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Vegan Children Have Better Cardiometabolic Health

A recent study looking at a small sample of children came out with findings that the media interpreted as “The Dangers of a Vegan Diet for Kids”, yet this sensationalist headline could not be further from the truth. The study looked at just 187 Polish children, 52 of whom were vegan. What is under reported is that the vegan children had lower fat mass, blood cholesterol and fasting glucose levels. They had higher intakes of some beneficial nutrients including fibre, vitamin C, folate, carotenoids, unsaturated fats, magnesium, all a reflection of the consumption of healthy plant foods.

The study on children aged 5-10 years, compared the health of 52 vegan children to 63 vegetarians and 72 omnivores. The reason for the negative headline is that vegan children were around 3cm shorter than omnivores and had lower bone density. Yet the vegans were still of NORMAL height. BUT, only a third of vegan children were supplementing appropriately with vitamin D and a third were not supplementing with vit B12. Median calcium intake was only 376mg per day. In NZ, for this age group 550mg of calcium is recommended. One might conclude that this lower calcium intake was more the cause than a vegan diet per se.

Although lower protein intake is cited in vegans, the median of 42.4g per day is more than adequate and exceeds recommended intakes. There are serious health consequences of too much protein, including heart disease, kidney stones, certain cancers and osteoporosis, to name a few.

Another study that did not generate sensationalist headlines was a report from the German VeChi youth study in which the health of a larger number (115) of vegan children aged 6-18 yrs was assessed. Vegans were appropriately supplementing with B12 and Vitamin D and had much better calcium intakes. Although bone density was not reported, vegan children had normal growth and a healthy nutrient intake compared to veggie and omnivore groups such that the authors conclude ‘the study confirms a vegan diet can meet the nutrient requirements in childhood and adolescence’

Plant-based general practitioner Dr Mark Craig said “A plant-based diet is suitable for all age groups, it's just a matter of making sure people know to eat wholefoods and ensure they eat pulses and grains as well as fruits and veggies. Supplement with B12 and you are good to go”

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