Study shows children drinking age-appropriate milk have higher micronutrient intake

Editor(s): Mak, T.-N.; Angeles-Agdeppa, I.; Tassy, M.; Capanzana, M.V.; Offord, E.A..

The researchers were from Nestle Research and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in the Philippines.

The purpose of the study was to assess the benefits of different types of milk in terms of their nutrient composition for young and preschool children in the Philippines.

Data from nearly 3,000 children aged one to four years old were analysed.

These children were then stratified into two groups by age (one to two years old Vs three to four years old), whether they consume milk or dairy products, and the types of milk that they consume.

The milk products studied are namely 1) infant formula, 2) toddler formula, and 3) other milks which are mostly powdered milk with different degrees of micronutrient fortification.

The researchers then looked at the amount of 22 types of micronutrients, such as vitamins, iron, calcium, and zinc that the children had consumed and to what extent did their choice of dairy products helped them meet the recommended intake level.  

In general, children who consume milk or dairy products had higher intake of macronutrients and micronutrients when compared to non-dairy consumers.

However, the types of products that they consume mattered as well, as children drinking milk products catered to their age groups have mean intakes of micronutrients that were closer to the recommended level as compared to those drinking other types of milk.

For example, those who consumed infant or toddler formula had higher mean intakes of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, folate, and vitamins C, D, and E.

Take children one to two years old as an example. Among those who took infant milk, their iron intake was 8.7mg, exceeding the reference intake of 6.4mg, and higher than those who took other milk (3.4mg) or no dairy products (3.0mg) at all.

“Parents and health care professionals should consider the nutritional profiles of young children milk (YCM) / preschool children milk (PCM) (referring to infant or toddler formula) when choosing YCM/PCM for children, as, evidently, YCM/PCMs have highly variable macro- and micronutrient content, and not all are fortified with essential micronutrients to the same extent,” the researchers concluded.

Similarities

While children drinking infant or toddler formula had higher intake of micronutrients than children drinking other types of milk, it was found that the mean intake of energy, fibre, and potassium in all of these children were lower than the recommended intake levels.

For instance, the mean energy intake of children taking toddler milk was 1,058.6kcal, and that of those taking other milk was 1,031.2, all of which were lower than the recommended level of 1,350kcal.

“One caution to highlight is that, while our data supports that, overall, young children milk / preschool children milk (referring to infant or toddler formula) consumers have lower nutrient inadequacies than other consumer groups, not all young children milk / preschool children milk on the market have favourable nutritional compositions for children,” the researchers said.

Low dairy intake

There is a low level of dairy intake amongst Filipino children. Over half of all the children studied did not consume any dairy products on a given day.

The remaining 15% drank either infant or toddler formula, while 34% drank other types of milk.

For children who did not consume dairy, their mean intake of energy, total fat, fibre, calcium, iron etc were far below the recommended levels.

For example, in children age three and four, their mean energy intake was 828.1kcal, lower than the recommended level of 1,350kcal.

The only nutrients in which non-dairy consumers met the recommended levels were protein, sodium, selenium, and niacin.