There are a growing number of alternatives to cow’s milk on grocery store shelves, from soy to rice to coconut and almond milk. But a new report shows that children who consume one of these alternatives to cow’s milk are far more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood.
The report comes to us from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which found that children who consumed non-dairy milk were twice as likely to be vitamin D deficient than children who regularly drank cow’s milk.
That’s a serious problem as vitamin D plays a crucial role in the development of a child’s bones. When a child has very low levels of vitamin D they are more likely to suffer a bone fragment or break and can also acquire rickets, a condition that results in bones becoming soft and brittle.
“What we found was that in children who were drinking only non-cow’s milk beverages, they had a lower level (of vitamin D),” noted Dr. Jonathon Maguire, one of the report’s lead researchers and a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. “About five per cent who were only drinking cow’s milk and about 11 per cent of children who were drinking only non-dairy milk were below that level (of 50 nmol/l).”
Experts say that children who drink cow’s milk are more likely to have higher levels of vitamin D in their blood because, by law, it must be fortified by vitamin D. But this isn’t a requirement for other types of milk.
Of course, there are ways for children who don’t drink cow’s milk to get vitamin D. They can take a multivitamin or they can get more exposure to sunlight, which provides most of our body’s store of vitamin D.