Study: Vegetarian, vegan children not nutritionally deficient


The results of the study showed that the children tested who followed vegetarian diets "had similar growth and biochemical measures of nutrition" with those who consumed non-vegetarian diets. Photo: Handout

According to a Canadian study, vegetarian and vegan children do not show any more nutritional deficiencies or stunted growth than their meat-eating peers.

However, parents may need to take extra care in certain aspects of their diet in order to prevent them from being underweight, warn the authors of the research.

Is a vegetarian or vegan diet good or bad for children's health? This is a question that has been increasingly debated over the last few years; now a scientific consensus is beginning to form around the subject. Indeed, several studies have indicated that there is no formal evidence of deficiencies in vegetarian children, compared to those who eat meat.

Such findings have now been reinforced by a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. Conducted in Canada by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, the research involved 8907 children, aged six months to eight years, who were followed for about three and a half years.

At the beginning of the study, 248 of these children were vegetarian, 25 were vegan, and 338 reported eating a vegetarian diet for varying lengths of time between the ages of six months and eight years.

To assess the health of these children, the researchers performed blood tests to detect the presence of any deficiencies in zinc, iron or vitamin D (vitamin B12 was not included in the study). They also took measurements of height and body mass index to monitor the growth of the children in the study.

The results were clear: "the children following vegetarian diets "had similar growth and biochemical measures of nutrition compared to children consuming non-vegetarian diets," said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead author of the study and a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital of Unity Health Toronto. The vegetarian and vegan children did not show significant deficiencies compared to non-vegetarians.

The study did sound a note of caution, however, noting that "children with vegetarian diet had higher odds of underweight." This "underscor[es] the need for careful dietary planning for underweight children when considering vegetarian diets," the authors warned.

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that a diet devoid of meat or animal products, when properly balanced, is safe for human bodies including growing human bodies. Other research, conducted on adults, even suggests that vegetarians and vegans are healthier. - AFPRelaxnews

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