Study: Flavored Milk not Related to Weight Gain in Children

  • Article
  • May 17, 2016

Whether or not children should be allowed to drink flavored milk is a topic of discussion across the nation. While flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk – including three under consumed nutrients identified by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) (calcium, potassium and vitamin D) – there is concern that the added sugar and higher caloric content of some flavored milks may negatively impact children’s overall diet quality and body weight.

National Dairy Council has been exploring this topic through nutrition research efforts and presented our latest findings at the American Society for Nutrition’s (ASN) 80th annual Experimental Biology (EB) conference. The goal of this research was to examine the relationship between flavored milk consumption,* diet quality and body weight in children (2-18 years of age) from different ethnic backgrounds.

Results from this study showed that flavored milk consumption may not be related to increased body weight in American children and adolescents, which builds upon previous data we’ve seen. Specifically, this study showed that: 

  • For most ages and ethnicities, there was no difference in the overall diet quality between children who included flavored milk in their diet and those who did not, with a few exceptions:
    • Mexican males (12-17 years) and non-Hispanic white females (2-5 years) who consumed flavored milk had a worse overall diet quality compared to their counterparts who did not consume flavored milk.
    • However, non-Hispanic black females (12-17 years) who consumed flavored milk had a better overall diet quality.
  • Additionally, regardless of age and ethnicity, children who consumed flavored milk were better at meeting the recommended amounts of dairy compared to the children who did not consume flavored milk.

Overall these results serve as a good reminder that flavored milk represents an important option for children and adolescents to meet dairy recommendations — within calorie and added sugar limits — which can help them meet the nutrients their growing bodies need.

While nutrition experts recommend limiting added sugar in the diet, it’s important to look at the full nutrient package when selecting a food or beverage. Flavored milk contributes just 3 percent of added sugars to kids’ diets and, regardless of flavor, milk is the number one food source of nine essential nutrients for children and adolescents.

*National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) food survey component What We Eat in America 2001-2012 data was used for this analysis. Diet quality was determined using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI).