Is the vegan diet good for our children?
According to new studies, it seems that the vegan diet significantly reshapes the metabolism of young children, and for this reason the level of vitamins A and D requires special attention.
Researchers report a comprehensive pilot study on the metabolic effects of the vegan diet in young children. The study found that the vegan diet significantly altered their metabolism and decreased their vitamin A and D levels, compared to those without this type of diet.
The study concludes that the vegan diet has an important effect on children’s metabolism. The levels for the serum biomarker of vitamins A and D, for the forms of cholesterol and essential amino acids were significantly lower in children with a vegan diet, compared to the omnivorous one, adjusted according to age. In addition, docosahexaenoic acid (a fatty acid with a central role in the development of visual function) is absent from the vegan diet. The results were recently published in the international scientific journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Vegan diets are gaining popularity especially among young adults and, more recently, are becoming more common in young children. The reasons behind choosing a vegan lifestyle are generally ecological, ethical and related to health. It is recommended to supplement the vegan diet with vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine, and based on individual assessment, it may be necessary to supplement with calcium, vitamin B2, iron and zinc. It should also be noted that the current nutritional recommendations are based on studies conducted in adult vegans, and other previous studies on the metabolic effects of vegan diets in children do not exist.
In their article, Dr. Topi Hovinen and Dr. Liisa Korkalo, together with the multidisciplinary team led by academic professor Anu Suomalainen-Wartiovaara and teacher Maijaliisa Erkkola, studied the nutrition and metabolism of 40 healthy children in kindergartens in Helsinki. The children followed a vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous diet, depending on their families’ choice. Their nutritional intake, metabolic biomarkers and micronutrient status have been extensively studied.
Children on a completely vegan diet were found to have significantly lower levels of vitamin D compared to children without a special diet, despite trying to supplement this deficiency regularly. In addition, their vitamin A levels were reduced. Levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, essential amino acids and docosahexaenoic acid were low, while folate levels were high in vegan children.
According to the researchers, the new findings motivate additional and more extensive studies on the consequences of a vegan diet on the health of children. “Our results indicate that the effects of strict diets on children’s health cannot be extrapolated from studies made on adults. In addition to vitamin D intake, an adequate intake of vitamin A and proteins from different sources is required”, says Topi Hovinen.
For a balanced diet, suitable for both adults and children, we recommend the Dahna app, which offers daily menus inspired by the Mediterranean diet, considered the healthiest in the world. You can download the app for free from AppStore or Google Play.