Low-fat milk 'for chicks'

Low-fat milk may be better for health, but many Kiwi men view it as too feminine, according to a new study.

In a survey of what determines milk choices among men aged 19-24, low-fat milk was viewed as “for chicks, not guys", says researcher Dr Carol Wham from the Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health.

She recommends marketers try to give low-fat milk a more “macho” image for the sake of men's health.

Standard milk, either so-called "full cream" or homogenised (known as "blue top") was preferred by 35 per cent of the 86 men who responded to a survey, organised jointly by Massey and Otago University's dietetic department.

Standard milk contains 3.3 per cent total fat compared with low-fat milks, which range between 0.1 and 1.5 per cent total fat. Dr Wham says the desire to “bulk up” with extra muscle was the main motivation for young men choosing standard milk, and men aged 19-24 are big milk consumers compared with most other sectors of the population.

But to prevent chronic heart disease men should ideally drink only low-fat milk, which contains the same nutrients as standard milk but not the higher levels of saturated fat.

Although most of those surveyed drink low-fat milk, Dr Wham says the 35 per cent who drink standard milk can achieve abs without flab by switching to low-fat milk. Their long-term health will benefit too.

“Once they overcome their perception that low-fat milk is a watery beverage for waif-like women, they will get used to the lighter taste,” she says.

“The primary influences in choice of standard milk are taste and habit,” she says. “Consumers of standard milk do not perceive the lower fat alternatives to be ‘healthier’ or ‘more refreshing’. Lower fat milk choices are viewed to be feminine – for chicks not guys.”

At the other end of the spectrum are young women, many of whom will avoid even low-fat milk for fear it will make them fat, and in doing so risk becoming calcium deficient.

Dr Wham presented her findings at the New Zealand and Australian Nutrition Societies’ Conference at Massey University, Auckland.

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.