Drinking milk cereal drinks at one year of age is linked to a two-fold risk of being overweight at the age of five, reports a new study. The findings of the study are published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.
"Milk cereal drinks are not bad as such; how it's used is the problem. That is when it's seen not as a meal but as an extra, to supplement other food," says Bernt Alm, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
‘The risk of being overweight is almost twice as high in the five-year-old kid if they had consumed milk cereal drinks every day at one year of age. But a new study suggests that other risk factors for overweight must also be considered. These findings may affect the counseling guidelines used at child healthcare centers.’
The researchers behind the study have previously linked consumption of milk cereal drinks at age six months to high body mass index (BMI) at ages one year and one and a half years. The study now presented is of the same group of children, several years later.
The follow-up study comprised 1,870 children in Halland County, Sweden, whose particulars were taken from the Halland Health and Growth Study. Height and weight data have been recorded by the child health services, while the information on their food and beverage intake comes from the parents.
Among the five-year-olds, 11.6 percent were overweight, and 2.3 percent had obesity. The risk for overweight or obesity proved to be almost double (factor 1.94) if the children had formerly, at age 12 months, been daily consumers of milk cereal drinks. This risk elevation was independent of other factors.
Examples of other conditions found to make overweight more likely were if the parents had low educational attainment if they smoked and if there was a history of obesity in the family. Heredity was the strongest single factor.
In Sweden, children commonly drink milk cereal drinks once to five times a day from age six months. In the study in question, 85 percent of the children had been daily consumers at 12 months of age.
The Swedish milk cereal drinks consist of milk and flour and are nutritionally close to porridge, and usually enriched with vitamins and minerals. Similar products exist elsewhere in the world, but are not as common.
"Milk cereal drinks are nutritious and good and has been used for hundreds of years in Sweden. Getting rid of it isn't a panacea. But if, for example, the child has other risk factors for overweight, such as heredity, perhaps not using milk cereal drinks should be considered," Alm says.