Flavored Milk Debate

June 29, 2011

Should chocolate milk be banned from schools? That’s the topic of a heated debate going on in the school system these days. Until now I haven’t opined on this subject, but recently I received some new information based on scientific studies that has made me decide it’s time to share some facts and my opinion.

Schools that have banned or are considering banning chocolate milk are doing so because they think eliminating a source of added sugars will lower childhood obesity rates. In a recent YouTube video, cardiologist Dr. James Rippe has weighed in on the issue of banning flavored milk and he also clarifies some misconceptions about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), one of the types of added sugar used in flavored milk. Here is a summary of some of his main points:

  • There are no studies that link the consumption of chocolate milk with childhood obesity.
  • There are studies that show chocolate milk consumption is correlated with total milk consumption. A recent study that reviewed previous studies on this topic1 showed that when chocolate milk was banned, milk consumption decreased immediately by 35 percent and there was a corresponding decrease in calcium and vitamin D levels. Both calcium and vitamin D are critically important nutrients for bone building at school age when children need it the most.
  • Whether chocolate milk contains HFCS or sucrose (table sugar) makes no difference. A sugar is a sugar. HFCS is sugar made from corn and table sugar is made from sugar cane or beets. They both have the same number of calories, the same level of sweetness, and our bodies metabolize them the same way.
  • The Dietary Guideline recommendation for milk and dairy consumption is three servings a day. Currently only one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls are getting that recommended amount.

At the end of the day, I think there is enough evidence to show that banning chocolate milk has the potential to do more harm than good for children. As with all foods, I believe chocolate milk has a place in the diet of children and adults in moderation. Making something completely off-limits sends the wrong message to children. Let’s teach them portion control and balance, rather than restriction.

Disclaimer: I am a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA); however, all statements and opinions are my own.

1Patterson J, Saidel M. The removal of flavored milk in schools results in a reduction in total milk purchases in all grades, K-12. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109,(9): A97.2.

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  1. I agree- milk is still milk. It’s still natural milk it just has extra sugars added to it, but the benefits of the protein, vitamins, and minerals are all still there. Unlike, if a kid chooses a Gatorade or soda instead, when all they get is the added sugar

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m fine with offering my boys chocolate milk, if that’s how they are going to enjoy drinking milk. I’d rather teach them to choose their snacks and treats wisely.

  3. Why isn’t there a middle road – chocolate milk with only 1 tsp of added sugar instead of the 3 tsp added today? We are getting our kids hooked on uber-sweet everything.
    And who said kids MUST have milk to get their calcium? Kids in Asia have perfectly fine bones and they barely consume dairy.