You can be healthy without eating meat
I WAS disappointed at sensationalised coverage of Cheltenham Ladies’ College’s decision to give regular blood tests to vegan pupils because of a concern this diet could be an indication of an eating disorder (mail). I was a pupil at Cheltenham Ladies’ College from 1987 to 1994 and my parents requested vegetarian meals for me as I was not keen on eating meat. Up to 13 per cent of adolescents have an eating disorder associated with restrictive eating habits. But this does not equate to a vegan diet, which is increasingly being adopted by young people for ethical reasons. one study found eating disorders are more common in schools with a higher proportion of female students and those with highly educated parents — both factors relevant to Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Girls feel pressured to look a certain way to fit in with society’s expectation and this impacts on the risk of developing an eating disorder. This was a concern for schools long before the rise in popularity of vegan diets. Veganism is a belief protected by the law in the same way as religious beliefs, and a school such as the Cheltenham Ladies’ College should support vegans as they would muslims who do not eat pork and only eat Halal meat, and Hindus who are often vegetarians. The school needs to acknowledge and encourage plant-based meals in line with the global shift that is required to mitigate the impact of climate change and ecological collapse. Dietetic associations acknowledge a vegan diet is able to meet the nutritional requirements for all age groups, including children. Vegan diets are also associated with lower risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. my memories of food at Cheltenham Ladies’ College was biscuits at morning break with jam doughnuts on a Thursday, daily puddings at lunchtime and cake at teatime. With only 18 per cent of children eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in Britain, I do hope the food at Cheltenham Ladies’ College now reflects healthy eating guidelines.
Dr SHIREEN KASSAM, Consultant haematologist, King’s College Hospital, London SE5.