Switch to Low-Fat Milk Lowers Calories for NYC Schoolkids

Simply switching schoolkids to low-fat milk may help them lower their weight.

ByABC News
January 28, 2010, 1:15 PM

Jan. 28, 2010— -- When New York City public schools made the switch from whole milk to skim or low-fat milk, students cut their annual fat and calorie consumption, department researchers found.

Milk-drinking students consumed 5,960 fewer calories and 619 fewer grams of fat per year after they made the switch, Philip Alberti and colleagues reported in the Jan. 29 issue of the CDC's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

At 3,500 calories per pound, the reduction would be the equivalent of 1.7 pounds of body weight over the course of a year.

"The switch to lower-fat milk likely has improved the overall nutritional environment of New York City public schoolchildren," Alberti and colleagues wrote.

On the other hand, most of the low-fat milk consumed was chocolate milk, which has a substantially higher sugar content than unflavored milk, the researchers found.

In 2005, the New York City Department of Education began reviewing its food policies and determined that replacing whole milk with fat-free or low-fat milk could decrease students' fat and calorie intake.

At subsequent board meetings, milk industry advocates suggested that without whole milk or chocolate- or strawberry-flavored milk, student milk consumption would decline, thus decreasing calcium and vitamin intake.

Nonetheless, the Department of Education began phasing out whole milk in 2005, and limited flavored milk to fat-free chocolate milk.

The researchers didn't have data on student consumption of milk, so they analyzed system-wide school milk purchases.

They found that per-student school milk purchases dropped 8 percent between 2004 and 2006, but then gradually began to increase. By 2009, purchases had risen 1.3 percent from five years prior: from 112 per student in 2004 to 114 in 2009.

Fat-free milk accounted for 42 percent of all purchases in 2009, compared with less than 7 percent in 2004.

In 2004, students purchased more than 18 billion calories and 520 million grams of fat in the form of milk. That fell to less than 14 billion calories and 98 million grams of fat in 2009, representing a 25 percent and 81 percent decrease, respectively.