The Canadian researchers followed 279 women throughout their pregnancy. They found that women who limited their intake of milk to one cup or less per day consumed significantly less protein and vitamin D, and they gave birth to babies that weighed less compared to women who drank more milk.
Milk consumption and vitamin D intake from fortified milk and supplements during pregnancy were found to be each associated with infant birth weights, independently of other risk factors. Analysis of the data predicted that each cup of milk consumed daily was associated with a 41 gram increase in a baby's birth weight.
The researchers believe vitamin D may not only affect an infant's skeletal formation, but also neurodevelopment, immune function and chronic disease susceptibility later in life. Previous research has suggested that milk intake may help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension.
Meeting nutrient intake needs is especially important during pregnancy. The researchers highlight a significant need for vitamin D for calcium absorption, among other things, and the important contribution of milk as a source of vitamin D, calcium and protein. Consuming the recommended three servings of lowfat or fat-free milk each day provides 90 percent of the U.S. daily intake for calcium and 75 percent of the vitamin D.