A bill proposed by a trio of state lawmakers in Connecticut would prohibit day care centers from feeding whole milk or 2 percent milk to any child older than 2 years. The bills' sponsors say it's part of an effort to curb childhood obesity.
The legislation is not about so-called "raw milk," the unpasteurized, straight-from-the-cow-to-your-lips product banned in one form or another by just about every state.
We're talking about whole milk here, the kind you can buy in any grocery store.
State Sen. Catherine Osten, D-New London; state Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Litchfield; and state Rep. David Zoni, D-Hartford, did not return calls for comment, but their legislation says the goal is to establish nutritional standards for day cares.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, yes, whole milk is pretty much loaded with fats. And just because kids have been drinking it for decades — no, centuries — doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't examine the health risks of guzzling gallons of it.
But is skim milk really that much better?
Skim milk is not exactly health food because it's processed a lot more than whole milk. Actually, all those treatments might make skim milk worse for you because they oxidize the cholesterol in the milk and make it easier for your body to absorb it.
Which is not to say that low-fat milk is worse for you, but the benefits of drinking it and feeding it to kids seem to be marginal at best and possibly nonexistent when you look at some of the trade-offs.
And a study published last year in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that kids who drink low-fat milk are more likely to be obese.
"Our original hypothesis was that children who drank high-fat milk, either whole milk or 2 [percent] would be heavier because they were consuming more saturated-fat calories.
"We were really surprised when we looked at the data and it was very clear that within every ethnicity and every socioeconomic strata, that it was actually the opposite, that children who drank skim milk and 1 [percent] were heavier than those who drank 2 [percent] and whole," study author Dr. Mark Daniel DeBoer, an associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, told Time magazine in March 2013.
So if the study is accurate, lawmakers could be wrong to suggest that this effort at child care micromanagement from Hartford would actually curb obesity and turn Connecticut's kids into the nation's leanest toddlers.
But that's not the point here. The point is that lawmakers are trying to tell parents and trained child care specialists what they are allowed to pump into their 5-year-olds, which is a decision probably best left to those parents and child care specialists.
In other words, if your child's doctor says your child should drink skim milk because of body type and dietary needs, crack open the skim. But just because Mason needs low-fat milk in his lunch doesn't mean that Sofia, Aiden and Hannah need it, too.
"If I had an obese child, as a parent, I would not give my child whole milk," Deb Boucher of West Hartford told WFSB-TV. "But I don't want the state Legislature to decide for me."
The same bill also regulates the amount of juice children are allowed to consume on a daily basis — no juice at all to children younger than 8 months and no more than six ounces of juice per day to older kids. And it must be 100 percent juice.
For their efforts at legislative parenting, the aforementioned lawmakers win Watchdog.org.'s "nanny state of the week" award. They get a tall glass of warm skim milk and an endless loop of children crying on tape.
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