Parents, take note! Children who drink plant based milk beverages or milk from animals other than cows are more likely to be shorter, a study claims. Researchers from St Michael’s Hospital in Canada found that for each daily cup of non-cow’s milk they drank, children were 0.4 centimetres shorter than average height for their age and for each daily cup of cow’s milk they drank, children were 0.2 centimetres taller than average. This height difference is similar to the difference between major percentile lines on the World Health Organisation growth chart, said Jonathon Maguire, pediatrician at St Michael’s Hospital.
This means drinking three cups of non-cow’s milk per day might move a child to the 15th from the 50th percentile for height, and vice versa, compared with other children their age, he said. Researchers also found that children who drank a combination of cow’s milk and non-cow’s milk daily were shorter than average. “This finding suggests adding some cow’s milk to a child’s diet did not reverse the association between non-cow’s milk consumption and lower height,” Maguire said.
Height is an important indicator of children’s overall health and development, researchers said. Many parents are choosing non-cow’s milk for their children, which may have lower nutritional content, Maguire said. Researchers examined about 5,034 children between the ages of 24-72 months. Of those studied, 13 per cent drank non-cow’s milk daily, and 92 per cent drank cow’s milk daily.
While the majority of children studied drank cow’s milk daily, the number who drank non-cow’s milk daily suggests its popularity has increased in recent years, possibly due to perceived health benefits, researchers said. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.