Association between milk intake and childhood growth: results from a nationwide cross-sectional survey


Purpose: The literature is inconsistent regarding milk intake and physical growth. This study aims to evaluate the association of milk intake with body height and weight in a nationally representative sample of Chinese children. Methods: A total of 41,439 children ages 6–17 were recruited from 30 provinces in mainland China in 2013–2016 using a multistage stratified cluster sampling approach. Milk intake information was collected using a questionnaire aided with standard containers. Weight and height were measured using a standard physician beam scale with a height rod. Milk intake was categorized into no-, low-, and high-intake groups based on the intake rate, and weight status into normal, overweight, and obese groups based on the body-mass-index (BMI). Associations between height/weight status and milk intake were evaluated using multivariate weighted linear and logistic regression models. Results: Chinese children had low milk intake: 1/5 of children did not drink milk, and those drinking milk had a median intake of 100 ml/month. The low- and high-intake groups were 0.83 cm (95% confidence interval: 0.00, 1.68 cm) and 1.26 cm (0.34, 2.19 cm) taller than the no-intake group for girls, respectively, after adjusting for confounding factors. Boys with high milk intake had lower BMI (−0.56, 95% CI: −1.00, −0.12 kg/m2) and risk of obesity (OR = 0.67, 95% CI: 0.46, 0.97) than those without milk intake. Conclusions: This study revealed the association of increased milk intake with increased body height and lowered obesity risk among Chinese children. Given the cross-sectional nature of the study and the possibility of residual confounding, further research is warranted to uncover the role of milk intake in promoting children’s growth.

Publication Title

International Journal of Obesity