Children who drink flavoured milk have best nutrient intake, Australian research
An Australian study has found that children who drink flavoured milk are nearly twice as likely to meet their daily calcium targets as exclusively plain milk drinkers.
The study, published recently by Australian dietitians in the international peer-reviewed publication ‘Nutrition Research’, found that 31 per cent of Australian children do not drink milk and only consume it via other foods, such as cereal, and that 11 per cent do not consume milk in any form. Children who drink milk from a cup or glass consumed twice as much milk as children who only have milk on cereal or in other foods.
The study found that children who drink plain or flavoured milk from a cup or glass are between 4 and 5 times more likely to reach their recommended daily nutrient intake than non-milk drinkers. The research also showed that drinking milk had no negative impact on children’s body weight, with no between-group differences found in body mass index, waist circumference or physical activity.
The new research further analysed data from an earlier study, the Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, which found that 60 per cent of Australian children aged between 9 and 16 years do not meet their daily calcium requirements.
The study examined children who drink exclusively plain milk, children who drink plain and flavoured milk, children who only consume milk via cereal or other foods, and children who consume no milk at all.
“Milk is an excellent source of nine essential nutrients and consequently adequate dairy and milk intake has been shown to help children meet nutrient requirements and improve their overall diet quality,” said one of the study’s authors Dr Flavia Fayet Moore of Nutrition Research Australia (NRA).
In addition to calcium, the study found that milk drinking from a glass or cup was associated with higher intakes of magnesium – another nutrient of concern among Australian children – as well as higher intakes of phosphorus, potassium and iodine.
The study found that exclusively plain milk drinkers are 4.1 times more likely to meet their daily calcium targets than children who do not consume milk in any way. Children who drink flavoured milk were 5 times more likely to meet their daily calcium targets than non-consumers of milk.
“When small amounts of sugar are added to a nutrient rich food such as milk, the quality of children’s diets improves,” said Dr Moore.
Dr Moore said the study showed that encouraging children to drink milk from a glass or cup may be an important and simple way of helping children to reach the recommended calcium intake levels, and that flavoured milk could be a good way to encourage milk consumption in children who do not like plain milk. Further clinical trials would be important to determine the effect of milk intake on bone health and body size.
The new Australian study comes shortly after research from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation found that milk as a source of protein is superior to a mixed diet.