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Kids who drink plant-based milks could grow up to be shorter than their peers. 

Elisabeth Sherman
June 09, 2017

Potentially troubling news for those people who feed their kids soy, almond, rice, or other types of a plant-based mik: A new study has found that kids who drink milk that doesn’t come from cows were shorter than their peers who do.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that each daily cup of non-cow's milk the child consumed “was associated with 0.4 centimeters (0.15 inches) lower height than average for a child's age” overall, according to CNN.

"We found that children who are consuming non-cow's milk like rice, almond and soy milk tended to be a little bit shorter than children who consumed cow's milk," said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, the study’s lead author, told CNN. “For example, a 3-year-old child consuming three cups of non-cow's milk relative to cow's milk was on average 1.5 centimeters shorter."

The study surveyed more than 5,000 otherwise healthy Canadian children ranging from 2-6 years old. Of the participating children, 5% exclusively drank variations of milk that don’t come from cows, while about 84% drank only cow's milk.

Maguire says that the study doesn’t mean that if you drink some non-cow milk you’ll automatically end up shorter, but rather that for each cup of non-cow's milk that the child drinks, she tends to be, on average, smaller than her peers.

Here’s why you shouldn’t panic if you kids drink non-dairy milk: Researchers don’t yet know if there’s any correlation to height in adulthood, meaning it might not matter if a kid is an inch shorter than other kids. She could still up an average height, regardless of what type of milk she drank in childhood.

“We don't know if the kids consuming non-cow's milk, maybe they catch up over time, or maybe they don't,” Maguire noted.

If you need further reason to be skeptical, CNN also pointed out that there were several flaws in the study. They spoke with Amy Joy Lanou, a professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, who raised some red flags about the researcher’s methodology (in the past, she has researched whether or not cow’s milk is a necessary part of our diet).

"It's just odd to me why we wouldn't be looking at the overall diets of the children," Lanou said. "I think they're using height as a marker for health, and I'm not sure that's appropriate."

With advocates for milk and their opposing skeptics weighing in on the debate, even without any definitive answers at this point, the study is sure to spark controversy among parents, doctors, and of course, health nuts.