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Health & Pregnancy

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Expectant Moms Need Milk's Vitamin D

Lower-Birth-Weight Babies Linked to Too Little Milk During Pregnancy

Avoiding Milk: Bad Advice for Pregnant Women

When asking pregnant women about their diets, Koski kept hearing the same strange thing, over and over again. Women kept telling her they were avoiding milk and milk products during their pregnancy. Most of the women in the study cited bowel discomfort from milk as a major reason for avoidance. But in this well-educated group, reading material also reinforced this behavior.

"We found that a large number of the books pregnant women read advise them not to drink milk," Koski says.

These books alarmed pregnant women. They told them that by drinking milk, they put themselves -- and their yet-to-be-born children -- at risk of allergies, diabetes, and lactose intolerance.

"None of these reasons is strong enough to make the recommendation that pregnant women should avoid milk, except for the small number of women clearly diagnosed with problems," Koski says.

But is there a good reason for pregnant women to drink milk? Koski led a research team that explored the issue.

Only 72 of 307 women who said they were avoiding milk agreed to be studied. These women drank less than one cup of milk per day. The researchers also studied 207 women who drank a cup of milk or more each day.

Drink More Milk, Have Bigger Babies

The babies born to women who avoided milk averaged 7.5 pounds at birth. Those born to milk-drinking moms gave birth to babies averaging 7.8 pounds.

And it's not that the milk-drinking women were consuming vitamin D by the gallon. Hollis says even these women may have been deficient in vitamin D. There are two reasons for this.

One is that the women lived in western Canada where, most of the year, there is little sunshine. And it's only when sun shines on the skin that a human body makes vitamin D, which is actually a hormone.

"In Canada we have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. From October through May, we are not getting enough sun on our skin, and if you don't take in sun you don't get enough vitamin D," Koski says. "In the U.S., you probably are not going to see so much of a problem in the South. But you would see it in Chicago, New York, Boston, and other cities at northern latitudes."

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