Can Vegan Diets Hurt Kids?

A new study by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service offers new evidence why placing children on a strict vegan diets hurts them far more than the so-called "experts" believe it does: The lack of animal food sources -- that contain nutrients found nowhere else -- may harm their development. Scientists believe enough research shows, when women avoid animal-based foods, their babies don't develop properly. They are born small, grow very slowly and could risk permanent developmental retardation.

To prove the point, scientists divided more than 500 African children (who had been raised on starchy, low-nutrition diets based on corn and beans) into four groups. One group's diet went unchanged, two groups received a cup of milk or an oil supplement daily and a fourth consumed 2-ounce supplements of meat every day.

As you might expect, the health of children who were given oil, milk and, to a greater degree, meat prospered dramatically, according to the study. Among the benefits:

  • Improved performance on intelligence tests.
  • Better social skills and more active.
  • Elimination of vitamin B12 deficiency.

This study is just another great example why eating a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet isn't healthy for most people. As this study, like others, found, low vitamin B12 levels can be a big problem for those who avoid meat and animal byproducts.

Also, many people who are not biochemically suited to vegetarianism, decide to lean that way for health or spiritual reasons. Even though some people can do quite well with only small amounts of protein, others need plenty of protein in order to function optimally. That's a good reason to learn more about better eating based your body's unique nutritional type.

Be careful what you put in your mouth, however. Not just any animal protein will do. If you want to add animal protein to your diet, ensure you're eating healthy meat, which means avoiding most grain-fed meats sold in grocery stores.

BBC News February 21, 2005

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