Thais told to drink milk to boost height

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Thailand is asking citizens of all ages to drink at least one glass of cow’s milk a day in an effort to increase their average height by up to 8cm within the next decade.

Speaking at the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s World Milk Day on Monday, the deputy public health minister, Cholanan Srikaew, said a campaign to drink milk every day could increase the height of 18-year-old Thais by 8cm from the current 167cm for boys and 157cm for girls, as well as extend life expectancy from 74 to 80 years.

The move comes alongside a larger campaign to encourage women to breastfeed their children for longer, ensuring babies are given breast milk – not infant formula or other substitutes – for their first six months before moving them on to two or three glasses of cow’s milk during pre-school. Those already in school would be encouraged to drink two glasses a day, and adults one, according to the head of Thailand’s health department, Jessada Chokdamrongsuk.

Thais currently consume 14 litres of milk per head annually, far below the south-east Asian average of 60 litres, and the international average of 103.9 litres.

Lactose intolerance is common among many Thais, however, and much of the milk currently sold in Thailand comes in cans as sweetened condensed milk, ubiquitously served in Thai coffees and teas. Those looking for a small carton of milk in shops can be met with raised eyebrows as it is generally regarded as a drink for weaklings, with the word for milk and breast, nom, being interchangeable.

A nationwide school milk programme in which milk was found to be diluted or spoiled has not helped improve perceptions, but this most recent campaign was likely to catch on, said the Thai culture commentator Kaewmala: “Parents want their children to be tall … and this has a lot to do with better quality and quantity of diet and certainly milk consumption”.

A greater problem for Thailand may be the drink that Thais like too much: the average citizen consumes three times as much alcohol as milk, figures from the health ministry show, or about 14.19 litres of milk to 44 litres of alcohol per person per year.

According to the Thai Health Promotion Fund, an independent state agency promoting nationwide wellbeing, Thais consume the fifth highest amount of alcohol per head in the world.



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