Led by researchers in Australia and Denmark, the study of young Danish children showed that substitution of sugary drinks with milk was inversely associated with a change in children’s BMI z-score.
The study comes at a time when milk is being replaced by sugary drinks in many children’s diets.
Favourable effects of milk
The study followed a cohort of Danish children, aged 2-6 years old, over one and a half years.
The children in the study were deemed to have a high predisposition of being overweight in the future (risk factors for future overweight include mothers who were overweight or obese before pregnancy, low socio-economic status, or babies born with a high birth weight).
Replacement of 100g a day of sugary drinks with 100g a day of milk at baseline was ‘inversely and significantly’ associated with the change in BMI z-score.
“Milk should be promoted in lieu of sugary drinks not only as a rich source of essential nutrients for children’s growth and overall health but also for its potential positive effects on body weight regulation,” wrote Miaobing Zheng, one of the authors, in the study.
“The favourable effects of milk when substituted for sugary drinks on body weight may be attributable to several milk constituents such as Ca, conjugated linoleic acids and milk proteins. It has to be noted that reduced fat and skim milk contributed to the majority (approximately 90%) of milk intake by this population, and the proportion of flavoured milk in total milk intake was small (2%.)
“Considering the displacement of milk by sugary drinks among children in recent years, it is prudent to encourage children to consume more milk.
“The results of the present study suggest that body weight status of children with high predisposition to weight gain, whether biological or social in origin, is modifiable. Advising parents of obesity-predisposed young children to replace sugary drinks with milk may be helpful for obesity prevention in such groups.”
The study also considered the impact of replacing sugary drinks with diet drinks. As with milk, replacing 100g a day of sugary drinks with 100g a day of diet drinks also indicated an inverse association with the change in BMI z-score.
However, diet drinks as an alternative option to sugary drinks needs further consideration, particularly among children, said Zheng.
“Although these drinks may be offered to children by parents concerned about their child’s weight, they are not recommended for young children due to the presence of artificial sweeteners, caffeine and their high acidity level. Dental erosion is a particular concern in young children and adolescents.”
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The study supported recommendations that sugary drink consumption should be discouraged, with their study also tracking weight gain among young children who drank sugary drinks.
“Sugary drink consumption was associated with body weight gain among young normal weight children with high predisposition for future overweight,” said Zheng. “In line with current recommendations, sugary drinks, whether high in added or natural sugar, should be discouraged to help prevent childhood obesity.”
Every 100g increase in sugary drink intake was associated with a 0.10kg and 0.06 unit increase in body weight and BMI z-score respectively.
“As sugary drink consumption is only one of many factors that can contribute to weight gain and is easily modifiable, it is important to inform the general public to limit sugary drink consumption in an early age.”
Source: British Journal of Nutrition. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002974
“Replacing sugary drinks with milk is inversely associated with weight gain among young obesity-predisposed children”
M. Zheng, A. Rangan, M. Allman-Farinelli, J. F. Rohde, N. J. Olsen and B. L. Heitmann.