19th January 2018, Volume 131 Number 1468

Hajar Mazahery, Carolyn Cairncross, Cathryn Conlon, Lisa Houghton, Jane Coad, Carlos Camargo Jr, Cameron Grant, Pamela von Hurst

Cows’ milk, the most commonly consumed dairy product among children, is a rich source of macronutrients (including protein, carbohydrate and fat) and micronutrients (eg, vitamins B2, B12 and A, and…

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New Zealand dietary guidelines recommend children from two years of age consume low- or reduced-fat milk. We aimed to investigate the predictors of type of milk consumption in preschool children.


Data were drawn from a cross-sectional study which enrolled preschool children (2–<5 years, n=1,329) from throughout New Zealand.


Cows’ milk was consumed regularly by 88% of children. Of these, 26% consumed plain low- or reduced-fat milk, while 74% consumed full-fat milk. The adjusted odds of consuming plain low- or reduced-fat milk were increased in older children: three-year old (OR=1.80, 95% CI 1.29–2.50); four-year old (OR=1.93, 95% CI 1.38–2.72) versus two-year old children, and were decreased in Māori (OR=0.56, 95% CI 0.36–0.88) and Pacific children (OR=0.32, 95% CI 0.12–0.86) compared with New Zealand European children. Approximately 18% of children were overweight/obese. The odds (adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics) of consuming plain low- or reduced-fat milk were increased in overweight children (OR=1.74, 95% CI 1.20–2.54) than normal weight children.


The type of milk consumed by preschool children varies with child demographics and anthropometry. Further research is warranted to investigate caregivers/parents’ knowledge about dietary guidelines and to determine the causal relationship between obesity and milk type consumption. The findings of the current study may have important implications for developing and shaping interventions and in helping shape public health policy and practice to promote cows’ milk consumption in preschool children.

Author Information

Hajar Mazahery, Institute of Food Science and Technology—School of Food and Nutrition, Massey University, Auckland; Carlos A Camargo Jr, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA; Carolyn Cairncross, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, AUT, Auckland; Lisa A Houghton, Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin; Cameron C Grant, Department of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health, Auckland City Hospital, University of Auckland, The Centre for Longitudinal Research—He Ara ki Mua, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, Starship Children’s Hospital, Auckland District Health Board, Auckland; Jane Coad, Institute of Food Science and Technology, School of Food and Nutrition, Massey University, Palmerston North; Cathryn A Conlon, Institute of Food Science and Technology—School of Food and Nutrition, Massey University, Auckland; Pamela R von Hurst, Institute of Food Science and Technology—School of Food and Nutrition, Massey University, Auckland.


Dr Pamela R von Hurst, Institute of Food Science and Technology—School of Food and Nutrition, Massey University, Auckland 0745.

Correspondence Email


Competing Interests

HM was funded to write this manuscript with a summer studentship from Fonterra Cooperative Group (Auckland, New Zealand). The funder had no input into the collection and analysis of the data, and provided peer review of the writing of the manuscript. Te Ra Whakaora study was funded by the New Zealand Health Research Council (Auckland, New Zealand).


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