For the Love of Whole Milk

As a physician, I should be presenting oral arguments about the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court. If you read the article below, you will probably agree with me by the time you finish.

But I digress. Let me first discuss how school lunch guidelines were modified by “experts” to remove whole milk from the diet of school aged children.

When I first went into practice, whole milk was the standard dietary recommendation for all children below the age of 5. In my opinion, whole milk and other full fat foods (including real butter) will always be better for children, as they need fat for optimal growth and development. However, childhood obesity has become a national epidemic. Despite the cause of obesity being multi-factorial, reducing intake of whole fat dairy products was targeted to improve our diets.

Full-fat dairy products contain more calories, so “experts” assumed avoiding them would reduce risk of obesity. However, when people reduce fat intake, they tend to replace it with sugar or carbohydrates, both of which have worse effects on insulin, diabetes risk, and weight gain overall. Absolutely NO scientific evidence exists that people who consume low-fat dairy do better metabolically than those who eat whole-fat dairy. Not one study ever demonstrated children benefit from skim dairy products versus whole fat dairy either. So why exactly were “obesity experts” recommending low fat dairy?

In 2010, the President put together a Task Force on Child Obesity. These so-called “experts” who reformed school lunch guidelines decided to offer only low-fat milk or skim chocolate milk (with its added sugars) at school and removed whole milk from the menu. Guess what? Not ONE member of the Obesity task force was an MD, let alone a pediatrician. Five of the 9 members were lawyers!

To be fair, many of the dietary modifications were based on a report from the National Academies' Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2009 entitled School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. There was one nutritional pediatrician involved. Repeat. The opinion of ONE pediatrician determined dietary recommendations for the entire nation of school-aged children.

WIC and Head Start, responsible for supplying food to economically disadvantaged children in America, followed suit and withdrew whole milk as an option, allowing only low fat dairy products. You might be surprised to hear Pediatricians are not setting WIC and Head Start policies either. It sure is a good thing we have these lawyers/obesity experts out there on the front lines fighting childhood obesity one glass of skim chocolate milk at a time.

In a new study published in the journal Circulation, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and his colleagues reviewed blood samples from 3,333 adults in the Nurses’ Health Follow-up Study over 15 years. People ingesting more full-fat dairy had a 46% lower risk of getting diabetes during the study period compared to those with lower levels of intake. The connection between full-fat dairy intake and lower diabetes risk remained strong independent of weight gain.

Another recent study published in the American Journal of Nutrition, analyzed the effects of full fat and low fat dairy on obesity and found that amongst 18,438 women in the Women’s Health Study; those who consumed the most high-fat dairy products lowered their risk of being overweight or obese by 8%. Research suggests people who consume full-fat dairy weigh less and are less likely to develop diabetes, too.

Now there IS convincing evidence whole fat dairy may help lower the risk of obesity and diabetes. At the simplest level, fat increases satiety by slowing absorption of sugar, therefore regulating insulin and glucose release. People ingesting higher fat may not feel as hungry and may have less craving for sugary foods. But as a pediatrician, what could I possibly know about nutrition in children?

Having an MD after my name means I had to actually learn the biochemical mechanisms in the human body for breaking down carbohydrates, fat, and protein. When “experts” began spouting off about low fat dairy products being better for children, most pediatricians knew they were probably wrong before they finished their sentences. We are considered experts on the pediatric segment of the population. Despite all those years of education, we had no influence on WIC, Head Start, or federal school lunch guidelines.

Who knew I needed to be a lawyer/obesity expert on the Childhood Obesity Task Force to really impact American children and their diet? Hopefully, these studies will help point “obesity experts” in the right direction. In the interim, I think it is high time this “physician/constitutional expert” presents oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. Its not like I need to know what I am talking about, right?

Go enjoy a glass of whole milk.

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