Fort Worth, Texas,
11:47 AM

Can milk alternatives stunt your child's growth? A new study says yes.

The Doc Smitty explains the research and what parents should know

Do children who drink cow’s milk grow to be taller than those who drink other types of milk?

Yes, according to a new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers say children who consumed milk from alternative sources, such as almond, rice and soy milk grew less than children who consumed cow’s milk.

For every cup of non-cow’s milk a child drank, they grew 0.4 centimeters (0.15 inches) less in height than average for a child’s age. The decreased growth was dependent upon the amount of non-cow’s milk that the child drank, thus a child who drank 3 cups of non-cow’s milk was 1.5 centimeters shorter.

There could be several reasons for this finding:

  • Alternative milks have less calories and protein than cow’s milk. They also have less vitamins and minerals.
  • Children who drank alternative milks also drank less than those who drank cow’s milk. (Further analysis showed that this only accounted for part of the difference in height.)

So, what should your family do?

You should know that there is nothing magical about milk, but it’s an easy way to get your child’s calories, protein and calcium. If they’re getting those nutrients from other sources, I’m not concerned about how much cow’s milk they drink.

For children who are allergic to cow’s milk and families who decide to drink milk alternatives for various reasons, talk to your pediatrician about how to adjust your child’s diet to make sure they are receiving the proper amount of calories and protein.

Focusing on a balanced diet is the most important thing you can do.

About the Source

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles.Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.

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