Monday, September 13, 2021

Are Vegan Diets A Good Choice For Children?

The Study

Several popular books and documentaries recommend vegan diets to improve health and performance. It is unknown how these diets impact the health of young children. A really interesting cross-sectional study was recently published that sheds some light on this topic. Fifty-two vegan and 72 matched omnivore controls between the ages of 5 and 10 had their diet measured by means of a food frequency questionnaire. A variety of health outcomes were measured for comparison.

Here are some of the most pertinent results:

-Vegan children had lower body fat compared to omnivores.

-Vegan children had lower LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein than omnivores.

-Vegans were shorter in stature.

-Vegans had less bone mineral content.

-Vegans had lower HDL cholesterol and higher homocysteine levels.

-Vegans had lower levels of Vitamin B-12, iron and Vitamin D. In fact, vegans were more likely to have a deficiency of B-12 and iron. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021; 113:1165-77.  

Take Home Message

This is a really interesting and important study. It appears that a vegan diet is not particularly healthy for young, growing children. The impact of a vegan diet on cardiovascular risk factors were mixed. Lower body fat, LDL and C-reactive protein is beneficial, but lower HDL and higher homocysteine certainly is not.

Of even more concern are the negative impacts of the vegan diet on growth, bone mineral content and risk of deficiency of several very important nutrients. If you are avoiding animal products for moral or ethical reasons, I am not going to argue with that decision. However, if you are vegan because you think it is healthier for your children, you may want to reconsider.

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