Prior studies have provided conflicting evidence regarding associations of pediatric milk consumption with subsequent adiposity.
We aimed to estimate associations of the frequency and fat content of early childhood milk intake with early adolescent adiposity and cardiometabolic risk.
: We analyzed data collected prospectively from 796 children in Project Viva, a Boston-area pre-birth cohort. Parents reported the frequency (times/day) and fat content (higher-fat: whole (3.25%) or 2%; lower-fat: 1% or skim) of cow's milk consumed in early childhood (mean 3.2 years) via food-frequency questionnaires. We measured adiposity and cardiometabolic markers in early adolescence (mean 13.2 years) and conducted multivariable regression to assess associations adjusted for baseline parental and child sociodemographic, anthropometric, and dietary factors.
In early childhood, mean milk intake was 2.3 times/day (standard deviation [SD] 1.2), and 63% of children drank primarily higher-fat milk. Early childhood BMI z-score (BMIz) was inversely associated with the fat content of milk consumed in early childhood. After adjustment for baseline parent and child factors, early childhood intake of higher-fat compared with lower-fat milk was associated with lower adiposity; however, the 95% confidence intervals (CI) for most adiposity outcomes-except for odds of overweight/obesity (OR 0.60; 95% CI: 0.38, 0.93)-crossed the null after adjustment for baseline child BMIz and BMIz change between ages 2 and 3 years. Early childhood consumption of higher-fat milk (vs. lower-fat milk) was not associated with adverse cardiometabolic outcomes. The frequency of cow's milk consumed in early childhood was not associated with adiposity or cardiometabolic risk in early adolescence.
Consumption of higher-fat cow's milk in early childhood was not associated with increased adiposity or adverse cardiometabolic health over a decade later. Our findings do not support current recommendations to consume lower-fat milk to reduce the risk of later obesity and adverse cardiometabolic outcomes. Clinical Trial Registry Number: NCT02820402 (https://clinicaltrials.gov/).