The New York Times reports that school districts in the Bronx and Manhattan won't be going the "whole" way with milk any more. New York education officials decided to eliminate whole milk as part of a larger movement to curb childhood obesity. Martin Oestreicher, executive director of school support services explains that this initiative is all about children's livelihoods:
"We got rid of white bread; you'll never see any white bread in our schools—it's all about whole-wheat bread, frankfurter buns, hamburger buns. We reformulated a lot of items. It all goes in the context of trying to cut down the obesity index in our kids."
The article mentions that New York City is not the first major district to stop serving whole milk. Los Angeles initiated the same ban in 2000. States such as Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut have enacted or are considering similar decisions to bar or limited the serving of whole milk in public schools.
Federal guidelines still suggest three full servings of milk per day, but school officials feel their decision will help control the fat and calorie intake of children. Dr. Fuhrman has his own concerns about childhood consumption of milk. In Disease Proof Your Child he explains that mother's milk is the best choice for natural childhood development for kids until the age of two. After that it's better to get healthy fat and calcium from other sources:
The antibodies derived from mother's milk are necessary for maximizing immune system function, maximizing intelligence, and protecting against immune systems disorders, allergies, and even cancer. The child's immune system is still underdeveloped until age two, the same age when the digestive tract seals the leaks (spaces between cells) designed to allow the mother's antibodies access to the blood stream. So picking the age of two as the length of recommended breast-feeding is not just a haphazard guess, it matches the age at which the child is no longer absorbing the mother's immunoglobulins to supplement their own system. Nature designed it that way.Incidentally The New York Times article mentions that switching to soy milk would have jeopardized federal school food reimbursements.
Breast-feeding for two years might be considered a prolonged time by today's standards, but this practice offers significant protection against childhood diseases, including allergies and asthma. One recent study showed that breast-feeding for less than 9 months was found to be a risk factor for asthma and after that period of time, the longer a child was breast-fed, the lower the risk of asthma.1 Avoiding cow's milk proteins, even those found in infant formulas, has also been shown to reduce asthma occurrence.2
After weaning from the breast, the same qualities that make a healthy adult diet, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, makes the best diet for children. The bottom line is to have your children develop a taste for other wholesome drinks besides cow's milk. Try soy milk or almond milk, or a mix of soy and almond. Many options are available fortified with vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium. If using dairy products or milk, stick to the fat-free variety. The fat in our children's diet should mostly come from avocadoes, nuts, and seeds, not cows.
For more of Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts on children's consumption of milk read this post entitled Cow's Milk and Kids Aren't Made for Each Other.
1. Dell S, To T. Breast-feeding and asthma in young children: findings from a population-based study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2001;155(11):1261-1265.
2. Ram FS, Ducharme FM, Scarlett J. Cow's milk protein avoidance and development of childhood wheeze in children with a family history of atopy. Colchrane Database Syst Rev 2002;(3):CD003795.