Food Fad Debunked: Milk Doesn't Cause Obesity In Kids

It's impossible to live in the modern world and not be exposed to some food fad or another. The Ketogenic Diet, the Alkaline Diet, the Raw Foods Diet, the Dukan Diet, Whole30 - and that is just in the last year. Pick a fad diet and if you are in the nutrition sphere you can guess what year it happened. Try it yourself: wheat belly, grain brain, and paleo.

And the war on milk and cheese has been going on for decades, with trial lawyer groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) claiming that Big Dairy was manipulating government nutrition standards. Dairy products promote excess weight gain and even increase appetite, they have long claimed, and only huge financial settlements for lawyers at CSPI would stop it.

Obviously, there is no biological basis for their belief but they are not in the science business, nor are nutritionists who just want to get into the New York Times book section. And they are not correct, according to a literature review presented during the European Congress on Obesity which found that dairy is not causing kids or anyone else to get fat. 

Obviously milk is not necessary, most animals stop consuming it after weaning, and many dairy products were created to have something to do with milk, much like the electric toaster was rolled out in order to have something else to do with electricity being constantly produced. But recognizing that it is a part of Western culture is not a reason to deny its nutrient rich quality. Still, some groups not only deny it, they argue it is even harming public health. Government panels are predictably no help against food activists writing with certainty, which is why I argue we need more one-handed scientists speaking to the public. Until we have that, we are stuck because the public has become so jaded by "to and fro" centralized food recommendations - trans fats were saving us 30 years ago, now they cause diabetes - that they just pick and choose whatever they happen to like. 

So scholars from Institut Paul Bocuse (France) and colleagues did a good thing trying to separate wisdom from woo. Examining full and low fat dairy between January 1990 and June 2017, data from 43 cross sectional studies, 32 longitudinal cohort studies, and 20 randomized trials (203,269 individuals) didn't find a relationship between dairy consumption and obesity. Body fatness was not linked to type of milk or dairy products, regardless of the age of the children. Nine studies did claim some positive association between dairy products and body fatness, but giving unreasonable weight to a few outliers to achieve a predetermined result is how IARC monographs get written, it is not science.

This is bad news for the plant juice market and its claims about their substitutions for real milk being healthier. Like with trans fats decades ago, almond milk and all the rest may be benefiting from scaremongering.