In Australia, a couple of parents who imposed a vegan diet on their children had to face mistreatment in court as the child developed a severe case of rickets.
In an Australian court, a 32- and 34-year-old father and mother admitted to being guilty of mistreating their 19-month-old daughter. The latter is suffering from rickets (a degenerative bone disease) because of the vegan diet imposed by her parents. The little girl, along with her two older brothers aged 4 and 6, were placed in foster care.
Imposing their vegan diet to their little daughter, the parents offered her only half a banana and a cup of oatmeal with rice milk in the morning, a slice of toast with jam or peanut butter for lunch, and tofu, rice or potatoes for dinner. A diet that has caused serious nutrient deficiencies in the young child, including calcium, vitamin B-12 and A, iron, zinc and vitamin D. The girl’s bones were so fragile that she suffered multiple fractures.
At more than one year, the child weighed only 4.9 kg, barely double what she weighed at birth but the parents kept her on the strict diet, claiming that she was a “difficult child” ” for the food. It was only when she had to be hospitalized for health reasons that the doctors realized the condition of the girl and alerted the authorities.
Is the Vegan Diet Bad for Children?
By excluding protein of animal origin from the diet, the vegan diet in children is the subject of many polemics. In 2016, in Italy, several Vegan children were hospitalized for malnutrition. This led the Italian Parliament to consider a bill to ban parents from imposing a Vegan diet on their children under 16 years of age. Everywhere, the Vegan diet divides. For some, it is perceived as an attack on the national gastronomy, for others it is simply dangerous for the growth and intellectual development of the child.
As with adults, the Vegan diet causes deficiencies in children. Indeed, for infants, vegetable milk is not enough, it is better to breastfeed, while making sure that the mother has a complete diet. However, the scientific literature does not reveal major problems, although there might be the risk of a slight reduction in size with exclusion of animal proteins. The lack of intake of essential amino acids of animal origin (lysine, methionine, tryptophan, alanine, glycine and tyrosine) seems to be partially compensated.
Some nutrients or vitamins, however, require more vigilance. Vitamin B12 for example is only present in animal products: The risk of deficiency can be very serious for one’s health and even more so for an infant or a child, because, in particular, of the cerebral development. It is therefore imperative to complement the diet.
Calcium is of course essential for children. But it is found in broccoli, cabbages, watercress, parsley and some water. Other essential nutrients are zinc, iron and vitamin D, which can be found in other foods, such as zinc in dried fruits. In short, being a child and being Vegan would not pose a major problem, if the parents are vigilant and informed.