Chocolate milk in school lunches continues to garner attention. Last week, Santa Monica-Malibu schools in California decided to buck the current trend of banning chocolate milk and keep it on the menu. But just yesterday, public schools in Fayetteville, Ark., decided to remove chocolate milk from its breakfast menus. And so the contentious debate surrounding chocolate milk continues.
Is chocolate milk really ban-worthy? James Rippe, a cardiologist and founder and director of Rippe Lifestyle Institute, says no.
“Some schools have banned chocolate milk or are contemplating banning chocolate milk because they are concerned with the added sugar in milk,” says Rippe. “The idea is that banning chocolate milk might be a way to combat childhood obesity.” However, there are no studies that link chocolate milk to childhood obesity.
Yet, there are studies that show what happens when chocolate milk is banned. There is a direct correlation between chocolate milk consumption and overall milk consumption in children. “If you ban chocolate milk, immediately milk consumption is decreased by 35 percent,” explains Rippe. This is also a 35 percent decrease in consumption of calcium and Vitamin D.
A ban on chocolate milk means that vitamin D and calcium consumption are cut down by more than one-third at a time when children need it most, he says. “I understand the impulse to ban chocolate milk as a way to potentially combat childhood obesity. But it won’t work and will have no benefit, just unintended consequences.”
Recently, Rippe conducted a 24-week study to examine the added sugars found in flavored milk and the impact on weight loss. Results indicate that it is possible to actually lose weight when consuming added sugars found in flavored milk as part of a healthy diet and when consumed in moderation.
When individuals in the study consumed chocolate milk, they significantly improved the amount of calcium they took in as well as vitamin D and potassium, says Rippe. Those three nutrients are often lacking in people's diets.
To put things in perspective, if you eliminate chocolate milk from the school system, you are eliminating significantly important nutrients. And, Rippe says that only one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls consume the recommended three servings of low-fat milk products daily. “It’s very important to understand that sweeteners in chocolate milk can make the milk more palatable and more enjoyable to consume. This is something often forgotten in the debate of added sugar.”
Rippe also discusses some of the misunderstanding that surrounds high fructose corn syrup and sucrose in the YouTube video shown above. Rippe says high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are nutritionally equal.