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Chocolate Milk: Improving Diet Quality for Children and Adolescents

Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, MPH, RD

Associate Provost and Professor of Nutrition, University of Vermont

Studies have consistently demonstrated that inclusion of chocolate or flavoured milk in the diets of children and adolescents significantly improves diet quality with no adverse effect on weight. This is substantiated by the American Heart Association’s recent Scientific Statement on the role of dietary sugars on cardiovascular health.

Highlights

  1. Including low-fat or fat-free chocolate milk in children’s and adolescents’ diets can significantly improve their diet quality without adverse effects on their weight.
  2. A large proportion of Canadian children and adolescents are not meeting their minimum recommended servings of milk products and fruits and vegetables.
  3. Chocolate milk represents another option that may help children and adolescents meet their minimum daily recommendations of Milk and Alternatives.

The Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association reports that the form in which added sugars are consumed is an important modifier of the impact on diet quality. Unlike soda and candy, “when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavoured milk and yogurts and sugar-sweetened cereal, the quality of children’s and adolescents’ diets improves and, in the case of flavoured milks, no adverse effects on weight status are found. However, deleterious health effects may occur when sugars are consumed in large amounts.”1

Data collected from NHANES 1999 to 2002 were used to compare nutrient intakes and body mass index measures among 7,557 children and adolescents who drank flavoured milk (with and without plain milk), exclusively plain milk, and no milk.2 The study found that:

  • those who drank flavoured milk reported significantly higher total milk intakes than consumers of plain milk only (p < 0.05);
  • intakes of vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium (adjusted for energy intake and age) were significantly higher in flavoured milk and plain milk drinkers compared to those who did not drink milk (p < 0.05);
  • intake of added sugars did not differ between flavoured milk drinkers and milk non-drinkers; and
  • BMI measures of those who consumed flavoured milk or plain milk were comparable to or lower than BMI measures of non-milk drinkers (p < 0.05).2

These findings are consistent with previous studies in the U.S.,3,4 as well as a recent randomized, controlled trial in Chilean children.5

Eliminating chocolate milk from schools results in a reduction in total milk purchases.6 The experience of New York City, which removed whole milk but retained low fat and fat-free white milk and fat-free chocolate milk in public schools, resulted in school-milk drinking students consuming substantially fewer calories with no long-term impact on milk sales.7 Chocolate milk sales were the most popular, accounting for approximately 60% of milk purchases.7

Currently, a large proportion of children and adolescents in Canada are not meeting the minimum recommended intakes of milk products and fruits and vegetables.8 Flavoured milks such as chocolate milk provide another option to help meet recommended intakes of milk products. Furthermore, the estimated contribution of added sugars from chocolate milk derived from per capita availability data is low at <1 g/day, or less than 1% of Canadians’ total added sugars intake.9

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Keywords: diet quality , american heart association , per capita consumption of chocolate milk , chocolate milk


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