Dangers of Raising Vegan Babies

Adorable Vegan Babies (Photos) | PETA

Dr Joseph Mercola

Story at-a-glance

  • Children eating vegan diets faced an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies and lower bone mineral content (BMC), and were shorter by about 3.15 centimeters (1.2 inches) than omnivores
  • Concerning nutrient deficiencies were also found in the vegan children fed a nutritionist-planned diet
  • Nutrient deficiencies in vegan children included vitamin A insufficiency and “markedly low” levels of total, HDL and LDL cholesterol, essential amino acids and the omega-3 fat DHA
  • One of the pitfalls of a vegan (or vegetarian) diet is that many people end up relying on ultraprocessed foods such soy infant formula, soy milk or fake meat products
  • In most cases, infants and children do best with whole, animal foods in their diet to meet their complex nutritional needs

The debate over the healthiest diet for children is almost as controversial as the debate over plant- versus meat-based diets. And, no vegan parent wants to be told that feeding their baby a vegan diet is dangerous. However, it could, in fact, be damaging to children’s health.

While it’s true that most people, children included, could benefit from adding more whole foods to their diets — including certain plant-based foods — there are risks involved when you move from eating a diet rich in plant foods to one that is strictly plant-based.

While the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) compiled a guide to feed vegan infants and children ages 5 and under, it noted:1

“We are not recommending a vegan diet. It is important to note that meeting the nutritional requirements of babies and young children will be challenging on a vegan diet, and using fortified foods and some supplements will be essential. Animal sourced foods provide good sources of many nutrients to the diet.”

Vegan Children May Face Stunted Growth, Bone Problems

A study of Polish children between the ages of 5 and 10 years evaluated body composition, cardiovascular risk and micronutrient status of vegetarian and vegan children compared to omnivores.2

The study claimed vegan diets were associated with a healthier cardiovascular risk profile, but this was largely based on lower levels of LDL cholesterol — a flawed marker of heart health. The children eating vegan diets also faced an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies, lower bone mineral content (BMC) and were shorter by about 3.15 centimeters (1.2 inches). According to the study:3

“Our data suggest that restriction of animal-based foods could prevent children from achieving optimal height or bone mineral status and could lead to selected nutritional deficiencies. The shorter height of children consuming PBDs [plant-based diets] may have mixed implications for long-term health. Taller height is associated with higher social status, and this association may be causal rather than just an artifact of social correlates.”

The researchers called the lower bone mineral content among those eating a vegan diet “concerning,” since maximizing bone mineral content in childhood is recommended to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life:4

“We found that vegans have lower BMC even after accounting for smaller body and bone size. It does not seem optimal to enter adolescence, a phase when bone-specific nutrient needs are higher, with a BMC 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.”

Vegans Faced Several Nutrient Deficiencies

The vegan children in the group were more likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, low HDL levels and lower vitamin D levels,5 each of which could have implications for their current and future health.

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is necessary for your body to make red blood cells as well as for proper nerve function and DNA synthesis. Without adequate levels, a number of physical symptoms, ranging from numbness to fatigue, can occur. Mental health can also suffer significantly, as vitamin B12 plays an important role in neurological function.

It’s been shown, for instance, that people with depression and high B12 levels have better responses to treatment,6 while up to 30% of patients hospitalized for depression may be B12 deficient.7

While choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development, wasn’t covered in the featured study, it’s another essential nutrient that humans must get from dietary or supplement sources. Animal foods are a major contributor of choline to the diet, and it’s difficult to get enough of this essential nutrient if you don’t consume them, particularly eggs, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients.8

Additionally, important nutrients such as carnitine, carnosine and creatine are also very low in a plant based diet and ideally need to be supplemented. In another example, researchers followed 40 children with a median age of 3.5 years who attended a Finnish daycare.9 There, they received nutritionist-planned vegan or omnivore meals designed to meet their nutritional needs.

However, even then, concerning nutrient deficiencies were found in the vegan children, including vitamin A insufficiency and “markedly low” levels of total, HDL and LDL cholesterol, essential amino acids and the omega-3 fat DHA. According to the researchers:10

“The markedly low cholesterol in vegan infants and children in our study raises the question of whether such levels are healthy, as cholesterol is essential for cellular growth, division, and development of physiological systems due to its major role in the synthesis of cell membranes, steroid hormones, bile acids, and brain myelin …

DHA and active vitamin A are both important for eyesight, and the low statuses of both in [vegan] children may raise a concern for the visual health.”

Recommendations for Soy Milk Put Children at Risk

NHS also states that, from the age of 1, “you can give your baby unsweetened, calcium-fortified, plant-based drinks (such as soya, oat and almond drinks) as part of a healthy balanced diet.”11,12

However, not only is most soy genetically engineered (GE) and sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides like Roundup, with its dangerous active ingredient glyphosate, but soy products contain phytoestrogens such as genistein, which may affect the development of the reproductive system.13

When it comes to soy formula, I believe it’s unsuitable for all children. But soy-based beverages should also be avoided later in childhood, and you’ll definitely want to steer clear of ultraprocessed foods like Soylent.

Soylent is a Silicon Valley creation, dreamed up by a group of software engineers14 with no education in nutrition or human biology. The primary premise behind Soylent is that you can drink your complete nutritional requirements and never have to eat real food again. But this GE concoction, which is heavily promoted as a panacea to fill in nutritional gaps in those following plant-based diets, will not propel you, or your children, to optimal health.

Its products contain ingredients like soy protein isolate, canola oil — a major dietary source of toxic linoleic acid — artificial flavors and the artificial sweetener Sucralose.15 Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of a vegan (or vegetarian) diet is that many people end up relying on ultraprocessed foods such as this, mistakenly believing them to be healthy.



3 thoughts on “Dangers of Raising Vegan Babies

  1. Child abuse at least! Where is the social service…?

    Btw, canola/rape seed oil contain erucic acid, like all species in the mustard family, not linoleic acid. That’s found in other species like sunflowers etc.. It’s bad anyway and the erucic acid also affect the heart. Not in a good way though …


  2. Pingback: Dangers of Raising Vegan Babies — The Most Revolutionary Act | Vermont Folk Troth

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