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Does milk make you taller? Part 2


For many years, conventional wisdom has touted the benefits of milk for growth and bone health. Many parents around the globe urge their children to consume milk, often under the assumption that it may boost height. Indeed, observational data have suggested a correlation between nations with high milk consumption and taller average heights of their citizens. This article seeks to explore this connection and evaluate the scientific rationale behind such claims.


Nutritional Components of Milk and Their Relation to Growth

Before delving into global patterns, it's essential to understand the constituents of milk that might support growth:

  • Calcium: A crucial mineral for the development and maintenance of strong bones.
  • Protein: Necessary for tissue growth and repair.
  • Vitamin D: Facilitates the absorption of calcium and plays a role in bone growth.

Reference: U.S. National Institutes of Health. (2019). Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age.


Global Patterns: Observational Data

A cursory look at global patterns shows a fascinating correlation:

  • Northern European Countries, like Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden, report high milk consumption rates and have populations with above-average heights.
  • In contrast, some Asian Countries, traditionally with lower dairy consumption, like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nepal, often report shorter average heights.

Reference: Grasgruber, P., Sebera, M., Hrazdira, E., Cacek, J., & Kalina, T. (2016). Major correlates of male height: A study of 105 countries. Economics & Human Biology, 21, 172-195.


Beyond Milk: Other Contributing Factors

While the correlation seems evident, it's essential to account for confounding variables:

  • Genetics: Plays a vital role in determining a person's height. Genetic pools may vary between populations, influencing average heights.
  • Overall Nutrition: Other nutritional factors, like protein intake from meat or vegetable sources, can also affect growth.
  • Economic and Healthcare Infrastructure: Nations with better healthcare and economic provisions often report better nutrition and, consequently, taller populations.

Reference: NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). (2016). A century of trends in adult human height. eLife, 5, e13410.


Studies and Research Insights

Some specific studies delving into the link between milk and height include:

  • A 2009 study from the "Journal of Nutrition" indicated that children who consumed more dairy products grew more during their growth-spurt period than those who consumed less.

Reference: Hoppe, C., Mølgaard, C., & Michaelsen, K. F. (2009). Cow's milk and linear growth in industrialized and developing countries. Annual Review of Nutrition, 26(1), 131-173.

However, as with all scientific endeavors, there's a need for caution:

  • Correlation doesn't equate to causation: Just because two trends appear together doesn't mean one causes the other.

There appears to be a correlation between higher milk consumption rates in nations and taller average heights of their citizens. However, while milk undoubtedly offers nutrients beneficial for growth, it is just one of many factors affecting height on a population level. Genetics, overall nutrition, economic factors, and healthcare access play equally, if not more, significant roles in determining average heights across nations.

As science continues to explore this relationship, it's crucial to approach such correlations with a balanced perspective, considering the myriad factors at play.

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