Children prefer healthier low-sugar flavoured milk, taste tests show

Nutrition researchers aimed to cut sugar while keeping calcium intake high


Does 30% less sugar chocolate milk actually taste sweeter?

Schoolchildren prefer low sugar chocolate-flavoured milk to the full sugar equivalent – and it is better for them, according to a new study from nutrition experts.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University set out to find a suitable low sugar drink for children to drink in schools after physical activity instead of the alternative high sugar sports drinks.

Milk proved to be an effective post-exercise hydration drink, with chocolate-flavoured milk being even more popular with the 56 schoolchildren, aged four to 10, questioned as part of the study.

Dr Bartosz Buczkowski, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at Manchester Metropolitan and the lead researcher, said: “Milk and milk products are important for calcium intake, which in turn is important for healthy bones in growing children. Due to sugar and fat content, full sugar flavoured milks are seen as unfavourable.

“We wanted to establish whether chocolate-flavoured milk with reduced sugar content was as acceptable to schoolchildren as chocolate-flavoured milk with standard sugar content. We reduced sugar content by 30%, 40% and even 100% and replaced sweetness lost with another natural sweetener, getting the children to test each one and rate what they thought of the taste and sweetness.”

Unexpected results

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, revealed unexpected results.

Researchers found that chocolate-flavoured milk with 30% less sugar was even more acceptable to children than the chocolate milk with standard sugar content, with them stating it was the sweetest.

The team believe that the combination of the sugar and sweetener working together resulted in a better tasting product, making it more favourable to the schoolchildren.

Past studies have focused on the benefits of milk and looking specifically at what it can do for athletes post-workout, exploring its rehydrating and restorative factors, as well as the low cost in comparison to sports drinks.

Dr Buczkowski added: “The results of this study are important because children might prefer chocolate milk to plain milk but sugar content in chocolate milk and other drinks can be problematic as consumption of high quantities of sugar is not great for dental health.

“Excessive sugar content is also something to be considered when it comes to children’s consumption too, as it can lead to increased body weight but it’s not always considered. We don’t really see calories in drinks but they all add up.

“Reduction of sugar content in chocolate milk could help to reduce sugar intake whilst allowing children to get the calcium that their bones need.”

Paper: Acceptability of chocolate-flavoured milk with reduced sucrose content in schoolchildren. By B. Buczkowski, E. Smith, and A. Turner. Department of Health Professions, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, M15 6BG 

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