A new Israeli study suggests that children who avoid drinking cow’s milk will be about four centimeters shorter when they grow up. The Hebrew University-Assaf Harofeh Medical Center study was conducted after American research showed that milk allergy is associated with decreased growth in US children.

Lead author Dr. Tali Sinai, from the School of Nutritional Sciences at Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, says the research findings show “without a doubt” that children who never consumed milk or dairy products were shorter than their peers who did.

“Some of these children are even 10 centimeters shorter than their parents,” Sinai told Yediot Aharonot, noting that the study examined the height of the parents for comparison purposes. “These are clear statistical differences. It’s not a coincidence.”
The study, “Individuals with Cow’s Milk Allergy Are at Risk for not Reaching Their Growth Potential,” is based on some 100 subjects around the age of 20, when they’ve already reached full growth potential.

Some of the subjects were allergic to milk and had therefore never consumed it, while the rest consumed dairy regularly.
The study also showed that people who did not drink milk were shorter than the general average in the population.

“Milk is a source of energy, of high-quality biological protein, of vital fatty acids, of vitamins and of minerals, which are all concentrated in one type of food. Children who don’t consume milk must find a way to make up the nutritional deprivations in order to prevent growth problems,” said Sinai, a clinical dietician.

Of course, not everyone shares that view. A growing number of nutrition experts and health professionals advise keeping clear of cow’s milk.
“In recent years, there is a worldwide tendency to avoid dairy,” Dr. Ron Shaoul, head of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Rambam Healthcare Campus in Haifa, told ISRAEL21c in an article on the world’s first vegetable-based infant formula.

Response to the Hebrew University-Assaf Harofeh Medical Center study created a flurry of comments online. Many talkbacks questioned the sponsorship behind the study.

A spokesperson from the Israeli Dairy Board told ISRAEL21c that the board “did not sponsor the research” and that as far as the board knows, “it was an independent study.”