Vegetarian for kids: a meat-free diet is so healthy
The number of vegetarians and vegans is increasing. But is a meat-free diet safe for young children? What parents should know.
Berlin. Vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more popular. According to estimates, about ten percent of all Germans now feed themselves vegetarian and at least one percent of the population vegan, ie purely plant-based. These are primarily young people, often families with young children. This raises the question of the extent to which a vegetarian or vegan diet is safe for children.
Opinions vary widely. While North American professional companies have few concerns, a position paper from the German Society for Nutrition takes a very critical view of a vegan diet in young children and considers it unsuitable to reliably meet the particular nutritional needs of this age group, “says Professor Hans Hauner, Director of Else Kröner Fresenius Center for Nutrition Medicine in Munich. Overall, however, the data on this important issue are still sparse.
Meat-free diets for children: Canadian study raises questions
According to their own statements, researchers from Toronto, Canada, wanted to help close the gap. In a large longitudinal cohort study, they therefore compared 8907 vegetarian, vegan and conventionally fed boys and girls aged between six months and eight years. On average, the children were 2.2 years old.
Over a period of 2.8 years, the researchers analyzed the link between a vegetarian or vegan diet and children’s growth as well as the nutritional content of their blood.
The diet was determined using a questionnaire about the parents. According to the study, 248 children held one vegetarian or vegan diet one. These groups were not further differentiated.
Nutritionists: Vegetarian diet for children “largely safe”
When comparing the data, the researchers found that children who without meat or vegan diet, had a similar height, a similar average body mass index (BMI) and similar iron, vitamin D and cholesterol levels as children who ate meat.
Nevertheless, there was an increased proportion of children on a vegetarian or vegan diet underweight. The quality of the diet was not examined in the study.
“The study shows that a vegetarian diet for children is very safe,” says Hans Hauner. However, this study from Canada can also provide no guarantees. The observation period was too short and the information on the nutrition of the children and their parents was “divided”.
“The results are in line with previous studies from other countries, which also showed that a balanced, varied vegetarian diet provides both children and adults with all the necessary nutrients and enables the development of normal children,” says Peter von Philipsborn, research assistant at the President of Research on public health and health services at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich.
Increased frequency of underweight – just a random effect?
That there is a statistical abnormality to being underweight children on a meat-free diet According to von Philipsborn, there may be two reasons: “Since the number of underweight children in the study was very low overall, the difference between the two groups may be due to a random effect,” says the scientist.
This is especially possible because a large number of characteristics were examined in the study. “And the more characteristics that are examined, the greater the likelihood that a presumed difference between the groups studied will appear in at least one characteristic purely by chance.” Researchers from Canada have not taken this into account in their statistical calculations.
In addition, there is another possible source of error in the study: the method of classifying underweight children. The one for young people of European descent was used, but a third of the vegetarian or vegan children in the study were of Asian descent. “According to experts, this can lead to an overestimation of the frequency of being underweight,” says von Philipsborn.
Vegetarian diet probably harmless, vegan not preliminary
The authors from Canada conclude that further, even larger cohort studies are needed to assess the long-term consequences of a vegetarian or vegan diet on growth and to be able to more reliably assess the children’s nutritional status. “Until then, we must live with this uncertainty,” Hans Hauner declares.
but then vegetarian diet with milk intake for young children likely to be harmless, a vegan diet in this age group should be considered critical until proven otherwise. “If possible, it should not be recommended,” Hauner continued.
“We know from other studies that a vegan diet can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency, among other things,” says Peter von Philipsborn. Therefore, all people who follow a vegan diet should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
During the growth phase of childhood and adolescence, the need for many nutrients increases, including those that are increasingly found in animal foods Incident. From Philipsborn: “The German Society for Nutrition therefore does not recommend a vegan diet for children and adolescents, but also for pregnant and breastfeeding women.”
Child must live vegan – what can parents do?
Parents who, contrary to the recommendation, want to feed their children a vegan diet should always seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist and check the supply of critical nutrients such as. Vitamin B12, iron and vitamin D should be checked regularly by a doctor. This is recommended by Peter von Philipsborn, Research Assistant at the Chair of Research in Public Health and Health Services at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
Regardless of their diet, all children should also follow the childish one checkthe so-called underground investigations.
This article first appeared on abendblatt.de.
Tue, 24/05/2022, 06:32
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