The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that children from the ages of 2 to 6 be given no more than 500 mL of milk a day (2 cups) because it can cause iron deficiency. Now a new study conducted by Jonathon Maguire, MD, MSc, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and his colleagues suggests that the AAP might be correct.
According to the study, consumption of cow’s milk is linked to higher vitamin D levels and lower serum ferritin levels, a popular measurement of iron levels.
The study finds that each cup of milk consumed leads to a 6.5 percent increase in vitamin D levels and a 3.6 percent lowering of iron levels.
Reported online in Pediatrics, the study finds that just two cups of milk was more than enough to keep vitamin D levels in check while also lowering iron levels in 2- to 5-year-olds. Researchers do warn that darker skinned children may require slightly more milk during the winter months.
Researchers note that low iron levels help brain and psychomotor development while vitamin D is tied to healthy bones and the prevention of disease. For those reasons, the researchers believe 500 mL of milk is the “magic number” for consumption.
The study examined 1,311 healthy children from the ages of 2 to 5. The daily average of milk intake for the children was 460 mL.
According to the study, 33 percent of children had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels under the 75 nmol/L threshold while 6 percent of children had levels under 50 nmol/L. The recommended Vitamin D level is 75 nmol/L.
Researchers also note that the Serrum ferritin level averaged 31 μg/L, with 4 percent falling under 12 μg/L.
Children who drank three 250-mL cups of milk a day versus two had:
- 5.5-nmol/L higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D (95% CI 3.9 to 7.1)
- 1-μg/L lower serum ferritin (95% CI 0.3 to 1.7)
Researchers suggest that dark skinned children receive 3 to 4 cups of milk per day during the winter months in order to maintain healthy 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.
Parent reporting was a limitation of the study. Researchers believe some parents may have under-reported bottle drinking when offering their children’s daily milk consumption numbers.
If this study is not enough to convince you to give up milk, perhaps the expected increase in milk prices will be enough to switch your fluids choice for your own 2- to 6-year-old children.
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