Yes, children and adolescents should drink milk, and according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, consumption of milk and milk products is linked to improved bone health, particularly in children and adolescents. This led to the current daily recommendation:
- Ages 9-18 years: 3 cups
- Ages 4-8 years: 2.5 cups
- Ages 2-3 years: 2 cups
Additionally, the Dietary Guidelines found that it is especially important for young children to establish the habit of drinking milk, as those who drink milk at an early age are more likely to do so as adults. More recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) clinical report, “Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents,” stated:
- One study in adult women found that drinking milk (more than one serving a day) in childhood and adolescence was associated with higher bone mineral content and reduced risk of fractures through the years compared to women who drank less than one serving a week.
- Cow’s milk’s unique package of nutrients, includes calcium and vitamin D, which the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans acknowledge as nutrients of public health concern.
But “Can’t kids meet their nutrient needs without milk?” some ask.
It may be difficult for most to do. The same AAP report also stated that milk alternatives, such as soy- based beverages, may have a reduced amount of naturally occurring calcium per glass, even when fortified with calcium. However, “Further research is needed regarding the mineral levels and bioavailability of these beverages.” Additionally, research has found that person would have to make significant changes to their diet in order to replace several of the nutrients found in dairy foods. In short, milk contains a powerful punch of nutrients. You can learn more about them here.