Preschoolers who drink three or more cups of milk a day may get a small height boost, but they’re also more likely to be overweight or obese, say U.S. researchers.
The results, based on nearly 9,000 children, support current recommendations that preschoolers consume two one-cup servings of milk a day.
“Overall, we were most struck by the heavier BMI (body mass index) among four-year-old children drinking high volumes of milk,” said Dr. Mark DeBoer, a pediatrician at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville who led the study.
“Given the country's current obesity epidemic, we felt as though the data supported the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommending that children drink two servings of milk daily - but restrain them from drinking higher volumes because of the potential for unhealthy weight gain”.
The researchers examined the milk-consumption patterns of 8,950 children during their first four years, based on interviews with parents. They were also able to follow up with 7,000 of those kids at age five.
About half (53%) of the children who drank milk consumed two or three one-cup servings daily.
Four-year-olds who drank more than the recommended two servings of milk per day were 16 percent more likely to be overweight than the kids who drank less.
The study team also found that on average, kids who drank two, three and four or more servings of milk per day were about a centimeter taller than kids who drank one serving or less.
By age five, the weight differences were no longer statistically significant and drinking more milk was only associated with being slightly taller.
There are several possible explanations for the results, particularly given that milk is high in growth factors that may or may not contribute to getting taller. It’s also possible, that the heavier weight status associated with more milk intake could push children toward earlier growth.
Other research has shown that around two cups of milk per day balances vitamin D and iron stores.
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