Drinking non-cow's milk linked to lower height in children

According to the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking one cup of cow's milk a day makes children 0.2cm taller than average for their age, while a daily cup of non-cow's milk makes then 0.4cm shorter.

The study's lead author said the most surprising finding was that "the amount children were shorter depended on how much they were consuming". Dr. Jonathan Maguire, the study's lead author and a pediatrician and researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto said, "The study we conducted found that children who are consuming non-cow's milk like rice, almond and soy milk tended to be a little bit shorter than children who consumed cow's milk". Conversely, for each daily cup of cow's milk they drank, children were 0.2 centimeters taller than average. What this new study shows is not children drinking plant based milks lagging behind; it shows how cow's milk can unnaturally stimulate growth.

Dr Maguire said: "Height is an important indicator of children's overall health and development".

The study suggests the more non-cow's milk children drink, the lower their height.

"Cow's milk has been a reliable source of dietary protein and fat for children, two essential nutrients to ensure proper growth in early childhood". It was noted that around 5% of these children were regular drinkers of non-cow's milks exclusively i.e. they never drank cow's milk.

The number of children who drank non-cow's milk daily suggests the beverages' popularity have increased in recent years, said Dr. Maguire, possibly due to perceived health benefits.

About two thirds of the entire human population don't drink milk and, as long as the children are fed an adequate diet, grow perfectly well. The researchers also shared that with each cup of non-cow's milk consumption, the children became shorter.

Among the participants, 5% drank non-milk alternatives, 84% drank only cow's milk, 8% drank both, and 3% drank neither.

While a daily cup of non-cow's milk makes them 0.4cm shorter.

A cup of cow's milk contains about eight grams of protein, while the same amount of almond only packs in two.

"The nutritional content of cow's milk is regulated in the United States and Canada, while the nutritional contents of most non-cow's milks are not", he said.

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 latest study was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the St. Michael's Hospital Foundation.

  • Joanne Flowers