The growth and development of vegan children



The results of prospective study on the growth and diets, estimated from 7-day weighed food intake records, of 20 life vegan children (aged 5.8–12.8 years) are presented. The growth and development of the children were normal but they tended to be lighter in weight and exceptionally lean compared with standards. Heights were around the median of the Tanner-Whitehouse standards but were lower than the medians recently proposed by the Department of Health. Energy intakes were similar to those reported in children of the same age in the general population, but dietary fibre intakes were very high which may have influenced the digestible energy. Sugar provided an average 15.6% of the dietary energy and this was supplied mainly by fruit and fruit juice. Mean fat intakes were close to the dietary reference values. Daily intakes of essential nutrients generally met the amounts recommended, with the exceptions of calcium and vitamin B12. Many children received supplementary sources of vitamin B12 and only two children had intakes below the lower recommended nutrient intake. Intakes of saturated fatty acids were low and those of linoleic acid were high. The ratio of linoleic/α-linolenic acid was high. As docosahexaenoic acid is absent from vegan diets, it is suggested that vegans should use oils with a lower ratio of linoleic/α-linolenic acid. Future studies should also consider the influence of a vegan diet on retinal function. None of the children was immunized against whooping cough and 11 had not been immunized against polio: 16 of the children had suffered from whooping cough. Future studies need to take into account factors other than diet when assessing the health of vegans. The results of this study show that children can be successfully reared on a vegan diet providing sufficient care is taken to avoid the known pitfalls of a bulky diet and vitamin B12 deficiency.