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Low-Fat Milk: Not as Healthy As Previously Believed to Be

Update Date: Jul 03, 2013 12:49 PM EDT

Milk has always been perceived as a food staple, especially for young children since it is full of calcium and other nutrients that promote growth.  In recent years, some healthy experts have recommended people to switch to low-fat milk as they age due to the high fat content of whole milk. Despite providing adults with a supposedly healthier version of milk, a Harvard professor of pediatrics, David Ludwig, MD stressed in his report that low-fat milk is not as healthy as people believe.

According to Ludwig, low-fat milk tends to have higher levels of sugar, which could also contribute to obesity. Ludwig looked at the nutritional value of one cup of two-percent milk and noted that it contains 12.3 grams of sugar. This amount surpasses the sugar levels of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. On top of that, the recommended daily value of sugar intake is just 12 gams a day for young children, which is equivalent to three teaspoons. Based on this recommendation, two cups of reduced-fat milk would surpass the sugar limit set for female adults and three cups a day would go over the limit set for men.

"Americans are consuming billions of gallons of milk a year, presumably under the assumption that their bones would crumble without them," Ludwig wrote in his report.

In terms of calorie count, Ludwig acknowledges the fact that one serving of 122 calories is relatively low. But when children, who tend to drink more milk than adults, consume more than one serving, they could be gaining a lot of excess calories that contribute to obesity as well. Ludwig believes that it would be best if children got their source of calcium from other produces, such as leafy greens, nuts and some types of fish. Despite his recommendation, getting children to eat these types of food could be difficult.

As of right now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommend children to drink three glasses of low-fat milk per day. Ludwig believes that these guidelines should be revised because they are misleading. The guidelines were recently revised to discourage children from drinking sugary beverages with the hopes that they would pick up a glass of milk over a can of soda.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.

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