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    Chocolate Milk Seen as Unfair Target in Obesity Blame Game

    Scientific evidence and public opinion support the sweetly flavored, calcium-rich drink.

    Chocolate milk’s dark reputation of late may be about to turn around, thanks to scientific evidence and public opinion that support the sweetly flavored, calcium-rich drink.
     
    By linking chocolate milk to childhood obesity, critics of the beverage have helped influence school districts across the country to ban it from school lunch menus -- notably Los Angeles Unified School District (within which are 688,000 students) after the 2011 school year, citing the amount of sugar served in flavored milk.
     
    Minneapolis School District also banned chocolate milk last year. However, Minneapolis’ decision was opposed by the Midwest Dairy Association, as well as scientific communities, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. They cited evidence that flavored milk is an easy way for children to get nine nutrients (calcium; protein; vitamins A, D, and B12; potassium; riboflavin; niacin and phosphorus) and the cost of 20 to 40 additional calories (depending on the brand of chocolate milk) compared to regular low-fat milk is low.
     
    Chocolate milk is also gaining fans from some unexpected places: For instance, several pro athletes appearing in new “Got Milk?” ads say they “refuel with chocolate milk.”
     
    Additionally, several studies cited by the Minneapolis Star Tribune suggest that by eliminating chocolate milk in schools, overall milk consumption drops by at least one-third -- meaning, those valuable nutrients aren’t getting to students. And there is growing evidence that kids that stop drinking milk altogether at school simply replace it with other sweetened drinks (without the nutrients), and don’t drink more milk at home.
     
    Dr. James Rippe, a cardiologist who founded the Rippe Lifestyle Institute, a research laboratory dedicated to short- and long-term health actions, and a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Central Florida, entered the debate recently at the School Nutrition Association national conference. While conducting a series of studies (with adults) searching for nutritional and other dietary differences between high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (regular sugar), he also found evidence to invalidate claims that chocolate (or flavored milk) contributes to obesity.

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