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Two cups of milk a day best for children

18th December 2012

While children get much-needed vitamin D and calcium from milk, their uptake of iron can be affected if they drink too much of it.

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More than two glasses a day could affect how iron is stored in the body, putting young children at risk of anaemia, according to a recent Canadian study.

Researchers led by paediatrician Jonathon L. Maguire of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto studied the effects of milk intake on around 1,300 children in kindergarten.

They found that two cups of milk a day is the best amount for most children.

Iron is a crucial mineral for the development of the brain, and anaemia in early life can affect a person's mobility, while vitamin D is essential for bone health, among other reasons.

Iron-fortified cereals and red meat are the best sources of iron, while milk is one of the foods richest in calcium and vitamin D.

The researchers found that children who drank more than three cups a day of milk had lower levels of ferritin, which indicates how much iron is being stored in the body.

Children who drank even more than that had even lower levels of ferritin.

According to Maguire, parents should be aware that too much milk was not always good for a child, although it remains an important source of nutrition for children.

Health experts have given a mixed message on milk in a child's diet.

Current advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics says that parents should limit their child's consumption of cow's milk to around two cups a day.

On the other hand, its nutritional committee recommends vitamin D supplements if children drink less than four cups a day.

Maguire said the study had come down on the side of caution with regard to the risk of anaemia, because it was impossible to determine whether the children who drank a lot of milk were getting iron from other sources.


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