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Cow’s Milk Allergy May Lead to Low Bone Density in Children

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A small study conducted by the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center at the University of Montreal has reason to suggest that children with cow’s milk allergy are more likely to have weaker bones. The study found that 6% of 52 children with this allergy have low bone density.

The study’s co-author, Genevieve Mailhot, says that, “Prepubertal children with persistent cow’s milk allergy have a lower bone mineral density and calcium intake compared with similarly aged children with food allergies other than cow’s milk.”

To test the theory, the study chose 81 pre-puberty children averaging 7 years old. 52 of the children had cow’s milk allergy, while 29 had allergies to food other than milk. The researchers measured bone mineral density, kept track of calcium and Vitamin D intake, took blood samples to check Vitamin D levels and recorded progress on those who were told to take supplements.

The results showed that while 6% of the 52 with cow’s milk allergy showed low bone mineral density, those with other food allergies did not. The kids with cow’s milk allergies also recorded a lower calcium intake on the average, with just 930 milligrams per day. The average in the other group was 1,435 milligrams daily, and the recommended intake is 1,000 milligrams. Both groups had a below average Vitamin D intake from the recommended 600 International Units daily. Only 37% of those with cow’s milk allergies took calcium supplements, and 44% took Vitamin D supplements.

According to the study, prior research has proven that children who don’t develop maximum bone mass are at a high risk for osteoporosis in adulthood. This study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

UPI reports that Dr. Luis Gonzalez-Mendoza, director of pediatric endocrinology at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, isn’t surprised by the study’s findings. While not involved with the research, he says the data provided warrants attention, but that the difference in bone density as presented isn’t big enough to be an immediate concern on fractures. He notes that both parents and pediatricians should know that lower bone density might be present for kids with cow’s milk allergy and pay more attention to how they are getting their calcium.

Cow’s milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Up to 3% of American kids have it. Up to 87% of children outgrow this allergy by the age of 3 years, but recent studies suggest that it may persist until puberty in around 15% of those who have it. The solution is to simply remove cow’s milk and dairy products from a child’s diet.

Mailhot suggests that:

Parents should encourage the intake of alternate sources of calcium in their children’s diet.

This includes soy, rice milk or almond substitutes, as well as juices fortified with calcium. Parents may also seek advice from dietitians for information on increasing calcium and Vitamin D intake, to avoid overdoing or underdoing it.

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