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The Impact of Milk Consumption on Children’s Growth: Evidence and Considerations

The Impact of Milk Consumption on Children's Growth: Evidence and Considerations

Milk consumption affects any growing organism. As it is known, infants absorb useful substances from their mother’s milk for their proper physical and mental development. After the first year, they are fed milk of animal origin, which is believed to contribute to their growth and weight. Various studies prove that milk in children’s nutrition makes them taller. Scientists in the food and beverage sector associate the relatively high height of children with their regular consumption of milk, particularly cow milk. Although the quality of milk of animal origin can vary and accordingly influence children’s organisms, its consumption can help children of a certain age grow taller.

Influence of Milk

Milk contains essential amounts of calcium, which boosts the development of healthy bones and the organism’s growth. Long-term studies of milk consumption and its influence determine high beneficial calorie content necessary for all children. Thus, Fulgoni and Quann mention calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium as vital for healthy bone growth. More than three decades of studies indicated these unchanged benefits for children. The previous examination of this causal relationship justifies the research. As milk contains great amounts of calcium, this ‘building material’ helps the young body form bone mass better and its mineral content. Therefore, the bone system of children who are used to drinking cow milk regularly develops more actively.

Milk is useful for height gain by the insulin-based factor of growth. Besides calcium, milk may contain insulin that boosts height gain. The fact is that insulin is found in cow milk in greater quantities than in humans. Moreover, it is crucially important for the mineral accrual of bones on periosteal buildups. Milk consumption and insulin digestion are stable in both acidic and heat conditions. Milk whey basic protein promotes bone formation and increases its mineral density regardless of the intake of vitamins and minerals on a dietary basis. Therefore, milk consumption could stimulate the growth of bones in children who regularly consume it since it helps them grow taller.

Milk stimulates children’s growth at a certain age, which can limit the scope of research and age limits for the actual benefits of milk. Thus, the research of Fulgoni and Quann mentions a <1-5-year period of children who are the most receptive to the assimilation of the chemical composition of milk. Another research conducted by Quann, Fulgoni, and Auestad reveals that milk-based products, particularly milk, are recommended for consumption by dietary guides for Americans. These recommendations concern, in particular, the majority of children from 4 years of age and older, as well as adults. This age category of children is indicated as the target in the study that notes the importance of milk for the development of the bones of young children. Most likely, this happens due to the transition pattern to a different diet at this age and because milk consumption by different age categories varies. However, milk's impact on children's growth cannot be unequivocally confirmed.

Although alternative sources of diet energy for children have shown significant contributions to their health, cow milk boosts height gain the most. The research on the role of cow milk in children’s height showed that 5,000 children 2-6 years old had shown the efficiency of milk as a growth constructor. At the same time, Welch admits that children who drink milk alternatives (soy, almond, and rice) are shorter than their peers who consume cow milk. Moreover, as presented by Welch, the study indicated a dependence on the dose, which means that the more alternative milk consumed, the shorter the children. However, even such a direct assumption can cause some concerns, as the components of milk contributing to children’s growth are contained even in some vegetables. Any research on this topic includes concerns and certain uncertainty, as it is impossible to fully confirm the sole role of milk in bone growth since it depends on children’s diet and heredity.

However, flavored milk, other additional ingredients, and alternatives for cow milk do not promote the healthy consumption of milk by children, which might affect their growth. Moreover, more children and adults must meet the dietary guidelines recommendations for Americans. This fact especially applies to sweetened milk or milk with additives to stimulate consumption. Thus, the greatest utility of milk is given to children of pre-school age whose organism is in dire need of growth-supporting products. Therefore, stimulating children’s growth requires increased regular milk consumption, not its flavored form. As the reduction and removal of flavored milk from children’s diets decrease milk consumption, it appears important to consider all aspects and allow flavored milk since this ensures that children consume milk, but sugar intake should be decreased. Therefore, alternative kinds of milk do not make children tall. This fact was surveyed and researched practically.


In summary, milk significantly improves children’s growth, while the existing milk alternatives do not. As shown by studies and confirmed facts, milk contains protein, calcium, insulin, and other mineral elements that develop the bone system of young children. However, milk cannot significantly affect the growth of children of a more conscious age (from 2 years old) and adults. In addition, additives and sugar deteriorate milk consumption, which reduces the effectiveness of the building properties of milk due to the shortening of its consumption. The topic is useful for schoolchildren’s school diet, infants’ nutrition, and assigned diets in individual cases of growth deficiency.

📎 References

1. Fulgoni, V. L., & Quann, E. E. (2012). National trends in beverage consumption in children from birth to 5 years: Analysis of NHANES across three decades. Nutrition Journal, 11(1), 92. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-11-92
2. Li, X. E., & Drake, M. (2015). Sensory perception, nutritional role, and challenges of flavored milk for children and adults. Journal of Food Science, 80(4), R665-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.12828
3. Mole, B. (2017, June 10). Milk alternatives stunt kids’ height, says doctor with dairy industry ties. Retrieved from https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/milk-alternatives-stunt-kids-height-says-doctor-with-dairy-industry-ties/
4. Quann, E. E., Fulgoni, V. L., & Auestad, N. (2015). Consuming the daily recommended amounts of dairy products would reduce the prevalence of inadequate micronutrient intakes in the United States: Diet modeling study based on NHANES 2007–2010. Nutrition Journal, 14(1), 90. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-015-0057-5
5. Welch, A. (2017, June 7). “Growing” concern about non-cow’s milk alternatives for kids. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/drinking-non-cows-milk-soy-almond-may-affect-childrens-height-study/
6. Wiley, A. S. (2012). Cow milk consumption, insulin‐like growth factor‐I, and human biology: A life history approach. American Journal of Human Biology, 24(2), 130-138. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.22201
7. Zafar, A. (2017, June 7). Does drinking cow’s milk help children grow taller? CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/milk-children-height-1.4149832