A study published yesterday in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that kids who drink non-dairy “milks” like soy milk or almond milk, may end up shorter than their dairy-drinking peers. This is important, say pediatricians, because height is one of the primary indicators of a child’s overall physical development.
This study looked at more than 5,000 Canadian toddlers whose medical data were included in the Applied Research Group for Kids cohort and looked specifically at milk consumption. What the researchers say they found was a dose-dependent link between non-dairy milk beverages and shorter statures in the children. For each cup of soy or nut milk a child consumed every day, he or she was nearly half a centimeter shorter than a dairy-drinking child the same age.
Half a centimeter may not sound like much but when looking at kids who drank no dairy at all, compared to kids who drank dairy regularly, the difference became more obvious. Kids who drank 3 cups of nut or soy milk per day were, on average, 1.5 centimeters shorter than kids who drank mainly dairy milk.
Why Would Soy Or Nut Milk Drinkers Be Shorter?
The scientists behind this study speculate that the reason the milk drinkers were taller than the soy milk or nut milk children is that cow’s milk contains more protein and fat than nut or soy beverages.
And there may be another factor in play–cow’s milk may simply be more consistent when it comes to nutrition. “The nutritional content of cow’s milk is regulated in the United States and Canada, while the nutritional contents of most non-cow’s milks are not,” said lead author Jonathon Maguire. He goes on, “The lack of regulation means the nutritional content varies widely from one non-cow’s milk product to the next, particularly in the amount of protein and fat.”
In this study, 92% of the kids drank at least some cows milk every day. Only about 13% drank any soy milk or nut milk daily. Researchers did not break the milk-drinking data into groups of cow milk versus goat milk or low-fat versus full-fat dairy. Nor did they speculate on whether the height difference would be closed later if more non-dairy parents switched to cow’s milk. It also did not factor in other sources of fat and protein, like egg consumption.
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation.