Alternative milks could stunt children's height

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Drinking almond or soya 'milk' instead of cow's milk could stunt your child's growth, a June 2017 study has discovered.

Researchers from St Michael's Hospital in Toronto discovered that three-year-olds who drank three cups of cow's milk a day were on average 1.5cm taller than children given cow milk substitutes.

Study author Dr Jonathon Maguire said cow's milk and alternative 'milks' vary in nutritional content, particularly in the amount of protein and fat, which could be leading to the height differences.

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

"Cow's milk has been a reliable source of dietary protein and fat for children.

"Many parents were now choosing non-cow's milk for their children, which may have lower nutritional content."

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 children who drank a mix of both cow and non-cow milk were also shown to be shorter.

The researchers studied more than 5000 children between the ages of two and six. Of those studied, 92 per cent drank cow's milk every day, and 13 per cent had non-cow's milk.

Dr Maguire said as the shift towards cow's milk alternatives was relatively recent, there was still limited research on the impacts on children's health and development. This makes it difficult for parents to fully understand the wider impacts and to weigh the pros and cons of each.

"If products are being marketed as being equivalent to cow's milk, as a consumer and a parent, I would like to know that they are in fact the same in terms of their effect on children's growth," he said.