Now you can tell your kids to drink their milk, it will help them grow and stand tall.

New research in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that children ages 1 to 6 who did not get enough milk were substantially shorter, had poorer bone health and higher rates of bone fractures than kids who were habitual milk drinkers.

New Zealand researchers compared a group of 50 children who had avoided milk between the ages of 1 to about 6 with 200 habitual milk consumers in the same age group. Evaluations of calcium intake and bone mineral density showed that only four of the non-milk drinking children had adequate intakes of calcium, and in general, children in that group had a lower total-body bone mineral content than the control group.

Other interesting findings from the study include:

  • Milk-avoiding children had an annual incidence of forearm fractures of 3.5 percent compared with the expected rate of 1 percent in the children who consumed milk regularly.
  • About 30 percent of the milk-avoiding children, although in general good health, were overweight or obese.

"Milk and dairy products generally provide about 75 percent of the dietary calcium in Western diets," explains co-author Ailsa Goulding, a professorial research fellow at Otago University in New Zealand. While other studies have shown lower calcium levels in children who have low milk consumption, Goulding told Health Scout News that this is the first study to measure bone density throughout the skeleton of a group of young children who have chronically avoided cow milk; to ask about bone fractures; and to look at height and levels of obesity accurately.

"We were surprised not just by the severity of the low density in the children we studied, but also by the high number of young children we saw who had already broken bones and by their shortness and (excessive weight)," she says.

Goulding notes that only about half the participants had ever experienced any unpleasant physical symptoms from milk consumption. Many instead avoided milk simply because they disliked the taste or because family members chose not to offer it to them.

Health Scout News