Teens have a new best friend and ally in their quest to maintain a healthy body weight: milk.
Milk-drinking teenage girls were more likely to have less body fat and a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than peers who don"t drink milk, according to a study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics. Click here to see an abstract of the research article.
The results weren"t limited to low-fat milk; girls who consumed whole milk showed the same results.
Researchers tracked body measurements and dairy consumption for more than 1,000 teenage boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18 years old, as reported by Dairy Australia. Their results reaffirmed the importance of dairy during teenage years, especially for teenage girls. However, teen boys benefited from dairy too.
Dairy Australia Dietitian Glenys Zucco suggested that milk may help prevent teen obesity by being an excellent source for calcium and whey protein, which helps prevent fat from being stored in the body and suppress appetites.
However beneficial dairy is in a teen"s health, experts point out that teens are not getting enough of it.
"Girls preoccupied with body shape might be more likely to exclude calcium-rich milk and dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese, which they perceive as fattening," Zucco told Dairy Australia. "Unfortunately, many teenage girls are already watching their weight and some cut out important food groups such as dairy unnecessarily."
In Australia, just 14 percent of teen girls consumed three servings of dairy daily, the daily recommended intake for teen girls. American teens also need to increase their dairy consumption, as noted by a 2011 CDC report.
Parents can help encourage teens to eat more dairy by offering them a wide variety of products, such as yogurt, cheese and flavored milk. Flavored milk contains the same 10 essential nutrients as white milk, and many experts suggest that the important of these nutrients trumps diet concerns. Milk consumption declined by as much as 75 percent in school districts that have banned flavored milk. Dr. Sanjay Gupta noted that without milk, kids in these districts were unable to get enough vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium of potassium.
"For kids and parents, milk with sugar is better than none at all," Gupta said.
This isn"t the first study to connect dairy with healthy teenage bodies. In 2009, Dairy Herd Network reported a similar study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.