Proper Feeding of Infants and Young Children

Topics: Animals

Appropriate infant and young child feeding is essential for survival, growth, and development. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that access to adequate nutrition, including family support for optimal feeding practices, is a right that should be supported for every child. Children who are not well nourished suffer from ill-health, and undernutrition is associated with over 50% of deaths in children under five years of age. The idea behind a healthy children diet differs and have differed. There are different guidelines in different countries introducing different foods in different time periods.

However, it seems that the main disagreement is about meat consumption and animal products. Therefore, more often and more loud people speak about Veganism in all stages of life.

Veganism is a new way in the dietary science (1960,1970) and represents the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet.  The interest into veganism has been drastically increased in the last decade, that created the “vegan industry”.

But, is it the best and healthiest option for little bodies who are constantly growing and developing? According to the science, healthy eating means “eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals”

The available literature on this topic is large, and the debates are fierce, especially since it is a strongly politicized topic where arguments as colliding. This position paper aims to advocate against adopting veganism as a lifestyle during childhood, taking into account the scientific fact that there is not such a thing as an uninformed diet for each and every person in the world, irrespective of their characteristics.

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  The risk of vegan diet for growing children Raising children as strict vegans can be dangerous and sometimes even fatal . Serious deficiency-states have been noticed after such regimens i.e. rickets, osteoporosis, anemia, growth retardation.

Current guidelines are suggesting introduction of variety of solid foods after age of 6 months, despite of their families being a vegan or not. Scientists have concluded that wise, omnivorous diet with moderate amounts of animal products, in which red meat is partly replaced by white meat and fish (especially fatty fish), together with the consumption of ample amounts of unrefined vegetable products, is thought to be just as protective as a vegetarian diet. On the other hand, the omission of meat and fish from the diet increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies. However, the some of the deficiencies due to vegan diet are; iron and protein deficiencies, since children needs od iron and proteins are higher than in adults. Childhood is the crucial stage of brain development and therefore the intake of important fats and soluble vitamins- which are best obtain from products from animal origin is essential.

To make matters worse, plants contain a form of iron that is far more difficult to absorb than heme iron, the form found in animal foods. Most vegans have about the same amount of iron in their blood as omnivores do, but their total body iron stores do tend to be lower. Historically, meat consumption is related to the evolution of human brain, so depriving a child from meat would be contrary to the nature. Additionally, In order to get enough proteins, vegan children very often consume soy-based food, which risks and benefits are unclear. Another common consequence is B12 deficiency. This vitamin can be found exclusively in meat. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency produces a cluster of neurological symptoms in infants, including irritability, failure to thrive, apathy, anorexia, and developmental regression, which respond remarkably rapidly to supplementation.

Children need high levels of omega 3 for brain development. Even though human can obtain omega 3 from chia seed and linseeds, they have to eat a huge amount of these seeds in order to obtain the equivalent which would be easily satisfied with a little piece of salmon fish.  Research indicates that brain cells depend on the local synthesis of asparagine(-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins) to function properly. ‘The cells of the body can do without it because they use asparagine provided through diet. Asparagine, however, is not well transported to the brain via the blood-brain barrier. Meat, egg and dairy nutrients are essential for brain development In general,Vegan diets tend to be less energy dense and children need to eat large quantities to get enough energy. Children have frequently problems with appetite, so achieving their calorie needs with this diet in some cases can be impossible, which on the other side is crucial for fatty acids needed for brain development.

Potential health benefits of vegan diet Most of the leading health institutions in the world have approved vegan diet as an appropriate diet for people at different life stages including childhood, except the German Nutrition Society(14). However, the importance of well-balanced diet is always emphasized. One advantage of vegan diet is the fact that most of the families, practicing veganism are cooking at home, so children might eat less processed food, reducing the risk for some types of cancer in the future. They learn from young age about the importance of fresh, homemade meals.

Veganism supporters argue that plant-based diet reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases, but so far there aren`t any scientific proves that moderate consumption of meat in childhood increases the risk of CVD. According to research, It is possible to raise healthy vegan children, however, this diet is too restrictive and the risks outweigh the possible benefits. Therefore parents always have to bear in mind that practicing veganism as a lifestyle for children requires very well planning, regular consultations with pediatricians and nutritionists, taking supplements and constantly monitoring the calorie intake in their children and advanced health literacy skills. The whole process becomes additionally complicated in the geographical regions, scarce with plant-based food

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Proper Feeding of Infants and Young Children. (2021, Dec 19). Retrieved from

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