Are Vegan Diets Healthy For Children?

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Vegan diets have become hugely popular over the past few years, yet the scientific evidence to support these strict vegetarian diet patterns especially in growing children remains scant at best.

Whilst I am a massive proponent of predominantly plant-based diets, if you have read some of my previous posts you will likely already know that I am not a great fan of strict vegan diets.

Strict vegan diets have the potential to be lacking in so many nutrients such as dietary active forms of vitamin b12, vitamin D, long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids(DHA), iodine, iron, zinc, calcium, even conditional essential amino acids such as taurine and carnitine can be lacking.

There is also very little long-term quality scientific evidence to support vegan diets, let alone half of these fad vegan diets that we see promoted all over the internet such as the extreme low-fat, low protein, excessively high carb vegan diet.

I have seen most individuals over the years including myself thrive poorly on vegan diets in the long-term, even the hardcore proponents of the vegan diet ideology eventually abandon the diet and revert back to eating some high quality animal foods.

I also feel that most of the vegan diet proponents and nutritionists that I have spoken with over the years don’t have a sufficient knowledge of basic nutrition to understand the potential negative consequences of strict vegan diets or simply aren’t willing to even entertain the possibility that a vegan diet could cause health problems due to nutritional inadequacy in the first place.

Which is a very worrying and bias mindset to be in when prescribing and tailoring alternative diets such as veganism to the mass public.

Especially more so when it comes to prescribing vegan diets to individuals with problematic genetic influenced health conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or even just prescribing vegan diets lacking in dietary intake of active forms of cobalamin(vitamin b12) to individuals with genetic mutations relating to methylation and vitamin B12 metabolism such as MTHFR, MTRR and so on.

We are often told by proponents of vegan diets that supplementation with the likes of Vitamin B12, iron, zinc etc will “mitigate” all the risks associated with vegan diets, however this doesn’t appear to be true either according to the study below.

The position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is often used by proponents of the vegan diet as something of a “trump card” as justification for recommending vegan diets as healthy for everyone including children and pregnant mothers.

However, the scientific evidence that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics uses to support their influential position on vegan diets appears to be scant and barely sufficient at best from what I can see.

It is not surprising then that a study published earlier this year argued that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ignores or gives short shrift to direct and indirect evidence that vegetarianism may be associated with serious risks for brain and body development in fetuses and children.

Are Vegan Diets Healthy For Children?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ influential position statement on vegetarianism, meat and seafood can be replaced with milk, soy/legumes, and eggs without any negative effects in children. The United States Department of Agriculture endorses a similar view.

The present paper argues that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ignores or gives short shrift to direct and indirect evidence that vegetarianism may be associated with serious risks for brain and body development in fetuses and children.

Regular supplementation with iron, zinc, and B12 will not mitigate all of these risks.

Consequently, we cannot say decisively that vegetarianism or veganism is safe for children.

This paper has reviewed direct and indirect evidence that vegetarian and vegan diets may be associated with serious risks for fetuses and growing children.

This evidence for the dangers of vegetarianism is not necessarily decisive. However, the question is whether the AND is justified in making a blanket claim that “appropriately planned” vegetarian and vegan diets that substitute milk, soy/legumes, or eggs for meat are as healthy as appropriately planned omnivorous diets for children.

The evidence reviewed here suggests that there are still many unknowns about the health effects of meatless diets in children.

Parents ought to be informed that the debate about the health effects of vegetarianism in children is not settled one way or the other. [1]

References

[1] Is vegetarianism healthy for children?

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2018.1437024?scroll=top&needAccess=true

The information in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any disease, implied or otherwise.

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