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Sask. study strengthens case for chocolate milk

Pulling chocolate milk from schools over its sugar and calorie content may drive down children’s overall milk consumption at school and make the nutritional benefits tougher to replace, a new Saskatchewan study finds.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, with funding from Dairy Farmers of Canada, have now looked at the impact on milk consumption when chocolate milk was taken out of the milk program at six schools in the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Division during four weeks in a 12-week study period.

Not unlike similar U.S. studies in 2009 and 2013, the Saskatchewan team found removing flavoured milks from school milk programs cut the number of students choosing milk by 41 per cent.

Total milk intake at school dropped by 12.3 per cent when chocolate milk was removed from the schools, the Saskatchewan study found. Focus groups with students revealed milk choice was influenced by “environmental factors” as well as “taste, cost, convenience and variety.”

The study also found rural students and/or students receiving free milk drank the greatest amount of milk.

Overall milk consumption in the schools was “already fairly low,” the university noted Thursday in a release, as children tended to go for sugary fruit juices and fruit-flavoured drinks.

Also, out of the plain milk still chosen, the Saskatchewan study also found a greater amount of milk wasted, relative to the chocolate counterpart.

“Nutrients reduced”

Furthermore, the study found, nutrient modelling by the U.S.-based Prime Consulting Group showed chocolate milk to be “more cost-efficient and convenient at providing nutrients than alternative food/drink combinations.”

The modelling showed “many nutrients would be reduced with (chocolate milk) restriction and replacement scenarios would not be efficient and convenient,” the study said.

Food combinations to replace the nutrients lost included a scenario with tomato soup (made with milk), canned salmon, cheddar cheese and cooked spinach; and another with canned salmon, cooked carrots, cooked spinach, fat-free yogurt made with sugar substitutes, and grapes.

The modelling suggested if children weren’t able to have the flavoured milk they wanted, the intake of nutrients such as protein, calcium and vitamin D, would decline, the study reported.

The study also noted a higher percentage of younger students choosing milk than older students, suggesting that pulling chocolate milk may have impacted younger students’ daily milk intake more than older students’.

“Given children’s preferential intake of (chocolate milk), further studies into whether children will accept lower sugar formulations need to be investigated,” the authors wrote in their study, published online earlier this week in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. — Network

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