The ChooseMyPlate website says that dairy is one of the five most important food groups in a meal (“MyPlate”). What better way to satisfy the dairy requirement than to drink a carton of chocolate milk? This, unfortunately, is a common misconception across the nation, and even across the entire world. Around the world, chocolate milk and other flavored milk products are commonly sold in school cafeterias, marketed as a wholesome, healthy food item for developing students’ bodies. However, the opposite is true. These cartons of milk are unimaginably dangerous and harmful to the health of students, families, and our country. Therefore, flavored milk products should no longer be sold in school cafeterias because they have a negative effect on developing students’ bodies, they are not cost effective to families and our nation, and they can be replaced by significantly better alternatives.
Everybody wants what is best for their children, and their child’s health. Unfortunately, the consumption of flavored milk products can be devastating for a child’s health, and can lead to obesity and other serious medical conditions in both adolescents and as adults. Sugar-sweetened beverages are by far the biggest sources of added sugar in the average American diet, and it is recommended that women consume less than six teaspoons of sugar a day and men consume less than nine teaspoons of sugar a day (Corliss). Many think that flavored milk products have little or no impact on the overall total of a daily dietary recommendation. It is just one carton of chocolate milk, right? Wrong. Karen Kafer, the vice president of the Nutrition Affairs for the National Dairy Council, says that most flavored milk products contain at least three teaspoons of added sugar to make kids drink the milk (Weingarten). For many kids, this is nearly half of their daily suggested sugar intake. If a child drinks two cartons of chocolate milk a day, they may already be exceeding their daily allowed intake of sugar. The National Institute of Health writes that there is “strong evidence” for the role of sugar in the promotion of weight gain and obesity in adolescents, and that people who take in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar double their risk of dying from heart disease (Malik). In addition, childhood obesity can lead to a series of severe diseases, including hypertension, type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, or even death (“Adult”). Therefore, preventing early onset of obesity is crucial to help mitigate the risk of developing a plethora of serious medical conditions, and the cause is not being helped by allowing students to drink flavored milk products daily.
In addition to its negative impact on health, flavored milk products can be harmful to both the state and the national economy. A study from the National Institute of Health reports that sugary drink products, including flavored milk, contribute nearly 10% of the total energy intake in children and adults (Malik). As a result, nearly two out of three adults and one out of three children in the United States are either overweight or suffer from obesity (“Sugary”). This obesity epidemic is not only detrimental to the health of students, but it also costs billions in taxpayer money to help treat obesity-related health conditions. In New York alone, obesity-related health problems cost public and private payers of medical bills roughly $12 billion annually (Clemmitt). In terms of the entire country, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that we spend an estimated $190 billion a year treating obesity-related health conditions, including type two diabetes and hypertension (“Adult”). This means that the average taxpayer in the United States is paying $600 more just to compensate for obesity-related diseases (“Adult”). This pressure on taxpayers’ pocketbooks can be prevented. Flavored milk products constitute a large portion of a child's sugar intake. Accordingly, cutting down on sugar intake can help to alleviate the widespread onset of obesity amongst adolescents, which can help save time, save resources, and save lives.
Not only can flavored milk products be detrimental to person’s health and their wallets, there exist better, safer, and cheaper alternatives to flavored milk products that can be a welcome addition to school cafeterias. For starters, it is commonly known that the best drink a person can have is water. According to a Harvard Health study, water not only helps prevent the overall intake of fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol, it also helps to reduce the number of calories that a student may consume in any given day by helping fill hunger gaps in which students may consume unhealthy food or drink products (Marshall). This can amount to nearly four pounds in calories lost per month, helping children lose weight and stay healthy (Marshall). Additionally, while there are many dangers to flavored milk products, there are many benefits to simply having plain milk in cafeterias. Assuming that the milk product is unsweetened, a child can consume up to ten grams of protein and nearly one-third of their daily suggested calcium intake from one carton of milk (“Calcium”). As such, drinking plain milk helps students strengthen their bones, so that the bones can help strengthen the students. Students and families can, as a result, prevent severe illnesses and diseases, save hundreds of dollars, and improve their quality of life overall.
While flavored milk products clearly have several devastating effects on a student’s body, some may argue that the introduction of added sugar and flavoring in milk products encourages healthy eating and drinking by promoting milk as a calcium-rich, healthy, and safe alternative to other sweetened beverages such as soft-drinks and various juice products. This is partially true, in that milk actually does provide an ample source of much-needed nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, while avoiding some insidious artificial flavorings and dyes (“Calcium”). However, this is a misconception, in that the introduction of sugar into flavored milk products can actually create a sugar addiction that increases a student’s potential of drinking even more sugary substances later in life. A study published by the National Institute of Health writes that there has been a remarkable resemblance in the “parallels between drugs of abuse and palatable food,” indicating that a sugar addiction in many ways is similar to a drug addiction (Avena). If the substance is abused, the brain is rewired in a way that produces a “dependency” on the given substance (in this case, sugar) (Avena). This means that every gram of sugar that a child ingests makes it harder and harder for them to resist the urge to eat sugary products in the future. Therefore, to help mitigate “sugar dependency” and save the precious lives of children, it is important to look past the promoted health benefits of flavored milk products and recognize the real repercussions they may have.
In a parent’s mind, the health and safety of their child always comes first. Unfortunately, in such a hectic world, the true dangers of a product can often be clouded by false advertisements and preconceived notions of health benefits and body supplements. Therefore, it is critical that all school cafeterias immediately omit flavored milk products from the shelf. Not only do these flavored milk products inflict harm to students and to wallets, they can be removed without concern, as safer, healthier beverages will take their place. Send a letter or talk to your school principal and other administrators to remind them of the dangers of flavored milk products, and ask them to immediately remove these surreptitious substances from your school cafeteria, so that all students may live healthier, live safer, and live better.
"Adult Obesity Causes and Consequences." Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 June 2015. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.
Avena, Nicole M., Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel. “Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake.” Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews 32.1 (2008): 20–39. PMC. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
"Calcium and Milk." Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.
Clemmitt, Marcia. "Sugar Controversies." CQ Researcher 30 Nov. 2012: 1013-36. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Corliss, Julie. "Eating Too Much Added Sugar Increases the Risk of Dying with Heart Disease." Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, 6 Feb. 2014. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.
Malik, Vasanti S, Matthias B Schulze, and Frank B Hu. “Intake of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 84.2 (2006): 274–288. Print.
Marshall, Mallika. "The Big Benefits of Plain Water." Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, 26 May 2016. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.
"MyPlate." ChooseMyPlate, United States Department of Agriculture, 2016.
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"Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet." Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan, 21 Nov. 2016. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.
Weingarten, Hemi. "Sugar: The Unhealthy Side of Chocolate." Huffington Post, 18 Mar. 2010. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.