Ve­gan di­ets are safe for chil­dren

Di­eti­tian has re­but­ted con­cerns about vi­ta­mins, iron and cal­cium

The Daily Observer - - LIFE - DR. PETER NIEMAN

Some es­ti­mates claim as many as one in 40 adults are ve­gan. This means they are very likely, but not ab­so­lutely cer­tain, to feed all fam­ily mem­bers a ve­gan diet.

The in­ter­est in go­ing ve­gan has in­creased sharply over the past decade.

There are nu­mer­ous rea­sons why peo­ple opt to fol­low a strict ve­gan diet: Some are mo­ti­vated by health, while others be­lieve the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of rais­ing an­i­mals is un­sus­tain­able.

The ar­gu­ment has been made that if the choice is be­tween driv­ing an elec­tric car and be­ing ve­gan, then be­ing ve­gan will have a greater im­pact.

On the Good Food In­sti­tute’s web­site (gfi.org) there are nu­mer­ous re­sources about al­ter­na­tives to meat-based nu­tri­tion.

The founder of GFI is the highly re­spected Bruce Friedrich who has de­voted his life to re­form­ing an­i­mal agri­cul­ture and in­no­vat­ing food.

I had the op­por­tu­nity to hear Friedrich in­ter­viewed on a re­cent Rich Roll podcast and for those in­ter­ested in the fu­ture of re­mak­ing meat, this podcast is worth lis­ten­ing to.

Not all sci­en­tists are ex­cited about the safety of ve­gan di­ets for chil­dren. In a Slate ar­ti­cle writ­ten in 2016, Melinda Wen­ner Moyer ques­tioned whether kids can get the nu­tri­ents they need on a ve­gan diet.

Moyer raised con­cerns about low vi­ta­min B12 lev­els, which if present be­fore age six, can lead to cog­ni­tive prob­lems dur­ing the teenage years.

She ques­tioned whether chil­dren raised on a ve­gan diet will be shorter and pointed out that ve­g­an­ism leads to low iron, which can cause long-term neu­ro­log­i­cal hand­i­caps.

Moyer raised the is­sue of ve­gan kids get­ting too much fi­bre and not enough fat.

She also ex­plained that ve­gan-- raised chil­dren are at risk for lower cal­cium lev­els due to plant­based foods be­ing high in ox­alates, which in­hibit cal­cium ab­sorp­tion, and found it dis­turb­ing that plant­based foods, ac­cord­ing to some crit­ics, pro­vide fewer es­sen­tial amino acids than an­i­mal-based foods.

In a me­thod­i­cal re­but­tal (theve­g­anrd.com/2016/04/ve­gan-di­et­sare-safe-for-chil­dren.html), a di­eti­tian ex­pe­ri­enced in help­ing fam­i­lies raise chil­dren on a ve­gan diet put all the con­cerns raised by Moy­ers to rest by us­ing more re­cent sci­en­tific stud­ies.

Much of the re­search ques­tion­ing the safety of ve­gan di­ets in chil­dren date back to the mid- to late 1980s.

The ar­ti­cle sug­gest­ing that ve­gan kids were shorter ac­tu­ally re­ferred to the tod­dler stage and con­ve­niently for­got to add that by high school, the dif­fer­ences were in­signif­i­cant.

Reed Man­gels, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian with a PhD and one of the world’s top ex­perts in rais­ing chil­dren ve­gan, has writ­ten nu­mer­ous books.

Man­gels blogs on one­green­planet.org and is an ad­viser to the Veg­e­tar­ian Re­source Group (vrg. org). She’s writ­ten ex­ten­sively on how to feed ve­gan in­fants and chil­dren, and many ve­gan fam­i­lies con­sider her to be one of the best re­sources on this topic.

One of North Amer­ica’s top ad­vo­cates for plant-based nu­tri­tion is Dr. Neal Barnard, pres­i­dent of the Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Re­spon­si­ble Medicine (pcrm. org).

Barnard has writ­ten nu­mer­ous books on the ve­gan life­style and his lat­est book, The Cheese Trap (Grand Cen­tral Life & Style), is touted as help­ing read­ers to break their cheese “ad­dic­tion.”

Over the past 30 years of car­ing for chil­dren, I have no­ticed that a mi­nor­ity of fam­i­lies are do­ing their due dili­gence when it comes to nu­tri­tion. These par­ents never com­plain that be­ing ve­gan is too dif­fi­cult or ex­pen­sive.

Although their mo­tive may be to re­duce their car­bon foot­prints, the main mo­tive re­mains a health­ier life­style, a quest to re­duce obe­sity, hy­per­ten­sion, di­a­betes and cancer and a de­sire to save the health-care sys­tem dol­lars.

As a re­sult, a ve­gan diet has be­come less of an elit­ist diet. It may how­ever take many more decades be­fore it be­comes main­stream.

Un­for­tu­nately, many med­i­cal schools still grad­u­ate doc­tors with very lit­tle train­ing in the ben­e­fits of plant-based nu­tri­tion. But many fam­i­lies and reg­is­tered di­eti­tians have com­pe­tently taken things in their own hands by pro­mot­ing and ex­plain­ing the ben­e­fits of a ve­gan diet — start­ing safely at a young age.

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