Low Fat Milk Impact, Sugary Drinks and Deaths, Plant-based Diet and Dementia

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • The latest research seems to suggest that giving toddlers 1% or skim milk in an effort to prevent obesity may not yield dramatic benefits.  This practice was recently adopted, with the American Academy of Pediatrics even suggesting a swap to 1% or skim milk at age 1 (if no contraindications to the lower calorie/fat beverage was present) in an effort to head off obesity.  Researchers at University of Virginia School of Medicine reviewed data on 10,700 US children ages 2 and 4 and noted, that the children who drank skim or 1% milk had higher BMIs than those who drank 2% or whole milk.  Since the data was surprising, the researchers did look for some explanations.  They theorize that families with “already overweight or obese toddlers” may be the ones strongly directed to offer skim or 1% milk to the children, so the study is clearly identifying kids who are already carrying excess weight, but who may not be losing enough weight to showcase the impact.  In some cases, parent reporting (since this was a survey) may not be factual.  And the actual intent of the study was to “curb saturated fat” and not to identify weight changes or specifically, weight loss – so again, the researchers might need to change the survey parameters to reflect specific impact on consumption of the lower calorie milks and weight change observations in the children.

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    Bottom line: More studies are needed and pediatricians still recommend that the lower calorie/lower fat milks should be the go-to choice in light of current obesity trends.


    More than 180,000 deaths worldwide reported in 2010 were reported as directly connected to consumption of sugar-laden drinks, according to a recent study.  In the US, 25,000 deaths in that year were reported as directly connected to consumption of high sugar beverages.  The findings by a research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health, Gitanjal Singh, were presented at a recent American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.  Those against a soda tax and other government policies that would restrict sugary beverages, feel that the “direct correlation” does not exist specifically in this study.  They interpret the findings to suggest that high consumption of these specific drinks correlates to “deaths from heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.”  So the claim that “sugary drinks kill” is overstepping the study’s findings, since sugary drink consumption is often paired with other poor eating and lifestyle habits and may not be the singular cause of deaths.

    Bottom line: Sugary drinks have way too many calories and regular consumption may contribute to health risks and chronic conditions that carry a high degree of mortality.


    Neal Barnard, author of the new book Power Foods, suggests that eating a plant-based diet, increasing the number of hours you sleep, and exercising regularly, may protect you from developing memory problems later in life.  Dr. Barnard also has a PBS special, Protect Your Memory, airing in spring.  He suggests eating from “his” four food groups – fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables, keeping oils low, and totally avoiding saturated and trans fats, excess iron, copper and aluminum.  Critics say he uses epidemiological studies that observe people over time, instead of the gold standard double blind randomized, controlled studies to support the diet's claims.  Some researchers point out that even vegans and vegetarians develop Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Bottom line:  There is little doubt that lifestyle and specifically the kinds of foods we eat regularly may be one strong component of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease risk.  The benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet are numerous.  For those not inspired to overhaul their diet completely, reducing animal fats as protein sources in the diet, and limiting highly processed foods, may be easier goals.

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Published On: March 22, 2013