Should children only be served low-fat, flavored milk?

That’s the question on parents’ minds after two Harvard University professors released their opinion piece on whether three daily servings of low-fat milk, especially flavored milk, are necessary for children.

Published in the latest issue of JAMA Pediatrics, David Ludwig and Walter Willett, known for questioning conventional wisdom according to the Los Angeles Times, challenged the idea of making low-fat milk the only milk option available to children.

The dairy industry fired back at the piece, suggested that milk continues to play a key role in helping children -- and adults -- meet the recommended intakes of critical nutrients. Even when flavored, milk contains nine essential nutrients important for good health.

“Research shows that children who drink flavored milk also drink more milk overall, have better quality diets, do not have higher intakes of added sugar or fat, and are just as likely to be at a healthy weight compared to kids who do not consume flavored milk,” Greg Miller, executive vice president of the National Dairy Council, said.

Without flavored milk, many children might not drink milk at all -- and milk is an important source of nutrients.

“About half the students in the county live around the poverty level. For many, school lunch and breakfast are the main meals of the day,” CNN’s Sanjay Gupta said about the case for flavored milk. “Without milk, local doctors said, kids weren't getting enough vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, or potassium.”

Milk, whether low-fat or whole, offers health advantages. 

Two studies – one from the University of Gothenburg and another from the University of Virginia School of Medicine – found that toddlers and children who consumed full-fat, whole milk had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn’t.

Milk also helps teens maintain a healthy body weight.

Milk has its benefits for adults, too. Benefits from regularly consuming dairy products include treating obesity, fighting osteoporosis, preventing type 2 diabetes, decreasing the risk of stroke and lowering the risk for heart disease. A study released earlier this year found that cheese does more than just taste good – it also decreases the likelihood of developing cavities.