Is vegan diet advisable for children?
Vegan diet (VD) is a diet that consists of only plant based foods. This diet completely excludes all animal products; meat, fish, poultry and also food gotten from milk, oil and honey. Vegan diet differs from vegetarian diet, although they are similar; some vegetarian include egg (ovo vegetarians), milk from animals (lacto vegetarians) or fish (pescovegetarian) in their diet. VD is believed to be healthier than diets containing animal produce and generally have a higher diet quality than non-vegan diets. VD has many health benefits and may also reduce the risk of certain conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer. However, these benefits seen in adults may not be the same case for toddlers and young children. Their diet directly affects their height, weight and also psychomotor and neurocognitive development. VD may not supply all the nutrients necessary for development and may lead to nutrient deficiency. Vegan children are at a risk of insufficient supply and deficiency of some critical nutrients such as protein, long chain fatty acids, cholesterol, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamin A, B12 and D. Deficiency of these nutrients could lead to various developmental and sometimes irreversible disorders. Apart from nutrition, VD also seems to alter the metabolomics and gut microbiota constitution of a vegan. Overall VD may have health benefits for children if it is properly fortified and supplemented. VD in children will also have to be carefully monitored to ensure the diet is healthy, nutritious and promote healthy growth and development.
Keywords: Children, Vegan diet, Nutrition, Metabolomics, Inborn errors of metabolism
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