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Children who Did not Drink Cow’s Milk tend to have Low Vitamin D Levels

Update Date: Oct 20, 2014 12:32 PM EDT
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Due to factors such as allergies and lactose intolerance, more children are consuming other types of milk, such as rice, almond, soy or goat's milk. Even though these milk options are healthy, a new study is reporting that children who drink them exclusively tend to have very low vitamin D levels, which could lead to other health complications later one.

For this study, the researchers recruited 3,821 healthy children between the ages of one and six who were a part of a research network known as TARGet Kids! This network collected data from seven pediatric or family medicine private practices in Toronto, Canada. The team examined blood levels of vitamin D in relation to the types of milk the children drank. Overall, 87 percent of the sample drank cow's milk and 13 percent drank non-cow's milk.

The researchers discovered that children who drank only non-cow's milk were two times more likely to be deficient in vitamin D when compared to children who drank only cow's milk. In this non-cow's milk group of children, every cup of non-cow's milk was linked to a five percent drop in their vitamin D levels per month.

"It is difficult for consumers to tell how much vitamin D is in non-cow's milk," said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician and researcher with St. Michael's Hospital, reported in the press release. "Caregivers need to be aware of the amount of vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients in alternative milk beverages so they can make informed choices for their children. Our findings may also be helpful to health care providers working with children who regularly consume non-cow's milk due to cow's milk allergy, lactose intolerance or dietary preference."

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone weakness and in rare cases, rickets, which is a severe condition characterized by soft and weak bones that could lead to deformities. Vitamin D is most easily sourced from direct sunlight, but it can also be found in fortified cow's milk, fish and some other foods.

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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