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Toddler milk drinks are not better than cow milk
BfR assesses nutrients on a comparison basis
"Adjusted to the nutritional needs of young children" – this and similar statements are frequently found on the packaging of milk drinks which are designated as children's milk or toddler milk. Claims refer to the contents of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. They assert that a reduced protein content, compared to cow milk, prevents later obesity and that enriched vitamins and minerals contribute to an optimum intellectual development. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), toddler milk does not, however, offer any advantage compared to reduced fat cow milk, as recommended by nutritional scientists for infants. "From a nutritional and physiological point of view these special toddler milks are not necessary", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. Enriched vitamins and minerals in those products rather result in an uncontrolled increase in the supply of some nutrients whereas other vitamins and minerals are included in lower amounts than in cow milk. Furthermore, it is currently not sufficiently proven in scientific terms that a reduced protein supply in early childhood reduces the risk of obesity and adiposity during the later childhood. The fat content of toddler milk is more or less comparable to the content of whole milk and hence higher than the content in reduced fat milk.
Milk products, which are designated as toddler milk or children's milk, are not adjusted to the nutritional needs of children aged one to three years. Consequently, they do not meet the requirements of the Ordinance on dietary foods (Diet Ordinance). For young children the consumption of reduced fat cow milk is recommended.
The content of vitamins and minerals in toddler milk drinks is partly significantly different from that in cow milk. From a nutritional and physiological point of view the characteristic micronutrients of cow milk, such as calcium and vitamin B2, should as a matter of principle be contained in comparable amounts in toddler milk in order to avoid a reduced supply of these nutrients. By contrast, toddler milk products supply other micronutrients such as iron and zinc in higher amounts than cow milk; according to BfR this leads to an uncontrolled intake of these nutrients and involves the risk of a nutrient oversupply.
In a balanced diet for young children toddler milk is superfluous. Even if some groups of young children are not optimally supplied with some micronutrients, this cannot be compensated by substituting toddler milk for cow milk, because it is questionable whether the products are actually consumed by those who would benefit from an additional nutrient supply.
It is doubtful whether the reduced protein content of toddlers or children’s milk versus cow milk results in young children consuming altogether less protein per day. It is anyhow at present not sufficiently proven scientifically that a reduced protein supply at the age of young children reduces the risk of obesity and adiposity in the later childhood.
The fat content of toddler milk is more or less comparable to that of full milk. Nutritional scientists recommend for young children, however, reduced fat milk.
The manufacturers of toddler milk drinks often refer to high consumption amounts on the packaging of their products. According to these recommended consumptions children would consume through children's milk alone high amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients. Within the framework of the overall diet this would favour in the long-term an oversupply with all nutrients. From a nutritional physiological and health point of view this is problematic.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. BfR engages in own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.