Study: Kids Should Drink Exactly Two Cups of Milk Per Day

More

Got (just the right amount, not too much, but not too little) milk?

RTR2R41R615.jpg
Reuters

PROBLEM: Still in the throes of "Got Milk?" inundation, disagreement is rife over whether drinking cow's milk is as good for us as we've been led to believe. After all, critics argue, it's estimated that up to 75 percent of people experience a reduction in their ability to digest milk after infancy, and the beverage has also been associated with iron deficiency -- not only because it's low in iron itself, but because it also hinders the body's ability to absorb iron from other sources. Milk remains, on the other hand, an important source of vitamin D, which among other things, has been shown to protect against both diabetes and the common cold in children. So, should you be giving your kids milk? And if so, how much?

METHODOLOGY: Canadian researchers tracked the milk drinking habits of 1,300 "healthy urban preschoolers" over the course of two years. The children also submitted blood samples (probably reluctantly) from which their iron and vitamin D levels could be analyzed. Skin pigmentation, whether or not they were breast fed, use of vitamin D supplements, and variations in season (which affects how much sunlight they get) were all taken into account.

RESULTS: As children consumed more cow's milk, their blood levels of vitamin D increased, but their iron levels proportionately decreased. At two glasses per day, however, children were able to get a healthy level amount of vitamin D without losing too much iron.

CONCLUSION: While there is a trade-off between the health benefits -- increased vitamin D -- and negative effects -- depleted iron -- of drinking milk, two cups a day seems to strike the ideal balance for young children.

IMPLICATIONS: Vitamin D is important, but milk is only a good source of it in moderation. During the winter months, and especially for children with darker skin pigmentation, the researchers suggest that children be given vitamin D supplements rather than extra milk.

The full study, "The Relationship Between Cow's Milk and Stores of Vitamin D and Iron in Early Childhood," is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgement, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In