We've all been told that "milk does a body good," but that typically refers to our own bodies. Now a new study shows that milk can actually do your unborn child's body good — specifically, it can influence his height.
The study — published earlier this month in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition — followed 685 Danish mother-child pairs over 20 years. Researchers tracked milk consumption during pregnancy and then measured the height of the children at birth and then again at age 20. The experts found — after adjusting for factors like height, age and BMI — that the mothers who drank more than 5 ounces of low-fat milk a day had larger babies than those who drank less.
By age 20, the children of milk-drinker mothers were an average of one-half inch taller than children of mothers who didn't drink milk. They also had higher levels of IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, a hormone that promotes bone growth.
"There aren't many prenatal dietary or environmental factors identified that explain growth in children," Thorhallur Halldorsson, a researcher at Center for Fetal Programming at the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, said in the study, according to The New York Times. "Milk drinking may be one. It does increase weight and length at birth, and there's a possibility that this actually tracks into adult life."
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