Children should not drink more than two cups of milk per day.

This new finding came from a team of scientists at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario and was published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study was able to show parents that two cups of milk provide children with a sufficient amount of Vitamin D and iron without resulting in any adverse reactions.

Vitamin D and iron are two of the most important nutrients in milk and are also both critical factors that impact a child’s health. For example, vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of respiratory problems in children, while a different study demonstrated that iron deficiency is linked to poor neurological development.

“We started to research the question because professional recommendations around milk intake were unclear and doctors and parents were seeking answers,” said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital and the study’s leading researcher.

Dr. Maguire and his colleagues analyzed how cow’s milk impacted the body’s storage of iron and vitamin D in over 1,300 kids between the ages of 2 and 5.

Results showed that the kids who consumed more cow’s milk had higher Vitamin D supplies but lower amount of irons.

Dr. Maguire explained:

“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. With additional cow’s milk, there was a further reduction in iron stores without greater benefit from vitamin D.”

Between 2008 and 2010, the team enrolled healthy kids during standard visits with their pediatricians to participate in the study.

The parents were asked to complete comprehensive surveys regarding their kids’ milk drinking behaviors and other factors that may impact storage of iron and Vitamin D in the body.

Each child provided a blood sample so that the team could analyze their iron and Vitamin D stores.

The children were involved in TARGEt Kids!, which is a remarkable collaboration between kids’ pediatricians and scientists from St. Michaels’ Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children.

In order to understand and prevent nutrition issues that commonly occur in the early years, this program follows kids from birth to help keep them healthy later in life.

During the winter months, kids with darker skin pigmentation might not have a sufficient amount of vitamin D, according to the authors. To resolve this issue, Dr. Maguire recommended that instead of drinking more milk, they should take vitamin D supplements in the winter in order to increase vitamin D while conserving body stores of iron.

Dr. Maguire concluded:

“Vitamin D deficiency in children has been linked to bone health issues and iron deficiency has been linked to anemia and delays in cognitive development. Being able to answer parent’s questions about healthy cow’s milk intake is important to avoiding these potentially serious complications of low vitamin D and iron stores.”

Parents should not give their children cow’s milk until they are at least one year old, suggests the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Written by Sarah Glynn