Vegetarian children are twice as likely to be overweight than those who eat everything

Vegetarian food is increasingly being introduced and made available to children, especially in school canteens.

Vegetarian food is increasingly being introduced and made available to children, especially in school canteens.

©Nicholas Tokat/AFP

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According to a study conducted by Canadian researchers, vegetarian children are twice as likely to be underweight. Is it possible to follow a vegetarian diet without losing weight?

Atlantico: According to a study of nearly 9,000 children conducted by Canadian scientists, vegetarian children are at nearly twice the risk of being overweight. How do we explain it? Are vegan kids less fat than others?

Beatrice de Renal:With the increasing success of exclusionary diets such as vegan (consuming only animal products such as milk, eggs and honey) or vegan (no animal products), doctors and scientists are questioning the appropriateness of these diets for young children, which are traditionally discouraged by practitioners.

Several studies have attempted to highlight the effect – positive or negative – on weight, growth, and biological parameters – associated with these diets. It was last performed on 8,907 children, of whom 248 were initially vegan. The median age at departure was 2.2 years (between 6 months and 5 years!).

The age-related body mass index (BMI, basically the ratio of height to weight) (zBMI) is measured because children grow rapidly at these ages. Vitamin D, iron and serum lipids (good and bad cholesterol) status was measured.

Children who follow a plant-based diet are more likely to be underweight, and no association has been found with being overweight or obese.

But the risk of being underweight is low, and the researchers believe the difference in height between the vegetarians and the others was very small: 0.3 cm on average at 3 years.

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In another cross-sectional study of 2272 children (n = 1090 vegetarians) aged 6 to 17 years, vegan boys were, on average, 1.6 cm taller and vegan girls had a lower BMI than the others! Similarly, in a third cross-sectional study of 1,765 children between the ages of 7 and 18, Sabbat and his team found that those who followed a plant-based diet were on average 2.5 cm (for boys) and 2.0 cm (for females). why ? Did these children come from parents of a certain origin? From a certain social background?

A fourth cross-sectional study in 430 children (n = 127 vegetarians) aged 1–3 years did not identify associations between vegetarian diet and weight.

We can conclude that there is no clear difference, which is reassuring to practitioners who no longer have this reason to advise parents against imposing vegetarianism on young children.

Is it possible to follow a vegetarian diet without losing weight? Are there any favorite foods? For a child, is it dangerous to follow a purely vegetarian diet? Do meat products contain important nutrients that are not found in fruits and vegetables?

Now consider biological factors: Consumption of cow’s milk has been associated with increases in total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol in children who follow a plant-based diet. Whereas, children on a vegan and non-vegan diet who consumed the recommended two cups of cow’s milk per day had similar blood fats.

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Since the main source of iron and vitamin D in most children’s diets is meat and cow’s milk, it is assumed that children who follow a vegetarian diet will get less iron and vitamin D than others. Make me reserve a nutritionist’s opinion. A vegetarian diet for young children is not appropriate, unless “for growth” dairy products enriched with iron, vitamin D and essential fatty acids are given until at least 3 years of age.

CONCLUSIONS: Beware of observational studies that can discriminate items in a particular group. But this category does not necessarily represent the age group for example.

We can also point out that baby feeding tends, in its infancy (already distant, because it started in general feeding) to be very generous in its recommendations. I advised, for example, very high levels of protein for children and infants, and then a lot of iron, … Finally, let us not forget that man remains exceptional in his adaptability: the arctic, the equator, the desert, the continent … There is healthy children everywhere.

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