At the beginning of the month a child of less than a year was hospitalized in your country with a state of malnutrition and Vegetarian diet (and not vegan as reported by the media when the case emerged) of the parents triggered the alarm, among public opinion but also among the authorities: the prosecutor of Pisa in fact accused the parents of mistreatment. But how did things really go? It is really the fault of the vegetarian / vegan diet?
The child was initially followed in Pisa by the professor's staff Carlos, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pisa and head of pediatric diabetes at the Cisanello hospital.
“The child presented a severe vitamin B12 deficiency - the doctor explained to us - in addition to vitamin D deficiencies. He was also suffering from megaloblastic anemia. It was trophic, but it featured one qualitative disconnection. The baby was still exclusively breastfed, with delayed weaning, and the mother also presented i its own deficits".
According to prof. Federico, however, is not the veg diet itself that has caused malnutrition, but one considerable misinformation, as a food choice of this type must be accompanied by integrations. A child is then a growing organism, for which the whole must be faced with one increased awareness. "A child is not an adult", he reiterated several times, underlining how the little patient with food supplements (such as fish) was already better even before being transported to the Meyer of your country.
The parents, alarmed, on the other hand immediately recognized the mistakes by consenting tofood supplement. The doctor reiterated several times that the child was not mistreated or deliberately malnourished, but perhaps an unconscious victim of errors, completely in good faith, of mum and dad.
As we knew, the child is currently hospitalized at the Meyer in your country and is followed by metabolic disease staff. The hospital confirmed to us that the patient shows continuous improvements for which discharge is expected in a short time, and which is fed at the facility with non-vegan diet which also includes vitamin supplements.
Of course we wish the child, as well as the parents who have lived this terrible experience, all the good in the world and a peaceful and conscious life.
All the fault of veganism so? To clarify, we interviewed nutritionists, in particular Roberta Bartocci, vegan by choice, e Loreto Nemi, dietician and nutritionist who has chosen an omnivorous diet.
The doctor who initially followed the child told us about severe vitamin B12 deficiency, vitamin D deficiency and megaloblastic anemia. We also know that the little patient was still exclusively breastfed. Is this clinical picture attributable to the mother's vegan diet, which actually had the same deficiencies, or to a "do-it-yourself" vegan diet?
RB. “For an adult, if he chooses not to eat foods of animal origin, if he follows a complete herbivorous diet, rich in whole grains, obviously legumes, etc., even DIY can be fine. You don't necessarily need a nutritionist. Sure in the case of children improvising is not really a good idea, since vegetarian-vegan weaning is very different from omnivorous weaning. It is not just a matter of removing food, but of setting adifferent power supply.
We remind you that a vegan diet can also be composed only of carrots and Coca Cola, but obviously it is not balanced. Like all diets, vegan must also be well planned. And obviously the diet of the baby's parents it wasn't.
In 2015 to say that a vegan diet, even if well planned, is inadequate, it is a sign of ignorance. Even for a baby it can be fine, even during weaning and can be chosen during pregnancy. It is not news but there are cases of children with arteriosclerosis at the age of 8 years because they eat hot dogs and chips all day.
È It is perfectly possible to wean a child on a vegan diet. Meanwhile, fibers are introduced, for which whole vegetables, perhaps homogenized, whole grains, whole legumes, these however not before 12 months (contrary to conventional weaning). Then you can put a teaspoon of almond, wheat germ, olive oil, linseed oil in the porridge. I say them because I follow some of these children ”.
LN. “If you decide to go vegan, you can't go it alone, because that implies nutritional deficiencies. If you do it at random you go in deficiency of essential amino acids and vitamin deficiency. So you can also decide to eat vegan, but you need to know which foods have those nutrients, integrating every day in all meals.
I think for example of omega 3 fatty acids, which are also contained in foods such as flaxseed oil, hemp, but which are not the same as those contained in fish, so in this case it is necessary to integrate. There are vegan omega 3 supplements, as well as other vitamins. But it all has to be taken every day and in all meals. A vegan diet may be fine, but it has to be even more aware.
In the case of a child though things change. The vegan diet cannot be the same as that of an adult. Personally I have never read studies on vegan children, especially very young ones, because unfortunately they have need for protein. At least in the first 2-3 years of life, proteins are needed and we get them from animals. With children, the discussion is very delicate. It is necessary to calculate the needs well.
I don't know the specific case, but obviously the milk was nutritionally poorer, since the mother had the same deficiencies as the baby and that this was exclusively breastfed. But to be able to pass judgment, one would need to know the situation in details.
However, a child, who is also developing in the intestine, may have problems using plant proteins, because the intestine is very sensitive. For example gluten, allergenic protein, is introduced later. Let's imagine the legume: sometimes it also annoys adults ...
Animal protein - this is the truth - is much more assimilable as well as bioavailable. My son, at least in the growing phase, would never go on a vegan diet. Maybe at 3-4 years old, when he eats everything, yes, but at the beginning I would say no.
Of course, however, that if the child was already inweaning age but he was still exclusively breastfed is different. Because at 9-10 months it is necessary start weaning, indeed from before. Aside from the vegan diet, this was a parental mistake. Unless you are giving the baby 2 liters of milk a day, but it is difficult, it is essential introduce other foods.
The keywords are always two: awareness and knowledge".
Roberta de carolis
DENNOURISHED CHILD ENDS IN HOSPITAL, VEGAN PARENTS SURVEYED