“Over the past 20 years we have witnessed the increasing popularization of diets that are based on plants and an evolving food system with increased availability of alternative sources of protein, but we’ve not yet seen studies on the nutritional results of children eating vegetarian diets within Canada,” said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead author and pediatric physician in St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, in an announcement.
The researchers employed data from almost 9,000 children between the ages of 6 months to 8 years old. They took part in the TARGet Kids! Cohort between 2008 and the year 2019. TARGet Kids! is a primary care-based group study and research consortium conducted in Toronto. The diets of they ate were reported to their parents who answered whether they were vegetarian (which includes vegans) or not.
Each time a health supervisory visit was conducted through the years, research assistants from TARGet Kids! assessed participants’ body mass index as well as weight and height and cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides levels, vitamin D levels, and ferritin levels in serum. Ferritin is a cell-based protein that stores iron and allows the body to utilize iron whenever it is needed. So the ferritin test is an indirect measure of the levels of iron in blood according to Mount Sinai Health System.
At the start in the research, 248 kids (including twenty-five vegans) were vegetarians. 338 additional children were vegetarian in later stages of the course of the study. The children were followed for almost three years in total. There were no major distinctions between non-vegetarian and vegetarian children with respect to the standard BMI and height, as well as ferritin levels in serum, as well as vitamin D level.
But, children who were vegetarians were twice more likely to be overweight as non-vegetarian children.
Being overweight can be an indication of malnutrition. It could indicate that one’s diet isn’t adequate to allow for proper growth, according to the study’s news release. Details about the amount of food consumed or quality, as well as physical activity weren’t made accessible to the authorsthat could affect the growth of a person and their nutrition.
Research with longer follow-up intervals as well as information about the motivations behind eating vegetarian, like socioeconomic statuscould be beneficial in understanding the connections between the development of children as well as the practice of vegetarianism, according to the authors.
The research highlights “the necessity of careful diet plan for children who are underweight when it comes to vegetarian diets” Maguire said.
“The children who were obese in both vegetarian and vegetarian (groups) were comparable as well as being younger and also of Asian origin,” said Amy Kimberlain who is registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. Kimberlain was not part of the study.
“Ethnicity may be a factor in the findings on weight,” said Dr. Maya Adam, a clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine, who wasn’t part of the study.
There are Asian kids “were likely to be of East Indian descent, because this particular subset of the “Asian demographic box (which I am also picking as a person with Indian origin) is more likely to follow vegetarianism,” Adam said via email. “In India, children’s growth charts differ from US growth charts. A typical 5-year-old girl from India is estimated to weigh 17 kg and measure 110 centimeters high. In the US the average 5 year old girl with the same height can be expected to weigh 18 kilograms.”
However, “it’s important for kids to be monitored to see their development, regardless of what they eat,” Kimberlain said. “A vegetarian diet is an ideal option for kids of all ages. The most important thing is to make sure that the diet is planned out. With the assistance of an accredited dietitian nutritionist, children’s growth is monitored as well as their nutrition require to make sure they’re getting enough nutrients.”
If you or your kids are exploring eating vegan or vegetarian having a variety of options is essential “in the event that one day they love something and the next day, they do not,” Kimberlain said.
The guidelines of a countries
When feeding infants and children on a diet that is vegetarian, the parents need to make sure that they are eating eggs dairy products, soy products , and seeds or nuts, along with fruits, vegetables beans, lentils and beans, oils and grains, as according to the latest US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend.
Take extra care to include foods high with iron, as well as vitamins B12 because plants are the best sources of these nutrients and are not as bioavailable as animals’ food items. Different beans along with dark leafy vegetables and sweet potatoes contain iron. Additionally, nutritional yeast cereals, dairy products and other foods are a few Vitamin B12 sources. The guidelines contain an illustration of the appropriate portions of each food category per day.
Canadian guidelines suggest that vegetarianism is suitable for children if eggs and milk are also included.