Does Healthy Food for Kids Include Milk for Toddlers & Teens?

Every public health recommendation pushes dairy as a healthy food for kids. Milk for toddlers is almost a requirement. But is this true or extreme misguidance?

Food pyramids.  School lunches.  The CDC.  The commercials pushing dairy as the solution to every woe facing children today.  Someone who was strongly against dairy much be absolutely crazy.

Or maybe just well educated.

First, we need to address a few things.  First, I’d really like to know the first upright mammal that looked at a cow’s udder and thought to him or herself, “I’ve GOT to try some of that!!”  Most of us remain very distanced from the collection of milk and it’s easy to forget where it comes from when you’re drinking it out of a plastic jug or cardboard carton.

Second, many patients, with a look of horror when I tell them that milk is not a healthy food for kids and adults, ask how they are going to get their calcium to protect bones if they don’t drink milk??  I then ask if cows actually drink milk for their calcium.  Pretty much ends the conversation there (the answer is NO–cows don’t drink milk).

Lastly, we all need to refresh our minds on what mammalian milk is designed to do.  It is designed to take a newborn to a more self sufficient mammal.  It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about humans, cows, sheep or dogs, the goal of mother’s milk is the same.  And no other mammal uses milk for toddlers, teens or adults.

One of the needs of a rapidly growing newborn is glucose.  The brand new cells of the little growing creature need lots and lots of glucose to support all of the metabolic activity going on.  And how do these cells get the sugar they need?  From insulin, of course.  Mammalian milk is well known to stimulate the release of insulin so that the sugar can make it into the cell where it is so desperately needed.

More insulin.  Great idea for a newborn.  NOT a good idea as we get older.  As a matter of fact, the prediabetic state is already having problems with too much insulin because insulin is not working the way it is supposed to.  Forcing the body to release even more is probably not a great idea.

Now that you have some background, we can move on to this particular study.  A group of overweight adolescents (12-15 years old) were studied for 12 weeks on diet that included 1 liter of either skim milk, a drink containing casein, a drink containing whey or water.  Casein and whey are the principle proteins found in milk.

They looked at whether these milk drinks caused the pancreas to work harder to release more insulin (the term is insulinotropic) and whether they contributed to weight gain.  The results?

  1. BMI scores adjusted for age increased with skim milk, casein and whey groups. (Tweet this)
  2. C peptide release (a marker of insulin release by the pancreas) went up in the casein and whey groups.

This is not good news, but not truly unexpected if you understand what mammalian milk was designed to do.  When we give milk for toddlers up through our adult years, you are trying to stimulate rapid growth.  That is what it is SUPPOSED to do.  This, of course, is not such a good idea if you’re already overweight.

With this in mind, do you think we should still promote dairy and milk products as healthy food for kids?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.