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Children's Health

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2 Cups of Milk a Day Optimal for Most Preschoolers

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 17, 2012 -- Milk is an important source of vitamin D and calcium in young children’s diets. But drinking more than two glasses a day may lower how much iron is stored in their bodies, raising the risk for anemia, a new study suggests.

When researchers looked at daily milk intake as it related to iron and vitamin D levels in about 1,300 preschoolers, they found that drinking 2 cups of milk a day seemed optimal for most children, says lead researcher and pediatrician Jonathon L. Maguire, MD, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Vitamin D and iron are important nutrients for growing children. Iron plays a critical role in brain development. Iron deficiency has been linked to problems in movement. Vitamin D is important for many reasons, including bone health.

Milk is one of the best sources of vitamin D and calcium, while iron-fortified cereals and meats are among the best sources of iron.

Drinking 3 cups or more of milk was associated with slightly lower ferritin levels in the blood, but the levels were still within the normal range for most children. Ferritin levels indicate how much iron is stored in the body.

The more milk the children drank, the lower their ferritin levels tended to be.

“Milk is an important source of nutrition for young children, but the message to parents is that too much of a good thing may come with a trade-off,” Maguire says.

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