For parents wondering exactly how much milk is optimal for their young children, a new study offers some advice: two cups/473 mL a day.
Milk is a good source of vitamin D and calcium for growing bones, but too much milk can lower how much iron is stored in the body, which can bolster risk for anemia, the researchers say.
To reach their findings, a team from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto looked at data from around 1,300 preschool children, aged two to five, measuring how daily milk intake effected iron and vitamin D levels. They found that children who drank three or more cups of milk a day had higher vitamin D stores but lower iron stores.
"We saw that two cups of cow's milk per day was enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels for most children, while also maintaining iron stores," says lead researcher and pediatrician Jonathon L. Maguire, MD. "With additional cow's milk, there was a further reduction in iron stores without greater benefit from vitamin D."
The results of the study appeared online in Pediatrics December 17.
According to WebMD, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschool children drink no more than two cups of milk a day, but that the group's committee on nutrition suggests giving children vitamin D supplements if they consume less than about four cups a day, or 1,000 mL.
The researchers add that vitamin D supplements may be important for children with darker skin or who live in climates with less sunlight, since the body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However other experts say that parents shouldn't stress too much about exact portions of foods and should just ensure children eat a variety of healthful foods.
Access the study: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/12/12/peds.2012-1793