Milking it: Why dairy diet keeps the fat away

THE message that milk is good for you is being trumpeted home once again.

Research shows that one in five children in this country aged between five and 12 years is either overweight or obese.

Children are being urged to drink up their school milk — because it can stop them becoming obese and boost their calcium levels. One in three children in the same age bracket does not consume adequate calcium to meet their needs.

Worried about this rising trend for the nation’s long-term health, experts cite poor dietary habits and lack of regular exercise among children. Parents are being encouraged to safeguard their children’s nutritional status and long-term health by making milk part of mealtime routine — and to have their children avail of the school milk scheme.

Subsidised by the EU, milk is available in the country’s nursery, primary and secondary schools.

The Department of Health suggests that, as part of a healthy diet, children should have three daily servings of dairy.

The importance of dairy products as a source of calcium, for bone growth and development is well established.

US professor of medicine Robert Heaney at Creighton University, Omaha, said yesterday the benefits of dairy products go beyond being good for bones.

“It is essential to educate people about the wider importance of dairy, since the consumption of dairy products within the framework of a well-balanced diet isassociated with less obesity,” he said.

Dairy products, he added, are an exceptional nutritional package conveying a wide spectrum of health benefits.

Contrary to the conventional impression, dairy is not fattening, said Prof Heaney.

“People with high dairy intakes do not weigh more than individuals with low intakes, and including dairy in a weight reduction regime can help substantially,” he said.

Two significant pieces of USresearch on children’s diets and lifestyles showed that following a dairy-rich diet from a young age leads to lower weight gain and small increases in body fat throughout childhood and into adolescence.

This was despite consuming a larger range of nutrients, including calories, fat, saturates, calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and A.

These results — from the Framingham Children’s Study and the National Health And Nutrition Education Survey — build upon considerable scientific evidence supporting a role for dairy products in body-weight control.

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