Studies have shown that the foods you do or don't eat can affect your growth, especially in childhood, when your body constantly changes. Though complex, this correlation is particularly true in regards to food allergies, which can deprive kids of key nutrients. Such is the case with dairy: Not drinking cow's milk could affect a kid's development, according to new research. But don't start to worry — there are other ways your child could get the nutrients they need to grow.
A recent study by the Children's National Health System found that children who have persistent allergies to cow's milk are more likely to be shorter and weigh less throughout preadolescence than kids who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, according to Metro. Specifically, the researchers calculated the mean differences in height, weight, and body mass index of 191 participants, and discovered that deficits in growth among kids with cow's milk allergies were pronounced in the 5-to-8 and 9-to-12 age ranges, Metro reported.
Based on the findings, researchers theorized that an allergy to cow's milk limits a wide array of food options during early childhood, when a kid is going through a number of growth spurts, according to ScienceDaily. These restrictions shrink the amount and types of vitamins and minerals children need.
Lead study author Karen Robbins, a pediatric allergist/immunologist at the Children's National Health System, said of the findings, according to ScienceDaily,
We learned from our previous research that there is a continuum of risk for deficits in height and weight among children with food allergies, and kids who are allergic to cow's milk are at heightened risk. They never have had cow's milk in their diet. Looking at food labeling, many items 'may contain milk,' which severely narrows what could be a wide variety of food items for growing children. They also frequently have allergies to additional foods.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that food allergies affected an estimated 4 to 6 percent of kids in the United States. About 90 percent of those allergies can be attributed to eight food groups: milk, egg, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts, according to the CDC.
One glass of milk provides kids with several key nutrients beneficial to their development: calcium, protein, iodine, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins B2 and B12, according to the Dairy Council of California. That's why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that kids ages 4 to 8 drink at least two and a half cups of milk each day.
Although the Children's National Health System study focused on children with cow's milk allergies, it stands to reason that the findings would also apply to households that abstain from consuming dairy, whether it's because of food sensitivities or dietary choices. But that doesn't mean you should worry about the results of the research — there are plenty of ways for your kids to receive the important vitamins and minerals they need to support their growth.
If you are looking for a better alternative to cow's milk, you can try: soy milk, which is rich in calcium, vitamin A and D, and riboflavin; almond milk, which has vitamin E; rich milk, which is free of soy, gluten, and nuts; or coconut milk, which is high in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6, and one of the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk, according to NDTV.
Sure, milk does do a body good. There's no doubt about that. But your family doesn't have to stick to the traditional dairy milk. With so many alternatives out there, you will still be able to provide your kids with what they need to grow happy, healthy and strong.
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