What is the Impact of Removing Chocolate Milk from Schools?
Increasing childhood obesity rates have made food intake at school a focal point for policy makers, school administrators, parents, and the media. Flavoured milks are being limited or even eliminated from some schools in Canada and the U.S. … with unintended consequences that could critically hinder optimal nutrient intakes.
Associate Professor, Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Saskatchewan
The American Heart Association’s Scientific Statement on the role of dietary sugars in cardiovascular health concluded that the form in which added sugars are consumed is an important factor. Adding sugar to nutrient-rich foods (e.g., flavoured milk and yogurts) improves diet quality in children and adolescents and has no adverse effects on weight.1
A NHANES study (n=7557 children and adolescents) conducted from 1999 to 2002 showed that:
- those who drank flavoured milk reported significantly higher total milk intakes than consumers of plain milk only (p<0.05)
- sugar intakes were similar among plain milk drinkers, flavoured milk drinkers and non-milk drinkers
- vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium intakes were significantly higher in milk (flavoured or plain) drinkers compared to non-milk drinkers (p<0.05); and
- BMIs of individuals who consumed milk (flavoured or plain) were equal to or lower than those of non-milk drinkers (p<0.05).2
Flavoured milk provides the same essential nutrients as plain milk and is a popular beverage choice for children, accounting for more than two thirds of milk chosen at school lunches.3 Furthermore, the estimated contribution of added sugars from flavoured milk, derived from per capita availability data, is low at <1 g/day, or ~1% of Canadians’ total added sugars intake.4
When flavoured milks are eliminated from schools, the impact is significant. In our recent study, milk consumption dropped 47% when chocolate milk was eliminated from six elementary schools in the greater Saskatoon area.5 Similarly, in a U.S. study that included 49 American elementary schools that stopped offering flavoured milks there was a ~37% decrease in milk consumption.3 Alternate foods to replace the lost nutrients due to reduced milk consumption would require three to four additional foods and result in higher intakes of calories and fat.3
According to the latest national survey of Canadians, ~37% of children and up to 87% of adolescents do not meet the minimum recommended intakes of milk products.6 Flavoured milks, such as chocolate milk, provide another option to help meet recommended intakes of milk products.
- Johnson RK et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2009;120:1011-1020.
- Murphy MM et al. Drinking flavored or plain milk is positively associated with nutrient intake and is not associated with adverse effects on weight status in US children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:631-639.
- Quann EE and Adams D. Impact on milk consumption and nutrient intakes from eliminating flavored milk in elementary schools. Nutr Today 2013;48(3):127-134.
- Statistics Canada. Food Statistics 2009. Minister of Industry, 2010. Catalogue no. 21-020-x.
- Henry C et al. Impact of the removal of chocolate milk from school milk programs for children in Saskatoon, Canada. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2015;40:245-250.
- Statistics Canada, 2006, Nutrition: Findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Overview of Canadians’ Eating Habits. Catalogue no. 82-620-MIE-No. 2.