Dairy products and moderate fat intake may help kids stay lean

March 10, 2004 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Dairy products and moderate fat intake may help kids stay lean

Diets that are moderate in fat and rich in dairy, fruits and vegetables may guard against obesity in children, a study the Boston University School of Medicine suggests. The study of 106 families showed that children whose diets were either high or low in fat gained more body fat as they grew older than did children whose fat intakes fell somewhere in between.

Among the children the research team followed from preschool age on, those with the highest fat intake (35% or more of daily calories coming from fat) had put on the most body fat by early adolescence. Those who got less than 30% of their calories from fat gained less body fat, but it was the children whose fat intake fell somewhere in between who turned out to be the leanest. These children consumed between 30 and 35% of their calories as fat, somewhat more than the 30% ceiling government guidelines currently recommend.

In addition, children who ate moderate levels of dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese put on less fat than kids with the lowest intake. Fruits and vegetables also appeared to cut fat gain, but dairy products had a stronger influence.

The findings suggest that a diet moderate in fat and heavy in fruits, vegetables and dairy might lower the risk of adolescent obesity. Exactly why dairy products might help prevent excessive fat gain is not fully clear. Animal research suggests that calcium, by acting on hormones that help store calories as fat, could be the reason.

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