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Milk and dairy consumption is positively associated with height in adolescents: results from the Israeli National Youth Health and Nutrition Survey

Abstract

Purpose

Milk consumption is associated with increased height primarily in early childhood. However, in adolescents, data are scarce with inconsistent results. Since height is a proxy for overall health and well-being, this study evaluated the association of dairy intake with height in adolescents.

Methods

Students in 7th–12th grades, participating in the 2015–2016 Israeli Health and Nutrition Youth Survey, a school-based cross-sectional study, completed self-administered questionnaires, including a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (n = 3529, 48% males, 15.2 ± 1.6 years). Anthropometric measurements were also performed. Dairy servings were calculated as the calcium equivalent of 1 cup of milk, and consumption was divided into four categories from very low (< 1 serving/day) to high (3 + servings/day). BMI- and Height-for-age z scores (HAZs) were calculated according to WHO growth standard; relatively short stature (RSS) was defined as HAZ < − 0.7 SD (< 25th percentile). Multivariable linear and logistic regression analyses were performed to evaluate the association of dairy intake with HAZ and prevalence of RSS, respectively.

Results

Median consumption of dairy products was 2 servings/day, 1.4 from unsweetened products (milk, cheese and yogurt). Controlling for age, sex, BMI-z-score and socioeconomic status, each increment of unsweetened dairy intake was associated with on average 0.04 higher HAZ (equivalent to 0.3–0.4 cm, p < 0.05), and with reduced risk for RSS: OR 0.90, 95%CI: 0.84, 0.97, p < 0.01. No such associations were found with sweetened dairy products.

Conclusion

Consumption of unsweetened dairy products (3–4 servings/day) appears to contribute to achieving growth potential in adolescents. Intervention studies are necessary to determine the causal relationship between dairy intake and linear growth.

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Fig. 1
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Data availability

Data will be provided upon request, and in accordance with the procedures of the Israel Center for Disease Control.

Code availability

Not applicable.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Ms. Maya Ben-Lassan for her assistance with figure graphics. We would also like to acknowledge the diligent work of our study staff that collected data at schools across the country.

Funding

This study received no specific grant from any funding agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

CD was involved in designing the study, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. AS helped with interpretation of the data and manuscript writing. RD performed the statistical analyses. LKB designed and supervised the survey. TSh coordinated the survey’s data collection. TSi conceptualized, designed and supervised the study, interpreted the data, involved in the initial manuscript drafting and revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tali Sinai.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

The 2015–2016 Israeli Health and Nutrition Youth Survey (Mabat Youth II) survey was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee of the Sheba Medical Center (Approval number: SMC-1570-14), and has therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Consent to participate

According to the Ministry of Education guidelines, all parents received written information regarding the survey and only students, whose parents did not oppose in writing the participation of their children, were included in the study. The students reserved the right to refuse participation in any part of the survey.

Consent for publication

The Israel Center for Disease Control is the research unit of the Israeli Ministry of Health, which is responsible for collecting and publishing data on the health of the population.

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Dor, C., Stark, A.H., Dichtiar, R. et al. Milk and dairy consumption is positively associated with height in adolescents: results from the Israeli National Youth Health and Nutrition Survey. Eur J Nutr 61, 429–438 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-021-02661-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-021-02661-6

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Dairy
  • Linear growth
  • Short stature
  • Survey
  • MABAT
  • Israel