Family Matters

Milk for Kids: 2 Cups a Day, No More and No Less

Milk, it does a body good. But how much milk does the most good?

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Milk, it does a body good. But how much milk does the most good?

According to new research from the University of Toronto, while milk builds bones, too much may not be so great for children’s iron levels.

Milk is fortified with vitamin D, which can be hard to manufacture naturally without sufficient exposure to sunlight. But for some reason that’s not entirely clear, drinking milk can decrease iron stores; kids who slurp up lots of milk tend to have severe iron deficiency.

The solution? More specific guidelines for how much milk children should drink, advice that doesn’t currently exist in any helpful form for parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises vitamin D supplements for kids who aren’t drinking four cups of milk a day. But the AAP’s iron recommendations state children should be drinking just two to three cups.

“One of the most common questions pediatricians get from parents is how much milk should my child be drinking?” says lead author Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “The amazing thing is, children’s doctors don’t know.”

(MORE: The Chocolate Milk Wars: A Mom’s Perspective)

Maguire tried to address that oversight by linking children’s milk intake to their vitamin D and iron levels. He and his colleagues looked at more than 1,300 children ages 2 to 5, taking into account how much time they spent outside, their skin pigmentation (dark-skinned children have a harder time getting enough vitamin D from the sun), their body-mass index and whether they drank from bottles, which can increase milk-drinking because bottles tend to be refilled. Blood samples showed that those children whose parents reported they drank more milk had increased vitamin D levels and lower iron stores. “It’s a bit of a trade-off,” says Maguire.

After crunching the numbers, the researchers settled on the threshold amount for where milk’s vitamin D benefit was offset by the drop in iron — two cups. Kids who drank two cups of milk daily had healthy levels of Vitamin D and iron, according to the results of the study, published in the journal Pediatrics. “Beyond that, any more milk isn’t giving much more benefit in terms of vitamin D but children are still paying a price because their iron stores are going down,” says Maguire.

There are some caveats, particularly for children with darker skin, who don’t make as much vitamin D from the sun. In the winter, doctors suggest they take vitamin D supplements. But the average child doesn’t appear to need extra fortification beyond sunshine and vitamin D-laden foods such as fatty fish such as salmon, mushrooms and fortified cereals).

The somewhat surprising recommendations may require some new thinking on the part of parents, who have been taught to see milk as a staple of kids’ diets. “Maybe,” says Maguire, “too much of a good thing is not such a good thing.”

(MORE: Toddlers’ Junk-Food Diet May Lead to Lower IQ)

15 comments
kipwellington1981
kipwellington1981

Interesting, I haven't read about the association of Milk, Vitamin D, and Iron levels before. Most of these kind of research are properly perormed of course, but I can't help thinking of all the potential biases in these studies (which I completely understand you are unable to correct for outside of a laboratory). For instance, are parents who don't "overload" their children also more keen on feeding their children with more qualitative and diverse foods. Or encourage their children to get away from electronic devices and play outside in the sun. Either way, it is a intersting and important association. 

For those with lactose intolerance, most green vegetables have high levels of calcium, and many other products. Enough to remain healthy at least, you don't necassarily need milk for that (how many mammals drink milk after childhood?). And as for vitamin D (which aids calcium uptake in the gut), get those kids in the sun! 90% of the vitamin D is synthesized in our skin. 

Thanks for sharing!

http://www.vitamindfoods.org 

MentxuDaVinci
MentxuDaVinci

Many people are lactose intolerant. Thereby not well assimilated calcium from milk. There are sources of calcium assimilation easier as nuts, sesame, vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, broccoli, watercress, parsley, and legumes such as soybeans and chickpeas. And if you look a little further we see that elephants do not drink milk for strong bones. http://armoniacorporal.es/

eetom
eetom

2 cups a day.  Very imprecise.  How big should the cup be?

Carolyn Pierce
Carolyn Pierce

Gingere La.....almond "milk" is made from almonds, not beans. So much better than cow's juice. :-)

Bristol Eastwood
Bristol Eastwood

There are 'lactase drops' for those with intolerance, add the drops to the milk container and save far more money than buying cartons of pre-made Lactose-free milk. I hear Almond milk is great

J.j. Lasne
J.j. Lasne

If you are not lactose intolerant.

Aysegul Guryuksel
Aysegul Guryuksel

While you are breast spreading, some wolverines can triple your infant's chest so wear a bra and shut the hell up cows cowboys.

Donna Hall
Donna Hall

We humans are the only mammals on earth that lactate (breastfeed) for life. This chemical that is disguised as "milk" nowdays is only a molecule away from being plastic. A woman was made to breastfeed her infant, ween them when appropriate, not introduce them to an animals breastmilk.

Stephanie Vanderyacht
Stephanie Vanderyacht

Patricia, its not like it used to be. There are more pesticides in their food, growth hormones, GMO s in their feed. Not good for our babies, unless its raw, fresh, local milk.

Donna Hall
Donna Hall

This "stuff" they call milk is one of the worst foods sold today. Our children are fed this propaganda that" milk does a body good"days and in fact that is so far from the truth it should be pulled from all grocery shelves immediately. Google "the good and bad about milk and dig deeper from there.

Bristol Eastwood
Bristol Eastwood

It's unnatural for a human to drink cow milk, it's more just of a obediently support the industry thing

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

You needed to sensationalize this enough to get people to read it by translating "two to three cups a day" to "2 Cups a Day, No More and No Less"?

If the media can't find enough news to report they'll make it up on their own just to get you to read it.

A misguided wacko kid shooting a bunch of people is enough to get them talking for months about kids, guns and gun control.

What about our standard of living, it just goes down the toilet too slow for them to bother mentioning.

Or, maybe it's not us they actually work for.