KIDS
January 27, 2015

A Glass Too Many?

Milk is good for you, but parents may be tempted to let kids have more than is good for them.

What parent hasn't told their children, “Finish your milk”? Milk of all varieties is undeniably good for growing bones and bodies, but if your child drinks more than two cups a day, you may want to consider offering water instead.

When researchers at the University of Virginia examined the milk consumption patterns of nearly 9,000 children during the first four years of their life, they found that drinking more milk — lowfat or regular — gave kids a slight edge on the height charts, but it also increased their odds of becoming overweight or obese.

Milk is indeed a nutrient-rich beverage and an important source of calories and healthy fats for young children, but it’s not one that a child should be allowed to consume freely.

The team was able to follow 7,000 of the children up to the age of five and collect data on their height and weight.

About half the children who drank milk consumed two to three cups of milk per day. Those drinking two or more cups were about one centimeter taller than the kids who drank a cup or less.

Researchers were surprised to discover, however, that four-year-olds who drank more than two cups of milk per day were also 16 percent more likely to be overweight than kids who drank less.

Two cups of milk a day is all preschoolers need, according to Mark DeBoer, a pediatrician and lead author of the study. Two cups offer enough nutrients to support children’s growth without contributing to the problems of overweight and obesity.

The findings support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children between the ages of one and eight should have two cups of milk a day. The research also aligns with a previous study that found two cups of milk per day provides children with sufficient vitamin D and maintains iron levels. Young children who drink too much milk are prone to iron deficiency, since milk, a poor source of iron, can crowd out the iron-rich foods in a child’s diet.

Milk is indeed a nutrient-rich beverage and an important source of calories and healthy fats for young children, but it’s not one that a child should be allowed to consume freely.

Parents whose children are on the way to becoming overweight can help put the brakes on the problem by limiting milk consumption to two cups a day, offering water in the middle of the day and a cup at dinnertime.

The entire study can be read in the journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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