Low intake of milk during pregnancy linked to decreased birth weight

Montreal, Canada - A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal gives expectant mothers yet another reason to drink their milk. Researchers found that women who rarely drank milk during their pregnancy gave birth to smaller babies compared to women who drank more milk.

Low birth weight affects one out of every 13 babies born each year in the United States, and it's a factor in 65 percent of infant deaths, according to the March of Dimes. This new study suggests that drinking the recommended amount of milk each day - three 8-ounce glasses -may help increase birth weight.

The Canadian researchers followed 279 women throughout their pregnancy. They found that women who limited their intake of milk to one cup or less per day consumed significantly less protein and vitamin D, and they gave birth to babies that weighed less compared to women who drank more milk.

Milk consumption and vitamin D intake from fortified milk and supplements during pregnancy were found to be each associated with infant birth weights, independently of other risk factors. Analysis of the data predicted that each cup of milk consumed daily was associated with a 41 gram increase in a baby's birth weight.

The researchers believe vitamin D may not only affect an infant's skeletal formation, but also neurodevelopment, immune function and chronic disease susceptibility later in life. Previous research has suggested that milk intake may help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Meeting nutrient intake needs is especially important during pregnancy. The researchers highlight a significant need for vitamin D for calcium absorption, among other things, and the important contribution of milk as a source of vitamin D, calcium and protein. Consuming the recommended three servings of lowfat or fat-free milk each day provides 90 percent of the U.S. daily intake for calcium and 75 percent of the vitamin D.

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The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) is the leading health sciences journal in Canada. CMAJ is a general medical journal publishing original research and review commentaries and editorials, practice updates, an arts and ideas section and health news. Published continuously since 1911, new issues are uploaded on www.cmaj.ca every second Monday at 5 p.m

The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation's milk processors, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. Together with dairy farmers, the MilkPEP Board runs the National "got milk?" Milk Mustache Campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers on the benefits of milk. For more information, go to www.whymilk.com.

The tagline "got milk?" was created for the California Milk Processor Board by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and is licensed by the national milk processor and dairy producer groups.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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