Researchers found that children aged five to ten who eat plant-based diets are on average three centimetres shorter than those who eat meat. Their bones were also smaller and less strong, putting the children at risk of fractures or osteoporosis in later life.
The study, by University College London’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said parents must be aware of the risks of vegan diets. The new study looked at 187 healthy five to ten-year-olds in Poland. Of these, 63 children were vegetarians, 52 vegans and 72 omnivores. Children on vegan diets were on average three centimetres shorter. They also had 4 to 6 percent lower bone mineral content and were more than 3 times more likely to be deficient in vitamin B-12 than omnivores. However, on the positive side, the vegan children had 25 per cent lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lower levels of body fat.
Vegan’s are those who cut out all animal products, including dairy, eggs and even honey. The authors said vegan children should be given vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplements to reduce potentially long-term health consequences of being raised on plants only.
Lead author Professor Jonathan Wells, from UCL, said: “We know that people are increasingly being drawn to plant-based diets for several reasons, including promoting animal welfare and reducing our impact on the climate. Indeed, a global shift towards plant-based diets is now recognised to be crucial for preventing climate breakdown, and we strongly support this effort. We also know that until now research into the health impact of these diets on children has been largely limited to assessments of height and weight and conducted only in vegetarian children.”
Co-author, Professor Mary Fewtrell added: “Maximizing bone health in children is recommended with the aim of reducing future osteoporosis and fracture risk. We found that vegan children had lower bone mass even after accounting for their smaller body and bone size. This means they may enter adolescence, a phase when bone-specific nutrient needs are higher, with a bone deficit already established. If such deficits are caused by a diet that persists into adolescence, this might increase the risk of adverse bone outcomes later in life” [Daily Mail].
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
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