Formula for Childhood Obesity

Formula for Childhood Obesity
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Feeding infants cow’s milk formula may adversely alter metabolic programming.

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We’ve known that breastfeeding infants may protect against subsequent obesity for over 30 years, but why? Well, giving human infants formula based on cow’s milk presents an unusual situation. Cow’s milk is designed to put nearly 2 pounds a day onto a growing calf, 40 times the growth rate of human infants.

The perfect food for humans, finely tuned over millions of years, is human breast milk. Remarkably, among all mammalian species, the protein content of human milk is the lowest. The thought is that it’s the excessive protein content of cow’s milk-based formula that sets the child up for obesity later in life.

And then instead of being weaned, we continue to drink milk. The question thus arises as to whether consumption of a growth-promoting substance from another species throughout childhood fundamentally alters processes of human growth and maturation. This study, for example, found evidence that greater milk intake is associated with an increased risk of premature puberty; girls drinking a lot of milk starting to get their periods earlier. Thus, cross-species milk consumption and ingestion into childhood may trigger unintended consequences.

In contrast to feeding artificial infant formula, only human milk allows appropriate metabolic programming and protects against diseases of civilization in later life. However, continued consumption of cow's milk and dairy products during adolescence and adulthood is an evolutionarily novel behavior that may have long-term adverse effects on human health.

Teens exposed to dairy proteins–for example, casein, skim milk, or whey–experienced a significant increase in BMI and waist circumference compared to controls, whereas not a single study funded by the dairy industry found a result unfavorable to milk.

The head of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and the chair of Harvard’s nutrition department wrote an editorial recently to the AMA’s Pediatrics journal questioning the role of cow’s milk in human nutrition. We have no requirement for other animal’s milk, obviously, and in fact dairy may play a role in certain cancers due to the high levels of reproductive hormones in the U.S. milk supply.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to European Parliament via Flickr.

We’ve known that breastfeeding infants may protect against subsequent obesity for over 30 years, but why? Well, giving human infants formula based on cow’s milk presents an unusual situation. Cow’s milk is designed to put nearly 2 pounds a day onto a growing calf, 40 times the growth rate of human infants.

The perfect food for humans, finely tuned over millions of years, is human breast milk. Remarkably, among all mammalian species, the protein content of human milk is the lowest. The thought is that it’s the excessive protein content of cow’s milk-based formula that sets the child up for obesity later in life.

And then instead of being weaned, we continue to drink milk. The question thus arises as to whether consumption of a growth-promoting substance from another species throughout childhood fundamentally alters processes of human growth and maturation. This study, for example, found evidence that greater milk intake is associated with an increased risk of premature puberty; girls drinking a lot of milk starting to get their periods earlier. Thus, cross-species milk consumption and ingestion into childhood may trigger unintended consequences.

In contrast to feeding artificial infant formula, only human milk allows appropriate metabolic programming and protects against diseases of civilization in later life. However, continued consumption of cow's milk and dairy products during adolescence and adulthood is an evolutionarily novel behavior that may have long-term adverse effects on human health.

Teens exposed to dairy proteins–for example, casein, skim milk, or whey–experienced a significant increase in BMI and waist circumference compared to controls, whereas not a single study funded by the dairy industry found a result unfavorable to milk.

The head of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and the chair of Harvard’s nutrition department wrote an editorial recently to the AMA’s Pediatrics journal questioning the role of cow’s milk in human nutrition. We have no requirement for other animal’s milk, obviously, and in fact dairy may play a role in certain cancers due to the high levels of reproductive hormones in the U.S. milk supply.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to European Parliament via Flickr.

46 responses to “Formula for Childhood Obesity

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    1. I don’t normally assess infants, but according to DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) it says 1.5 gm/kg/day, which is estimated to be 9.1 gm/day for babies 0-6 months.




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  1. Another great video. Thanks Dr. G. Can you do a video (or write a blog) about the Incomplete Protein Myth? Below is a link to a great summary of this issue written by Dr. McDougall, but I have never seen additional confirmation of his claim. Virtually every group from Harvard to the IOM still claims that all plant foods are missing one “essential amino acid”.

    https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/apr/protein.htm




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    1. Many plant proteins are comparatively low in lysine or methionine, though only enough to moderate intake in varied whole plant based diets rather than bring overt deficiency. Curiously, its the very “incompleteness” of plant proteins that may confer reduced risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Dr. Greger addressed this in his video series on protein and IGF-I (in order): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9




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  2. A few interesting papers on the epigenetic programming for cancer angle. The last is particularly startling, just being lactose intolerant, and hence very likely avoiding dairy after infancy, reduced lung cancer incidence by 45%, breast cancer by 21%, and ovarian cancer by 39%, compared to siblings and parents who weren’t lactose intolerant.

    van der Pols JC 2007. Childhood dairy intake and adult cancer risk: 65-y follow-up of the Boyd Orr cohort
    Torfadottir JE 2011. Milk intake in early life and risk of advanced prostate cancer
    Ji J 2015. Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden




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    1. It’s scary to think that even when you change your dietary practices you learn that what you did early in life can still put you at risk later in life. Maybe someone will discover a way to mitigate or reverse the risk. That would be great. In the meantime, I’m hoping for the day when parent no longer give their kids milk.




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  3. I don’t know that i have The answer to your question. But I do know that Mother’s milk is only about 5 – 6% protein relative to total calories. And this is when we need the most protein/our greatest growth spurt. We don’t need anyone’s protein/other than Our mother’s/for the most part. Ala the China Study et.al./consuming Animal proteins cause numerous proteins as it is not designed for us/may be designed to grow that animal at a rate much faster than we are designed for/and also feeds the growth of Cancer cells/damages the Endothelial cells/ala Dr. Esselstyn and others. We may consume up to 10 – 15% of our calories in protein/but when it exceeds that/there are many problems that can and most likely will ultimately occur. It may take many years/but the damage is cumulative. Other protein sources/sometimes being isolates/are without the complete package they were designed to come along with. Animal sources contain hormones and many other biomagnifiied/bioaccumulative aspects that we don’t need/don’t want/and due to complexities/may only know not all that much about; but what we do know is that you are much safer with a Whole Foods Plant Based diet. Most plant foods have protein/and most contain all the amino acids that you body does not make otherwise. Hope this is of some help. Have learned so much from Dr. Greger in particular. Protein/Smotein/very much needed/but so overly hyped/and mostly Totally misunderstood by 97% of the population including most doctors. Amazing how the ideas about Protein have persisted since the early 70’s with Diet for a Small Planet/Frances Lappe/and in the 30’s/and going back to the mid 1800’s…when it was one of the first nutrients identified. But the need for protein was/as much as anything/based off of how much construction workers in Europe needed….




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      1. It is always possible to consume too much of anything. We generally have an idea of how much of many things to consume. And when it come to beans et.al./…as has been said: “If it has no fiber, con’t eat it!”/it is more likely to fulfill our satiety indicators and keep us fuller for longer/so that we are much less likely to overconsume. With the China Study for instance, as I recall, they did not get the increased incidents of cancer from more plant protein. Whereas, going from 5% of calories as animal protein to 20%, cancer would grow; when reduced to 5% or less/it would stop growing, or retract. Good question.




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      2. Comparing % of protein in milk with % in legumes is like comparing “apple and oranges” :)
        Milk protein is far more bio-available and plants have many factors that inhibit growth.




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        1. I was taught that too. But now, I think your first sentence is true and the second is not. As David says above “With the China Study for instance, as I recall, they did not get the increased incidents of cancer from more plant protein. Whereas, going from 5% of calories as animal protein to 20%, cancer would grow; when reduced to 5% or less/it would stop growing, or retract.”

          The china study is based on solid science that has continued to accrue in the years since.




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  4. When you stop to consider that cows milk is made to get calfs to be bulls/cows, it makes you wonder why people don’t get that it’s a bad idea. As Dr. Greger points out, humans are the one animals that consume another animals secretions. It creeps me out to think that I went at least 40 years of my life consuming yogurt, cheese, milk, and the rest every day.




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    1. Protein or more specifically the essential amino acids are needed however in addition to Matt’s citation of Dr. McDougall’s April 2007 newsletter article, Where do we get our protein, I would recommend his December 2003 newsletter article, History of Protein…, and January 2004 newsletter article, Protein Overload. He has stated “that there has never been a case of protein deficiency given adequate calorie intake”. Given the bulk of science supporting the difficulties associated with protein intake I don’t think we should go out of our way to consume extra protein as a general recommendation. Some of my patients find cutting meat consumption easier than dairy. It might be related to the fact that casein, the main protein in cow’s milk, is converted to casomorphins in the intestine and absorbed. It also may be due to the fat see… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-fatty-foods-addictive/. We can argue about which of the various substances are at fault but the science just keeps reaffirming the current best scientific paradigm or belief. As psychologist, Doug Lisle has pointed out in his presentations, once these food intakes have stopped we adjust over days to several weeks. The good news is there are many transition foods or replacement products (e.g. soy, almond or rice milk) for dairy. For those who like to read books I would recommend “Whitewash” by Joseph Keon. As Dr. Greger points out the consumption of less calorie dense foods (i.e. vegetables, fruits, starches, beans) can lead to more enjoyment in many aspects of your life. Bon Appétit!!




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      1. I’m happy that there are many non-dairy milks out there these days, but they are full of added synthetic vitamins and minerals in forms that have no relation to food, even plant-based foods. So you get a plant-based product with added non-plant-based synthetic vitamins and rock salts. As a vegan, I do not want to be consuming things in my drinks (and food), that contains are these non-plant based foods on store shelves.




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        1. You are correct. The nice thing about a whole food plant based diet is you don’t have to know how to read labels to look at the ingredients… since there is only one. If you do consume foods that contain labels you need to have knowledge, skills and a useful approach. Jeff Novick RD has done two video’s which can help in this regard… Should I Eat That and more recently going into more details… Fast Food Volume 3… Shopping School. There is at least one brand of soy milk with only two ingredients… soy beans and water. By using the power of what we buy to influence what is on the shelves we can “vote” for improvement in what is stocked in our stores If your store won’t stock what you want to buy you can order many products on line.




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        2. It is easy to make your own rice milk. The general idea is you cook and soak the rice with a LOT more water and then run it through a blender.




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        3. There are endless videos on youtube for how to make whatever milk you want at home, rice, almond, oat (I think I would choose oat-milk). So you can easily avoid industrial strength products.




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  5. Great video, I am a working mother and breast pump at work. It’s nice to be reminded that it’s worth it. For any other mothers in my situation, breast pumping at work was easier than I initially anticipated and my baby doesn’t have any issues switching back and forth between breast and bottle. There will be no dairy for my child!




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  6. Cow’s milk fed to human infants particularly under 3 months can directly lead to Type 1 Diabetes. Infants intestines are leaky and partly digested cow’s milk can be interpreted by the infant immune system as very similar to the insulin producing cells. For more detail see “The China Study” by Cornell nutritional biologist prof. T. Colin Campbell. Also cow’s milk analysis is strikingly different from people milk, way deficient in the fats needed for the rapidly growing infant brain.




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  7. I would remind also that casein is the only protein of significance that contains phosphate. The phospho-amino acids in casein are highly reactive leading to strange, crosslinked amino acids (see lanthionine, lysinoalanine etc). Everytime milk is processed it promotes more of these reactions. Example: my own research found that adding calcium speeds up the crosslinking so fast it actually becomes plastic. I should say I re-discovered this because that is how they made plastic from milk during the war years.

    I’m sure freshly consumed human milk, like all milks are beautiful nutrition sources for their respective neonates. I’d bet there is a specific pathway from dairy phosphate to wherever it is needed in the developing baby. But the harsh fractionation practices of modern industry turns this into a weird plastic-like low quality nutrient for children as well as adults.

    Of course I was quickly advised about my future prospects if I stayed on that vein…. bleh, bleh-bleh…




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    1. Most soy milks, rice milks, and coconut milks have the “added calcium” in them. I can not but help the long-term harm this might be causing, all the fortified vegan milks and other both vegan and non-vegan products being fortified with calcium and other non-food chemicals, minerals, synthetic vitamins, etc. Everything seems full of synthetic vitamins these days, and these added minerals.




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      1. I was trying to emphasize that dairy is unique in its proclivity to unintended modification because it contains a form of phosphorus that is highly reactive. Calcium and other factors like alkaline pH and high temperature all accelerate this chemistry.

        I do agree that we need to be vigilant. All plant milks are not alike. We always read the ingredient list first.




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  8. If you stub your toe or twist your ankle, does that mean you should avoid anti-inflammatory foods like cherries, tumeric, and chamomile for a few days to avoid re-injury?




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  9. Cattle’s milk is obviously harmful to humans, but how are human infants protected against atherosclerosis etc from the saturated fat they get in human’s milk? How does this change during weaning? Clearly, this must be similar for all herbivore mammals.




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    1. I have never heard of the saturated fat in human breast milk to be problematic. Mothers should be aware of diet because their milk is affected by their diet. This study found varying amounts of saturated fats in breast milk from women in different areas showing how diet affects lactation. Beside fat, mother’s milk contains so many other nutrients (in the right amounts) and immune boosting compounds so of course breastfeeding is amazing! During weaning, child beings eating so yes needs will vary. For more info about weaning please see Reed Mangel’s post about feeding children.




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      1. Thanks for the reply. It would be strange if the own species’ milk caused harm to its babies. However, is it known by what mechanism human babies (and all herbivore mammal babies) get this protection against the high amount of saturated fat in their mothers’ milk?




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        1. I am not sure mother’s milk is “high” in saturated fat. Can anyone correct me here? The protection babies receive is from their mothers production of colostrum, which is like the baby’s first vaccine that stimulates immunity and protection. Once they take this they don’t need it anymore, so after weaning the protection lasts.




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          1. I found some articles/studies:

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2950926 : “Mammalian milks, including human milk, contain 50% of their total fatty acids as saturated fatty acids.”

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/392766 : “Mature human milk contains 3%–5% fat, 0.8%–0.9% protein, 6.9%–7.2% carbohydrate calculated as lactose”

            And here is one as well which compares fat composition between human populations: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23781748




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    1. It could be. You may be referring to the TRIGR study by Dr. Knip. You can hear his lecture for free (just need to log in to the CME program) here, and find his research here. Dr. Spock – known as America’s baby doctor, also mentioned this theory in a late edition (I think 8th) of his book, Baby and Childcare. Another video on children and cow’s milk by Dr. Greger, here, if interested. Thanks for your question an important one! Let me know if this helps?




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  10. Too little sunlight and too much ingestion from milk allergy (try lactaid) have lead to a very hungry nation. Hungry, malnurished, but not ignorant.




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  11. Whey protein concentrate and isolate derived from 100 percent grass fed cows that has been flashed pasteurized (not conventionally pasteurized): Good or bad? What do the study stay for these two products?




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    1. That is a good question I have not seen studies that use whey from grass-fed cows. I think any of these isolates and concentrates are not needed, as whole foods are preferred. Some studies
      suggest whey and leucine-rich foods (meat and milk) stimulate the TOR pathway, which Dr. Greger addresses in this video.




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      1. Wow! Thank you for the video reference. Very interesting. I read about mTOR on Dr. Mercola’s website awhile back. From the video discussion by Dr. Greger that you referenced (very helpful), I would interpret the studies on mTOR promotion to be actually accelerated with concentrated dairy derivatives (i.e., whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate); my consciousness and logic would conclude that concentrating an already mTOR promoting substance would likewise concentrate the mTOR prompting effects–it would seem to follow. I know my logic may not be founded on specific studies (yet), but I think my making a conservative assumption is prudent regarding whey protein concentrates and whey protein isolates. Besides all that, I have also scoured the web (manufacturers specifications sheets, etc.) looking for studies on oxidation of the cholesterol in whey protein concentrate and only turned up one reference on shelf-life and oxidation of the cholesterol; it said the longer the product sits, the more time the cholesterol has to oxidize once the whey protein concentrate was exposed to air. Anyhow, thank you again.




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  12. Whey protein concentrate derived from 100 percent grass fed cows and flash pasteurized (not conventionally pasteurized): Helpful or harmful? Same for whey protein isolate derived the same way. Thanks!




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  13. It would be very interesting if Dr. Greger could make a video comparing cow’s milk based formulas with the non-dairy alternatives, such as soy infant formula.
    Many mothers are not able to breastfeed their babies or to access a breast milk bank and so are forced to resort to infant formulas. In that case, would Dr. Greger recommend cow’s milk based formulas or soy based formulas? Or would it make no difference to choose one over the other?




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    1. Excellent question Tyler and one I’d also like answered. My niece is unable to breastfeed (she sure tried!) and there’s no breast milk banks available.




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  14. Hi Dr Greger, I’m a pediatrics resident working in the NICU currently. I would love to see you do a video on neonatal micro biomes after infant formula versus breastmilk. Do you have any good references for this? It seems like such a normal practice to not only anti-biose newborns but also to supplement them with dairy based formula. These practices seem to work acutely but I question their long term consequences. How much is too much?




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  15. Is organic soy formula also responsible for childhood obesity? We are a vegan family and we’ve been followed by a nutritionnist specialised in veganism but my daughter is 15 months and she’s eating too much ( 3-4 x 8oz of soy formula + 3 meals / 24h) but she’s not fat at all, just really tall. I’m a bit worried and I’m really looking forward to stop formula but it’s still an upgrade as she was taking 5-6x 9oz of formula a day in the past.




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  16. So what do you feed a weaned baby? My son breast fed for 12 months and based on Dr’s recommendations of the needed fat content for brain development he is drying organic cows milk… should we be giving him something different?




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    1. MM014030: From what I have seen, cows milk of any kind should never be given to children. There are several sources for this statement, but here are some videos from NutritionFacts:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/childhood-constipation-and-cows-milk/ ,
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/formula-for-childhood-obesity/ ,
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-prevent-prediabetes-in-children/ ,
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-milk-good-for-our-bones/ ,
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/estrogen-in-meat-dairy-and-eggs/ ,
      This one is relevant for boys: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dairy-estrogen-and-male-fertility/ ,
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-fast-can-children-detoxify-from-pcbs/
      There are more videos on the topic of dairy. This is just to get you started.
      .
      There are a couple of good resources for figuring out what to feed just weaned babies as well as how to move forward through the rest of the kids lives. I recommend checking out the relevant chapter in the book Becoming Vegan, Express Edition. The authors of the book go into great detail on how to best meet the needs of babies and children. And later teens. If interested: https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Vegan-Express-Plant-based-Nutrition/dp/1570672954/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467669258&sr=1-1&keywords=becoming+vegan+express+edition
      .
      Dr. Greger has spoken highly of the Vegetarian Resource Group. The site has a page for kids, including nutrition recommendations for babies. The site is generally well researched, so I feel pretty good recommending people to that site. Here is the general “families” page. Scroll down to the nutrition section for specific nutrition information: http://www.vrg.org/family/kidsindex.htm .
      .
      Good luck. I hope this helps.




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