It’s probably the most common question parents ask their doctors. How much milk should I give my children every day?
Professional recommendations regarding optimal milk intake can sometimes be confusing and vague - which is why parents should be glad that a team of pediatricians from St. Michael's Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children asked themselves this question.
This team studied how cow's milk affected body stores of iron and vitamin D, two of the most important nutrients in milk, in more than 1,300 children aged two to five years. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to bone health issues, while iron deficiency has been linked to anemia and delays in cognitive development in children.
These children were participants in a unique program whose aim is to understand and prevent common nutritional problems during the early years of childhood, while also lessening their impact on health and disease later on in life.
Healthy children were recruited during regular doctor's visits. Their parents were asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire about their children's milk drinking habits and other factors that could affect iron and vitamin D stores. Finally, blood samples were taken to measure every participating child’s body stores of iron and vitamin D.
These researchers found that children who drank more cow's milk had higher vitamin D stores but lower iron stores than their peers. Two cups of cow's milk every day was enough to maintain healthy vitamin D levels and iron stores for most children. However, when they drank more cow's milk, their iron stores actually reduced, without giving them any greater benefit from vitamin D.
This study also showed that children with darker skin don’t have enough vitamin D stores in their bodies during winter months. Therefore, they might need wintertime vitamin D supplementation to increase their vitamin D stores while preserving iron stores.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to take better care of your children - why not start right away, with two daily cups of organic pasteurized cow’s milk?