The school age children who are allergic to cow’s milk are smaller and weigh less in their teens than their peers who did drink milk.
The American scientists behind the report claim a diet which avoids dairy does not provide the right nutrients, as it prevents growth spurts.
Paediatric allergist and immunologist Dr Karen Robbins, from the Children’s National Health System in Washington DC, said: ‘The relationship between food allergies and childhood growth patterns is complex, and we have an incomplete understanding about the influence food allergies have on children’s growth.
‘Our study begins to fill this research gap but further study is needed, especially as children enter their teens, to gauge whether these growth deficits are transitory or lasting.’
She added: ‘We learned from our previous research that there is a continuum of risk for deficits in height and weight among children with food allergies, and kids who are allergic to cow’s milk are at heightened risk.
‘They never have had cow’s milk in their diet. Looking at food labelling, many items ‘may contain milk,’ which severely narrows what could be a wide variety of food items for growing children.’
An estimated 6 to 8% of US children have a food allergy with eight food groups consisting of milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts.
The study is based on 191 children, who had at least one clinic visit from the time they were aged two to four, five to eight and nine to 12 years.
From each clinical visit, the research team recorded weight; height, co-morbid conditions such as asthma, eczema and seasonal allergies, and use of inhalers.
They calculated mean differences in height, weight and body mass index (BMI) z-scores.
These were compared with what is normal among other kids of the same age and gender in the general population.
Dr Robbins said: ‘Children who are allergic to cow’s milk had lower mean weight and height when compared with kids who are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
‘These growth deficits remained prominent in the five to eight-year-old and the nine to 12-year-old age ranges.’
Future research will explore whether older children with cow’s milk allergies bridge the height gap during their teen years or if growth differences persist.
By: Adam Smith