Here’s Why Whole Milk May Be The Best Choice For Kids

It’s clearly on the label in big fat letters. The milk jug says “low fat,” and yet we’re not getting slimmer from drinking water that passes itself off as milk, as Ron Swanson would say.

And new research says that low-fat milk may not actually be the best option for your children.

Recently, a group of Canadian researchers studied close to 2,750 kids between the ages of 1 and 6 years old. The researchers marked each child’s height and weight, and took regular blood samples. Parents told the researchers how much milk each child drank. The four different types of milk were: skim, 1 percent, 2 percent and whole milk.

(Personally, I would have added chocolate and strawberry milk, but I guess we’re trying to beat childhood obesity, not encourage it.)

The researchers wanted to look at the child’s vitamin D levels and body mass index. In order to properly conduct the research, scientists controlled certain factors that could affect children’s vitamin D levels, like the amount of time they play outside and their age.

Let’s take a look at the results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

A child who drinks one cup of whole milk has the same amount vitamin D in their bloodstream as a child who had 2.9 cups of 1 percent milk. As for the child’s BMI, those who drank whole milk had a BMI of 0.79 points lower than those who drank 1 percent milk.

Researchers concluded that if you want your child to have higher vitamin D levels and a lower body mass index, make them drink milk with more fat in it.

How is this possible? The scientists are still confounded by the results, but they have a couple of theories. Dr. Jonathon L. McGuire, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, told the New York Times that vitamin D is better absorbed through fat. He also says when kids drink low-fat milk, they’re not getting enough calories, which makes them hungry for more food, expediting the obesity problem.

This isn’t necessarily a new wave of thinking, though. Another study back in 2012 told parents the same conclusion.

Which is to say Napoleon Dynamite was right all along, and drinking low-fat milk doesn’t actually result in a lower BMI.