Many children prefer chocolate milk over plain milk. My own daughter loves the occasional chocolate milk as a special treat. However, recent concerns about added sugar have resulted in many school programs removing flavored milk from menus. Now a new study from Canada concludes that total milk intake among children decreases when schools eliminate chocolate milk.
Milk contains nutrients essential for healthy growth and development during childhood such as calcium and vitamin D. Both are vital for healthy bones and teeth. Insufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D during childhood and adolescence often causes low bone mass during adulthood. Milk also contains protein and other important nutrients.
Because of the growing obesity epidemic and concerns about added sugar, many schools have eliminated flavored milks such as chocolate milk from school menus, leading to concerns about decreased milk intake.
For the present study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada sought to measure milk consumption. both plain and flavored, by children in an elementary school environment and to investigate factors contributing to milk choice.
Using a mixed-method research design across six schools for 12 weeks, the researchers measured milk waste among students between first and eighth grade. The children received both plain milk and chocolate milk during the first and last four weeks but only plain milk during the middle four weeks.
Students in grades five through eight also completed Beverage Frequency Questionnaires to assess usual beverage consumption. The researchers also performed focus groups with the fifth through eighth graders to determine the influences on beverages choices including whether or not students drank milk.
According to the study, total milk intake decreased by 12.3 percent upon eliminated chocolate milk, from 26.6 percent to 14.31 percent.
Rural students and those students receiving free milk consumed the greatest amount of milk. Environmental factors as well as taste, cost, convenience, and variety influenced milk drinking decisions.
Additionally, using nutrient modeling, the researchers discovered that chocolate milk is more cost-efficient and convenient for providing nutrients than alternative food and drink combinations.
As the researchers conclude, eliminating chocolate milk from school menus significantly decreases total milk intake. Although schools have largely removed flavored milks because of concerns about added sugar, the researchers suggest that policies should be in place to promote drinking milk rather than limiting the beverage. That rural and low income students consume the most milk further adds to questions about removing chocolate milk from schools.
The researchers finally suggest further studies to determine whether children will accept lower sugar varieties of chocolate milk.
Impact of the removal of chocolate milk from school milk programs for children in Saskatoon, Canada: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/apnm-2014-0242#.VLsqokfF8xE
Removing chocolate milk from school program led to a huge drop in total milk intake: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/288040.php
Child Drinking Chocolate Milk: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/278049