Vegan diets are safe for children
Dietitian has rebutted concerns about vitamins, iron and calcium
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.