for weight loss in children.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.