, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 1016-1023
Date: 23 Nov 2004

Two-year changes in bone and body composition in young children with a history of prolonged milk avoidance

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No previous longitudinal studies of calcium intake, anthropometry and bone health in young children with a history of avoiding cow’s milk have been undertaken. We report the 2-year changes of a group of 46 Caucasian children (28 girls, l8 boys) aged 8.1±2.0 years (mean ± SD) who had low calcium intakes at baseline and were short in stature, with elevated body mass index, poor skeletons and lower Z scores for both areal bone mineral density (BMD, in grams per square centimeter) and volumetric density (bone mineral apparent density, BMAD, in grams per cubic centimeter), compared with a reference population of milk drinkers. At follow-up, adverse symptoms to milk had diminished and modest increases in milk consumption and calcium intake had occurred. Total body bone mineral content (BMC) and bone area assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry had increased (P<0.05), and calcium intake from all sources was associated with both these measures (P<0.05). However, although some catch-up in height had taken place, the group remained significantly shorter than the reference population (Z scores −0.39±1.14), with elevated body mass index (Z scores 0.46±1.0). The ultradistal radius BMC Z scores remained low (−0.31±0.98). The Z scores for BMD had improved to lie within the normal range at predominantly cortical sites (33% radius, neck of femur and hip trochanter) but had worsened at predominantly trabecular sites (ultradistal radius and lumbar spine), where values lay below those of the reference group (P<0.05). Similarly, although volumetric BMAD Z scores at the 33% radius had normalized, BMAD Z scores at the lumbar spine remained below the reference population at follow-up (−0.67±1.12, P<0.001). Our results demonstrate persisting height reduction, overweight and osteopenia at the ultradistal radius and lumbar spine in young milk avoiders over 2 years of follow-up.