As little kids, we were all traumatized by our frantic, angry mothers who chased us around the house with a glass of (rapidly cooling) milk, yelling at us to quickly drink it or else we would never grow. Most of us children weren’t bothered a whit by that threat. After all, at the age of 4-5, your priorities are set – and flavor always trumps long-term investments in height. Duh. But as adults, we can’t help but wonder, were our mothers right? Is milk consumption truly the secret to a good height?
It is widely claimed that milk aids in one’s overall growth, especially bone development, mental agility, muscle strength, and more (1). In fact, it is as essential to the diet, in terms of nutrition, as fruits and vegetables. But what is the correlation between consuming milk and height growth? And is there any to begin with? Today, we’re going to find out for ourselves!
Will Drinking Milk Help Someone Grow Taller?
Before we can answer this question, it’s important that we take a quick look at the subject of height. Or, more importantly, the several factors that determine one’s height.
One important factor is one’s gender. Biologically, if you’re a girl, you can expect to stop growing by your late teens, i.e. at roughly 18 to 19 years of age. Boys, on the other hand, continue to grow until the age of 22. This is predominantly the reason why boys are taller than girls on an average.
There’s also the factor of hormones to consider when thinking about height. HGH, or the ‘human growth hormone’ is in charge of the growth of human beings. Secreted by the pituitary gland, a shortage of this hormone could negatively impact a person’s height (2). One of the ways in which the body’s HGH production could be hindered is due to a lack of sleep. The majority of HGH is produced whilst we are asleep, which is why doctors advocate the importance of a minimum of 9 hours of sleep for growing children (3).
Other factors that determine one’s height include the nutrition we receive as children, along with the infectious diseases we are exposed to. Illnesses like chronic respiratory disease can hinder one’s growth, as the body will expend most of its energy and resources on fighting the infection instead of allocating it towards growth.
But the greatest determining factor of height, however, is none other than genetics. The set of genes that a child inherits from his or her parents will essentially predetermine the maximum height he or she can hope to achieve. In fact, according to researchers, approximately 60-80% of an individual’s height is dependent upon their genes (4). If one’s parents are tall, one will naturally be tall – it’s the law of nature.
So, all in all, drinking milk or taking supplements could help one in attaining their predetermined maximum height, but nothing more than that.
Milk And Height: The IGF-1 Makes All The Difference!
Over the decades, a lot of research has been conducted to determine if there exists a link between milk consumption and height growth, and scientists have discovered a positive relationship. One particular study that stands out is a 2009 study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal (5).
The study was conducted on roughly 5,100 premenarcheal girls (read: girls that have yet to experience menstruation), where their past weight, diet, and height were recorded. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that those of the premenarcheal girl volunteers who happened to drink 3 or more servings of cow milk every day, eventually grew 0.11 inches taller as compared to those volunteers who consumed less than 1 serving.
Most scientists hypothesize that the relationship between milk and height must rely on the protein IGF-1. ‘Insulin-like growth factor 1’ (aka. IGF-1) is a protein that is naturally produced by the human body and is responsible for bone cells, blood cells, and tissue cells dividing then subsequently duplicating. This protein also happens to be present in our beloved milk. Hence, people who regularly consume milk actually stimulate the production of more IGF-1, which could explain the increase in growth (6). In fact, IGF-1 supplements are often prescribed by doctors to those children who could be suffering from height disorders.
Hence, the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that parents ensure their children consume 2 glasses of milk daily, in order to boost their vitamin D, iron, and IGF-1 intake. The calcium in milk is also extremely beneficial for growth, as it aids in the development of our bones and helps to keep them strong.
So, to recap, does drinking milk make one grow taller? Yes, it absolutely does! Milk plays a substantial role in a growing child’s overall strength and growth. Nevertheless, it still shouldn’t be the only nutrient to concentrate upon. One mustn’t forget that a well-balanced diet and adequate exercise are what it is that ultimately ensure we reach our predetermined maximum height.