Veganism has recently become a worldwide lifestyle adopted by nearly 550,000 Britons in the last decade according to a recent survey. Apparently, the followers of the diet are mostly adults under 34, who report “feeling healthier and fitter”. Moreover, medical specialists note that a carefully planned vegan diet may potentially prevent the development of various diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, diabetes or osteoporosis.
As every loving parent, vegans aim to educate their children and pass on values, such as love and respect, for the environment and animals. Although the concept is entirely genuine, the opinions related to the question of whether or not children of vegan parents should also become vegan, are divided.
In spite of the presumed health benefits of veganism, nutritionists warn of irreversible effects due to a deficiency of essential nutrients (i.e. calcium, Vitamin D, iron, etc) which are primarily found in meat and dairy products, and as such, a balanced diet is recommendable for children under five.
Professor Mary Fewtrell of University College London and the chairman of ESPGHAN’s nutrition committee mentioned that ‘It is difficult to ensure a healthy and balanced vegan diet in young infants. The risks of getting it wrong can include irreversible cognitive damage and, in the extreme, death.”
Parents often believe that supplements like soya milk or high-fibre products, may substitute the nutrients found in dairy products or meat (i.e. calcium, vitamin B, protein or B12). A consistent lack of vitamin B12 may lead to the development of anaemia, reduce the cognitive functioning, or cause memory impairment.
Another health issue related to veganism is that it does not provide enough energy. A diet rich in fibre may create the sensation of fullness, but it barely provides the necessary calories. As for proteins and amino acids, paediatrics suggest that vegetables and cereals may provide a limited number of nutrients, but not enough to maintain a healthy function of the brain or metabolism.
A similar difficulty is posed by the absorption of the Omega-3 acid. Some Omega-3 acids may be found in vegetable oils, but they may not offer the same benefits as the Omega-3 found in fish, eggs or yogurts (i.e. protection against heart diseases or proper brain development). Studies indicate that Omega-3 acid has an important role in supporting children’s attention and learning, reduce the negative psychological and behavioural conditions as well as improving memory functioning. Although supplements from microalgae contain a certain level of Omega-3, scientists state that further research is required in order to understand their effects.
Information is the key!
Paediatric dietitians recommend families to seek medical support whether they wish to adopt a vegan diet or not as children’s diet should be tailored based on their development and health. Foods and eating habits that are healthy for adults, may not have the same beneficial effects on a child’s physical development. Therefore, a professional planning is highly recommendable in order to ensure that any chosen diet is suitable for the child.
Source Citation: DailyMail.co.uk