Wednesday, 23 August, 2017

"Growing" concern about non-cow's milk for kids

Kid drinking milk Popular non-cow milk varieties include almond rice and soy milk. Image credit iStock
Steve Phelps | 09 June, 2017, 02:41

A new study has shown that there might be a very slight difference in heights of children drinking cow's milk compared to those drinking dairy alternatives such as rice, soy or almond milk.

For each daily cup of non-cow's milk consumed, children were 0.4 cm shorter than dairy milk drinkers.

How much shorter? "For example, a 3-year-old child consuming three cups of non-cow's milk relative to cow's milk was on average 1.5 centimeters shorter", Maguire said.

The study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that each daily cup of non-cow's milk consumed was associated with 0.4 centimeters (0.15 inches) lower height than average for a child's age. "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".

There are some experts worry the findings could be misleading. "That's why height is such a great marker of children's health - if you're not getting adequate nutrients your height won't be optimal for you", Macguire said. It's more like if you are consuming non-cow's milk, with each cup that a child consumes, that child on average appears to be a little bit smaller, a little shorter.

The study did not examine why children who drank non-cow's milk were shorter on average than those who drank cow's milk, however the authors hypothesize that children who drink non-cow's milk may consume less dietary protein and fat than those who drink cow's milk, resulting in reduced growth. "We don't know if the kids consuming non-cow's milk, maybe they catch up over time, or maybe they don't". Surveys suggest 12 per cent of children in urban Canada are drinking plant-based and other non-cow's milk beverages, while Canada's per capita consumption of dairy milk plummeted by 22 per cent from 1996 to 2015. "However, non-cow's milk contains less protein and fat than cow's milk and may not have the same effect on height".

Soy Milk
Soy milk. Image credit Health Line

Among the participants, 5% drank non-milk alternatives, 84% drank only cow's milk, 8% drank both, and 3% drank neither. The main takeaway seems to be that the more cow's milk you drink, the taller you'll become. On the other hand, two cups of almond milk contain only four grams of protein.

This makes it hard for the average consumer to understand the pros and cons of choosing non-cow's milk over cow's for their child, he added.

This study received funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the St. Michael's Hospital Foundation.

The researchers studied more than 5000 children between the ages of two and six.

St. Michael's Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors.

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