In recent decades, the botanical has enjoyed great success all over the world. Whether for religious, environmental or health reasons, the meat-free diet has gained adherents of various ages. In this context, many children respect the vegetarian diet, which has raised some concerns among health authorities. But, in the end, how does this diet affect the well-being of children? Previous studies have assessed the relationship between a vegetarian program and children’s growth and nutritional status, but results have been conflicting. Now, more is known about this topic thanks to recent research. We tell you everything!
Does a plant-based diet disrupt the growth of young children?
Regardless of the reason for an individual’s decision to become a vegetarian, everyone knows that this type of diet can lead to many nutritional deficiencies, so better monitoring is essential. A well-balanced menu is also a very important point in this dietary dogma. But what about the vegan baby? Can giving young children a meat-free diet negatively affect their development? Are there other risks? A new study published on May 2, 2022 in the journal Pediatrics It finally gives more clarity on this paradoxical topic.
The Canadian research, led by researchers at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, found that eating vegetarian children does not affect their growth, but poses a greater risk of being underweight. These findings underscore the need for more careful attention to meal planning for vegetarian children.
Comparison with non-vegetarian children
Over the past 20 years, vegetarian and vegan diets, i.e. those based on plants, have grown in popularity, resulting in improved access to alternatives to meat and other animal products. However, there is a lack of information about the nutritional effects of vegetarianism on children, especially on their development, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Jonathan McGuire.
This study shows that Canadian children who eat a plant-based diet have biochemical indices of growth and nutrition similar to those of children who ate meat. »Dr. McGuire continues. He adds, however, that plant-based diets were associated with higher odds of being underweight. If your child is underweight, it is important to first keep in mind the importance of careful food planning before considering such a diet. Also, it is best to consult a nutritionist.
Nearly 9,000 children participated in the study
A total of 8,907 children aged 6 months to 8 years participated in the study and their data was collected between 2008 and 2019. They were defined as children who did not eat meat and those who did. In other words, vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
The results of the analyzes showed that the vegetarian children had a body mass index (BMI), height, iron, vitamin D and cholesterol levels similar to those of the children who ate meat. With the risk of repeating ourselves, a greater likelihood of being underweight was found. No evidence of an association with overweight or obesity was observed.
Weight loss as an indicator of nutritional deficiency
The researchers further noted that being underweight indicates undernutrition and this may mean that the quality of a child’s diet does not meet their nutritional needs to support normal growth. For children who follow a plant-based diet, scientists insist on reaching out to health professionals who can provide monitoring of the child’s growth, as well as nutritional advice.
According to the study authors, plant-based diets have been recognized as a healthy way of eating with the goal of high consumption of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains. In addition, reducing saturated fats. In conclusion, Dr. asserts. Maguire it “Vegan diets seem to be appropriate for most children.”.
However, the study has limitations and is not evaluating the quality of plant-based diets. Researchers point out that these come in many forms and that the quality of an individual’s diet can be of great importance to growth and nutritional outcomes. However, more research will be required.