Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2014-306958
  • Original article

Milk intake, height and body mass index in preschool children

  1. Rebecca J Scharf2
  1. 1Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
  2. 2Division of Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark D DeBoer, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, P.O. Box 800386, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA; deboer{at}
  • Received 11 June 2014
  • Revised 17 November 2014
  • Accepted 21 November 2014
  • Published Online First 15 December 2014


Objectives To evaluate links between the volume of milk consumed and weight and height status in children aged 4 and 5 years.

Design We analysed data from 8950 children followed up as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey, Birth cohort, a nationally representative cohort of children. We used linear and logistic regression to assess associations of daily servings of milk intake at age 4 years with z-scores of body mass index (BMI), height and weight-for-height at 4 and 5 years, adjusted for sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and type of milk consumed.

Results Among children who drank milk at age 4 years, higher milk consumption was associated with higher z-scores of BMI, height and weight-for-height at 4 years (all p<0.05). This corresponded to differences between children drinking <1 and ≥4 milk servings daily of approximately 1 cm in height and 0.15 kg in weight. By age 5 years, only the association with height remained significant (p<0.001). At 4 years, children drinking ≥3 servings of milk daily were more likely to be overweight/obese (BMI≥85th percentile) than those drinking 0.5–2 servings of milk daily (adjusted OR 1.16 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.32) p=0.02).

Conclusions In a cohort of children at age 4 years, the volume of milk consumed was associated with higher weight status and taller stature, while at 5 years, higher milk consumption continued to be associated with taller stature. Given higher odds of overweight/obesity with milk consumption ≥3 servings daily, this study supports current American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that pre-school children consume two milk servings daily.

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