No cow’s milk = shorter height in youth?

No cow’s milk = shorter height in youth?

Elimination diets, especially among health-savvy adults, are all the rage – especially when there is concern of inflammation following consumption. Dairy and gluten are the common offenders per many nutritionists and naturopathic practitioners. But what does the data show? Specifically among growing children- a subset of the population that is strengthening and fortifying new bone, developing robust tooth enamel, and avidly growing? A recent study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ‘found that each daily cup of non-cow’s milk consumed (in place of cow’s milk) was associated with 0.4 centimeters (0.15 inches) lower height than average for a child’s age’.

“We found that children who are consuming non-cow’s milk like rice, almond and soy milk tended to be a little bit shorter than children who consumed cow’s milk,” said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, the study’s lead author and a pediatrician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “For example, a 3-year-old child consuming three cups of non-cow’s milk relative to cow’s milk was on average 1.5 centimeters shorter.”

Why is this? Likely, because plant based proteins are not nutritionally equivalent to animal based proteins.

Specifically, plant-based milks do not stimulate insulin-like growth factor, or IGF production as well as cow’s milk. This growth factor is instrumental in achieving height.  

I have always advised my patient parents against restrictive or elimination diets unless a true allergy or obvious sensitivity exists. Diversity of diet that is rich in protein is critical for robust growth in toddlers and young children. Nutritional fads, especially among pediatric patients, often ring hollow.