Bad News, Vegans: Non-Dairy Milks Might Be Making Our Kids Shorter, Says New Study

Research suggests kids who drink dairy milk are taller.

Milk. It’s an essential part of a child’s growing diet (according to the many commercials and “got milk?” posters we can remember from our youth.) But in 2017, nationwide consumption of it is lower than ever.

According to NPR, the average American now drinks 18 gallons of dairy milk per year, compared to the 30 gallons per year we were all putting away in the 1970s. (Not that the 1970s should necessarily be our bar for nutrition.) And the biggest reason for the drop doesn’t come from growing dairy prices or supply shortages, but from the number of parents who are now choosing what they view as healthier milk alternatives—soy, almond, etc—over traditional cow’s milk when shopping for their households.

But all those milk alternatives may be having an unintended consequence.

GrubStreet reports that a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that for children, a diet rich in milk might actually make them taller than their classmates who drink other milk alternatives. The study examined the diet habits of 5,000 kids and found that those who drank three cups of non-dairy milk every day were, on average, 0.6 inches shorter than children drinking the same amount of cow’s milk. What’s more, the study found that the more non-dairy milk children consumed, the greater the disparity in height tended to be.

To get an idea of why this might be, The Feast spoke with nutritionist Jenn Menzer, the owner of WellFit Concierge in Phoenix, to learn more. “My initial reaction is that I’m not surprised,” Jenn tells us. “2 percent cow milk has over eight times as much protein and twice the amount of fat than many soy/nut milks…and dairy protein is especially beneficial for height growth.” She also noted that cow’s milk has essential nutrients for bone growth and remodeling that other soy and nut milks lack, including Vitamin D, C, and A.

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So should parents take any drastic steps? Not so fast, says Menzer. “Moderation is key with any food source,” she explains. “For children that can safely assimilate dairy, continue your normal regimen. For kids that can’t due to intolerance, allergies, or other circumstances, just ensure your kids are also eating plenty of foods rich in Vitamins D, A, and C.”

Their future basketball careers might depend on it.

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