According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ influential position statement on vegetarianism, meat and seafood can be replaced with milk, soy/legumes, and eggs without any negative effects in children. The United States Department of Agriculture endorses a similar view. The present paper argues that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ignores or gives short shrift to direct and indirect evidence that vegetarianism may be associated with serious risks for brain and body development in fetuses and children. Regular supplementation with iron, zinc, and B12 will not mitigate all of these risks. Consequently, we cannot say decisively that vegetarianism or veganism is safe for children…
This paper has reviewed direct and indirect evidence that vegetarian and vegan diets may be associated with serious risks for fetuses and growing children. This evidence for the dangers of vegetarianism is not necessarily decisive. However, the question is whether the AND is justified in making a blanket claim that “appropriately planned” vegetarian and vegan diets that substitute milk, soy/legumes, or eggs for meat are as healthy as appropriately planned omnivorous diets for children. The evidence reviewed here suggests that there are still many unknowns about the health effects of meatless diets in children. Parents ought to be informed that the debate about the health effects of vegetarianism in children is not settled one way or the other.
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