Got milk? myths about milk

 

milkWe’ve heard some interesting things about cow’s milk over the years. I am going to share with you four myths about milk that I continue to hear from my patients’ parents. Spoiler: reading myth #4 can save you lots of money.

 

Myth #1: Don’t give milk to a child with a fever, the milk will curdle (or some other variant).

 

Truth: As long as your child is not vomiting, milk is a perfectly acceptable fluid to give your febrile child. In fact it is superior to plain water if your child is refusing to eat, which is very typical of a child with a fever. Fevers take away appetites. So if your child stops eating while she is sick, at least she can drink some nutrition. Milk has energy and nutrition, which help fight infection (germs). Take milk, add a banana and a little honey (if your child is older than one year), and maybe some peanut butter for added protein, pour it into a blender, and make a nourishing milk shake for your febrile child. Children with fevers need extra hydration anyway. Even febrile infants need formula or breast milk, NOT plain water. The milk will not curdle or upset them in any way. If, on the other hand, your child is vomiting, then stick to clear fluids until her stomach settles.

 

Myth #2: Don’t give children milk when they have a cold because the milk will give them more mucus.

 

Truth: There is NOTHING mucus-inducing about milk. Milk will not make your child’s nose run thicker or make his chest more congested. Let your runny-nosed child have his milk! Yet my own mother cringes when I give my children milk when they have colds. Never mind my medical degree; my mom is simply passing on the wisdom of HER mother which is that you should not give your child milk with a cold. Then again, my grandmother also believed that your body only digests vitamin C in the morning which is why you have to drink your orange juice at breakfast time. But that’s a myth I’ll tackle in the future.

 

Myth #3: You can’t over- dose a child on milk.

 

Truth: Actually, while milk is healthy and provides necessary calcium and vitamin D, too much milk CAN be a bad thing. To get enough calcium from milk, your child’s body needs somewhere between 16 to 24 ounces of milk per day. Of course, if your child eats cheese, yogurt, and other calcium-containing foods, she does not need this much milk. New recommendations for healthy Vitamin D requirements have been increased recently to 400 IU (international units) daily which translates into 32 ounces of milk daily.  BUT we pediatricians know from experience that over 24 ounces of milk daily leads to iron-deficiency anemia:  calcium competes with iron absorption. You’re better off giving an over-the-counter vitamin such as Tri-Vi-Sol or letting older children chew a multivitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D. In addition to iron-deficiency anemia, drinking all that extra milk is bad for teeth (all milk contains sugar) and can also lead to obesity from excessive calories or can in fact lead to poor weight gain in children who are picky eaters to begin with: the milk fills them up too much for them to have any appetite left for food.

 

Myth #4: Organic milk is healthier than non-organic milk.

 

 

 

Truth: If you compare organic milk to non-organic milk, the nutrients on the label of the milk carton are the SAME. “But what about the growth hormones in milk,” you may wonder. First of all, cows may be supplemented with growth hormone, but their milk is not. In addition, let me explain about growth hormone. Some children are actually born without growth hormone, and other kids develop growth hormone deficiency because of kidney failure, or cancer treatment, or other medical problems. These children need supplemental growth hormone. Unfortunately for these kids, the only way that we have to give growth hormone to these kids is by injection (a shot) every day. Do you know why? Growth hormone gets DIGESTED in the stomach and is not active if a child eats/drinks it. SO, even if non-organic milk contained growth hormone (which it doesn’t) then your child would have no effects of it anyway because their guts would break it down before it could act on their bodies. WHEW! So unless you just like the taste better, you do NOT have to spend twice as much money on organic milk. Just buy regular milk. Put that extra money away in your college funds.

 

In summary, you can safely continue serving your children milk in sickness and in health, in moderation, at a lower cost than organic, every day. Now, all this talk about milk really puts me in the mood to bake cookies…

 

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®

Update: Please read this article , by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012, for a comprehensive, unbiased review of the data comparing health benefits of conventional vs organic milk and other foods–Drs. Kardos and Lai, October 6, 2013.

Revised from the original post from 10/5/2009

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8 comments

  1. I love your blog and think you both do a wonderful job on these posts.
    One thing I think you are missing in your evaluation of organic milk is the fatty acid profile. Many studies (for example: http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/PIIS0022030210006703/fulltext) show that organic milk have a significantly greater value of EFA’s. EFA’s are extremely important for the health of young children.
    Also, what about the antibiotics used on the sick cows who are producing this milk? Is the health of the animals producing the milk not a concern? How about the pesticides from the feed which the animals are being fed? etc….etc….
    I think you may want to re-look at your conclusions as this topic goes much deeper than the short-sighted view you have displayed.
    Thank you again for your blog. I truly do enjoy it….. I just think you may want to re-evaluate the organic milk portion of this post.

  2. I love your blog and think you both do a wonderful job on these posts.
    One thing I think you are missing in your evaluation of organic milk is the fatty acid profile. Many studies (for example: http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/PIIS0022030210006703/fulltext) show that organic milk have a significantly greater value of EFA’s. EFA’s are extremely important for the health of young children.
    Also, what about the antibiotics used on the sick cows who are producing this milk? Is the health of the animals producing the milk not a concern? How about the pesticides from the feed which the animals are being fed? etc….etc….
    I think you may want to re-look at your conclusions as this topic goes much deeper than the short-sighted view you have displayed.
    Thank you again for your blog. I truly do enjoy it….. I just think you may want to re-evaluate the organic milk portion of this post.

  3. In response to Ryan: as the UK study you linked discusses, there is tremendous variability in fat content of milk from different regions, seasons, and manufacturers. The UK findings may or may not be relevant to the US; besides, we lack data to know what the ideal or sufficient intake of any of these fatty acids are. It may be that all milk is sufficient; or that all milk, itself, is insufficient.

    RE: antibiotics, dairy cows given antibiotics at times of illness can still have their milk marketed as organic (at least in the US). Buying organic does not guarantee that the cows didn’t get antibiotics. Besides, milk is tested for chemical residues and discarded if antibiotics are detected (http://www.dairyfarmingtoday.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/OrganicFAQ.pdf)

    The issue with which I have the most agreement with those who prefer organic milk is the well-being of the cows. That is not unimportant. But in regards to the safety or nutritional value of organic versus conventional milk, I agree with the post.

  4. Excellent nod to the benefits and ideas around that ever-complicated topic of milk. I am always amazed that ours is one of the very few species that consumes so much of another’s milk… and well beyond the childhood years. I do take exception to the value of organic milk, however.

    The ‘Grandma Lore’ is a thing to ponder as well… evidence based medicine aside, it seems to me that universal Grandma ‘truths’ linger for a reason, and those that are passed down from generation to generation must hold some kernel of truth. I wonder what that is for milk and mucus… I’d never heard the vitamin C in the morning ‘myth’ so it hasn’t made it to my widespread sphere of influence!

    Excellent ideas and a blog to watch.

  5. Excellent post, thank you!
    I have a milk-related question: My 2.5 year old suffers from chronic congestion and ear infections. We tried everything, and although my pediatrician didn’t recommend it we tried taking him off milk and dairy as a last resort. It seems to be helping, but I worry that he’s missing out on calcium.
    Although he doesn’t really believe in it my pediatrician told me that as long as it’s working we can keep him off milk, and to give him daily vitamins, as well as fruit juice during the day.
    Is this also a myth or does milk contribute to congestion?

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