Does drinking milk make kids taller? If the milk comes from a cow, the answer may be yes, CBC News reports. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 3-year-olds who drank 3 cups of an alternative to cow's milk, such as soy, almond, or rice milk, each day were on average 1.5 centimeters (or .59 inches) shorter than kids who quaffed 3 cups of the real stuff. While it is not known if the kids will grow up to be shorter, lead author Jonathon Maguire tells the National Post that height differences often widen over time. "Even a one- or two-centimeter difference when you’re little can result in a big difference when you’re an adult," he says. And "when you are only 2.5 feet high," he tells CBC, "it is a fairly sizable difference."
His team at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto studied 5,000 children between the ages of 2 and 6, of whom 92% drank cow's milk daily and 13% drank alternatives daily. (Even children who drank a combination of cow's milk and alternatives were shorter on average than those who only drank cow's milk.) While researchers didn't examine a cause for the height drop-off, they theorize that dietary protein and fat are at the heart of the matter. Steadily on the rise, alternatives to cow's milk tend to have less of both. With 16 grams of protein, two cups of cow's milk pack 100% of the daily protein requirement for a 3-year-old. In contrast, the same amount of almond milk has about four grams. Many cow's milk alternatives contain little fat and and the calcium is not not as readily absorbed, a dietitian tells HealthDay. Maguire urges parents to closely read nutrition labels. (Bad news about organic milk.)