Fad di­ets put­ting kids’ lives at risk

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JANE HANSEN

HIP­STER par­ents who think it is health­ier for their chil­dren to be on pop­u­lar adult di­ets are in­stead risk­ing their lives, doc­tors have warned.

Six young chil­dren on ve­gan or pa­leo di­ets have been ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal re­cently, while a high-pro­file court case last month saw east­ern sub­urbs par­ents charged with reck­less griev­ous bod­ily harm and fail­ing to pro­vide for a child, caus­ing dan­ger of se­ri­ous in­jury, af­ter their 20-month-old daugh­ter was left mal­nour­ished and suf­fer­ing from rick­ets on a ve­gan diet.

North­ern NSW, a hot­bed of al­ter­na­tive life­styles and fad di­etary ad­vice, has seen mul­ti­ple cases.

Lis­more pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr Chris In­gall said a two-yearold boy who weighed just 10kg — the size of a one-yearold — was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal “fail­ing to thrive” as a re­sult of his par­ents rais­ing him on a strict ve­gan diet.

“The ve­gan diet doesn’t con­tain enough calo­ries for a baby to grow,” Dr In­gall said.

“He was just so lit­tle, he only looked about ninemonths-old. This is a big hit on the de­vel­op­ing brain. This baby will need to come into hospi­tal just so it can

grow.”

Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices has been alerted to the case, he said.

“The brain needs carbs, fats and pro­tein, it needs ba­sic food groups to form. Peo­ple are ped­dling books about var­i­ous di­ets that will help you, and ev­ery­one has an an­gle they are try­ing to push.

“But chil­dren are dif­fer­ent — you have a grow­ing, de­vel­op­ing brain that needs all food groups,” Dr In­gall said.

An­other case re­cently pre­sented at Lis­more Hospi­tal in­volved a 10-month-old baby that was weaned on to a pa­leo diet, which ex­cludes car­bo­hy­drates. “While the baby was re­ceiv­ing breast milk, there were car­bo­hy­drates in the baby’s sys­tem (but) when the breast­feed­ing stopped, that baby fell off a cliff be­cause sud­denly the car­bo­hy­drates stopped, so the baby had no op­tion but to start break­ing down his own fats to get en­ergy to the brain,” Dr In­gall said.

“When the baby came to hospi­tal, the baby was very tired and needed to have carbs put back into the sys­tem. With the main­stream di­etary ad­vice, the baby is now do­ing well.”

Pro­fes­sor Paul Colditz, pres­i­dent of pae­di­atrics and child health at the Royal Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Physi­cians said “par­ents should ap­pre­ci­ate that di­ets that are pop­u­lar for adults may not be ap­pro­pri­ate for chil­dren, who have grow­ing bod­ies and need a va­ri­ety of food.”

Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal West­mead di­eti­tian Sheri­dan Collins said re­stric­tive di­ets are not ap­pro­pri­ate for chil­dren.

“Chil­dren need a wide va­ri­ety of foods for the range of nu­tri­ents needed for that pe­riod of rapid growth.

“A re­stric­tive diet can block out whole food groups, which leads to de­fi­cien­cies. They need all five food groups,” Ms Collins said.

In April, natur­opath Mar­i­lyn Bod­nar was jailed for 14 months af­ter di­rect­ing a breast­feed­ing mother to go on a raw food diet to cure her son’s eczema in 2015.

When the mother fi­nally took the child to hospi­tal in May 2015, the boy was ema­ci­ated and days away from death.

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