June 20, 2017
2 min read

Consumption of cow's milk alternatives linked to shorter stature among children

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Children who drank alternatives to cow’s milk — including almond, soy or rice milk, as well as other dairy milk — were shorter than children who drank cow’s milk, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“The nutritional content of cow’s milk is regulated in the United States and Canada, while the nutritional contents of most non-cow’s milk are not,” Jonathon L. Maguire, MS, FRCPC, MSc, from the department of pediatrics at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, said in a press release. “The lack of regulation means the nutritional content varies widely from one non-cow’s milk product to the next, particularly in the amount of protein and fat.”

To establish a connection between lower height in childhood and non-cow’s milk and to examine whether cow’s milk mediates the relationship between this connection, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of Canadian children between the ages of 24 and 72 months (n = 5,034) who were involved with the TARGetKids! cohort. The height of these children exposed to 250 mL per day of non-cow’s milk was measured and then compared with the averages for their age.

The researchers then used multivariable regression to determine the correlation between the consumption of non-cow’s milk and height in childhood, and they later conducted a mediation analysis to observe whether drinking 250 mL of cow’s milk per day could affect this association.

According to study results, the consumption of non-cow’s milk beverages was associated with 0.4 cm lower height per every 250-mL cup consumed; only part of the height decrease could be mediated through lower cow’s milk consumption.

The researchers determined that if a 3-year-old consumed three cups of non-cow’s milk daily, they were to be 1.5 cm shorter than a child of the same age who drank three cups of cow’s milk daily.

“Our findings may be important for parents, dietitians, and physicians when considering the optimal type of milk for children to consume,” Maguire and colleagues wrote. “Future research is needed to understand which non-cow’s milk beverages are most responsible for this association, as well as understanding the causal relationships between non-cow’s milk consumption and childhood height.”

Disclosure: The researchers reported no relevant financial disclosures.