The dairy industry’s marketing mantra of “three-a-day” could take on a whole new meaning in light of a new study linking milk with multiple births. The research, recently published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine compared the twinning rates of vegan women with those who consume milk and other animal products, and found the latter to be five times more likely to have twins if they become pregnant.
Study author Gary Steinman, M.D., Ph.D, of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center examined the issue from a couple of different angles. He surveyed 1,042 vegan women and found that only four had experienced multiple births–about 0.4%–compared to nearly 2% of the general population of mothers.
In trying to isolate the most likely causal factor, he looked at 66 women with a history of multiple births and asked them to rate their dairy consumption on a scale of 1-4 (one being none, four being mucho milk) and found the group averaged about a “3” in their consumption estimate.
Does this data support Dr. Steinman’s hypothesis that the introduction of growth-hormone treatment for cows in the 1990’s contributed to a significant rise in the rate of multiple births? Perhaps. Other factors, such as more women giving birth later in life, likely play a role. If you’re contemplating pregnancy, you may want opt for organic dairy or consider milk alternatives, like those discussed in our “Milk Ilk.” Don’t neglect other healthy sources of calcium–such as kale, soybeans, arugula–as half ofwomen already fail to get enough of this important mineral.
Finally, if you’re considering becoming pregnant, it’s especially important to steer clear of low-carb diets. Not only could they reduce your intake of folic acid–a B vitamin crucial to preventing birth defects–excessive protein intake could reduce your chances of getting pregnant in the first place. Animal studies at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine found that even a “moderately” high protein diet could prevent an embryo from attaching to the wall of the womb or hinder its early development. For more see our Dole TV video on reproductive health.
Published July 1, 2006