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Children who drink non-cow’s milk may have an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency

Published on

03 November 2014

According to a new study from Canada children who drink non-cow’s milk such as rice, almond, soy or goat’s milk, are twice as likely to have low blood levels of vitamin D.

The observational study measured the blood vitamin D concentrations of 3,821 healthy children aged one to six years who drank cow's milk or non-cow’s milk (1). Eighty-seven per cent of children involved in the study drank predominantly cow's milk and 13% drank non-cow’s milk. The results showed that children drinking only non-cow’s milk were more than twice as likely to be vitamin D deficient as children drinking only cow’s milk. Among children who drank non-cow’s milk, every additional cup of non-cow’s milk was associated with a 5% drop in vitamin D levels per month.

The researchers commented that these findings may be helpful to health care providers working with children who regularly consume non-cow’s milk due to cow’s milk allergy, lactose intolerance or dietary preference. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient produced through sun exposure or found in fortified cow’s milk, fish and other foods. It plays an important role in the development and strengthening of bones. In children, low levels of vitamin D can cause bone weakness and, in severe cases, rickets – a condition causing the bones to become soft and weak and potentially leading to bone deformities. In North America, every 100 milliliters of cow’s milk is required to be fortified with 40 IU of vitamin D. Adding vitamin D to non-cow’s milk, however, is voluntary.


  1. Lee G. J. et al. Consumption of non–cow's milk beverages and serum vitamin D levels in early childhood. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Published online October 2014.

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