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Milk intake, height and body mass index in preschool children


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.

  • Obesity
  • Nutrition
  • Growth

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