In Nuoro, a two-year-old boy, the son of vegan parents, was hospitalised for malnutrition. We talked about it with the expert
“We are vegans and so is he“. This would have been the justification of the parents of the child of not even two years, from Nuoro, admitted to the Paediatric ward of the San Francesco hospital for malnutrition. The doctors are trying to reconstruct the facts: the child’s parents, both vegans, accompanied him to the emergency room when they found his health conditions worsened. The couple, who also has another older child, would be actively collaborating with the hospital for the care of their child, assisted day and night, which, even if serious, would not be life threatening.
But is a vegan diet suitable for such a small child? Dietitian Giuliano Ubezio says, “I would suggest starting a vegan diet not before five or six,” he explains.“Although it is possible to propose it to a younger child, with the appropriate additions of vitamin B12 and under the control of the specialist“.
If the child is followed by an expert, does he still run risks?
“No. The problem is the do-it-yourself, it is the choice to completely eliminate a food without correctly balancing the diet. And not only among vegans: for example, the decision of omnivorous people who, to try to lose weight, eliminate carbohydrates and exaggerate, without criterion, with proteins is dangerous. In cases like this, the child’s parents certainly don’t follow a correct diet ».
Is vegetarian nutrition more advisable?
“It’s not as risky as vegan: you still eat eggs and dairy products, which provide noble proteins, and it’s a diet that is easier to manage and balance. But when it comes to children, it is always advisable to be followed by experts. The vegan diet is delicate for an adult, let alone for a child “.
Has the trend changed compared to the vegetarian boom a few years ago?
“In recent years there has been an explosion that has now settled, but the number of vegetarians has not decreased: it is not a fashion, and today the difference between omnivores and vegans is no longer so obvious. The nutritional basis of the vegetarian diet is more than correct: for some pathologies of inflammatory origin, for example, it is good to reduce the intake of animal proteins. Many studies show that balanced vegetarian or vegan nutrition can provide significant benefits”.
But what diet would you recommend for a child?
“I would suggest an omnivore, to accustom the child to eat everything, then, over time, he will make choices himself. So many times it creates confusion: the omnivorous food is not necessarily fat or high calorie: it can be much less than vegetarian diets in which, for example, industrial soy burgers are abused, with dozens of ingredients, and gluten in pure state. I would not suggest red meat every day, but with the right moderation a good fillet is better: you know what is really brought to the table. Again, I would say that the right is in the middle ».
What advice would you give to a parent who is planning to offer a vegan diet to their child?
“Don’t go with your own head, because maybe the nutrition that the parents follow may not be so correct. It is not a question of questioning parental competence, but with children the question becomes more delicate: at least in the beginning, better to be followed. Also, remember to provide good vitamin B12 supplementation and start with the vegan diet later”.
How many really turn to professionals and how many are limited to a Google search?
“Most turn to the Net, even to decide how to feed children. We tend to think that proper nutrition is within everyone’s reach, but in reality the diet must be personalised. Better to turn to an expert once and follow a correct nutrition lesson: this is the only way to internalise the basic knowledge”.