Nutrition A vegan diet exposes kindergarteners to vitamin deficiencies, the study says

The metabolism of children who followed a strict vegan diet differed from others, a study of Helsinki-based kindergarten children showed. A vegan diet also had benefits, the researcher recalls.

22.1. 9:25

Vegan strict monitoring of diet changes the metabolism of kindergarteners, showed newly published Finnish research.

Vegan children had clearly lower levels of vitamin A and also vitamin D than the other children studied. The level of vitamin A tracer was below the limit value considered adequate.

There were also clear changes in children’s fatty, bile, amino acids, and cholesterol compared to those who ate mixed foods or children who ate fish, dairy products, or eggs in addition to vegetables.

Result differs from the results of studies in adult vegans. Thus, it would appear that the metabolism of children and adults respond differently to a vegan diet.

“Based on the results, I would say that it would be worth paying attention to at least getting vitamins A and D from vegan children,” says the professor of the Academy of Molecular Medicine at the University of Helsinki Anu Suomalainen-Wartiovaara. It is also worth investing in the diversity of protein sources.

“On the other hand, even a small amount of animal feed seemed to change the situation. This could be, for example, one egg a week. ”

Research was conducted in kindergartens in Helsinki in 2017. A total of 40 children were studied in it. Of the children, 24 were mixed eaters and 16 followed a vegan diet in the shelter.

However, to the surprise of the researchers, it turned out that the majority of those who followed the diet occasionally ate products of animal origin, such as fish, milk or eggs, outside the kindergarten. They were given their own category in the study, non-carnivores.

There were six children in the study who followed a strictly vegan diet who had not eaten breast milk of any animal origin in their lifetime.

The ages of the children ranged from one year to six, with a median age of 3.5. None of the children in the study were breastfed anymore.

The children were measured and weighed, in addition to which blood and urine samples were taken from them. The diet was also mapped using a questionnaire and a food diary. This was a random cross-section and no follow-up was performed. The study was published in the prestigious journal of molecular medicine EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Research the editors were doctoral students in biomedicine Topi Hovinen and University Lecturer in Nutrition Liisa Korkalo.

Korkalo commented that the results are very interesting. However, he emphasizes that research opens up a new direction of research and so far creates more questions than answers.

However, he himself would be wary of putting a small child on a completely vegan diet.

“I think it’s important at this stage to do more research to monitor, for example, longer-term developments.”

“By no means do I oppose the provision of vegan food in kindergartens.”

Korkalo stresses at the same time that, based on measurements, the vegan diet also had benefits. Children who followed it received more fiber and vitamin B9, or folate. They also had less saturated fat in their diet.

“By no means do I oppose the provision of vegan food in kindergartens. Studies have shown that the amount of vegetarian food could be clearly increased in young children as well. Only a very strict vegan diet saw negative effects. ”

Vegan children were not found to be shorter or smaller in size than their other peers. There were also no problems with access to vitamin B12, which was perceived as challenging by the vegan diet.

“However, we are definitely looking at whether the intake of vitamin A or D, for example, should be increased somehow.”

Early childhood education and a pre-school food service specialist Sirpa Jalovaara The City of Helsinki’s education and training industry says that the research result is interesting.

At least it will not lead to immediate changes in the vegan food supply of kindergartens.

“A vegan diet is planned with nutritionists and based on nutritional recommendations. However, we are definitely looking at whether the intake of vitamin A or D, for example, should be increased somehow. ”

Jalovaara also reminds that in children in full-time care, the food in the kindergarten should cover two-thirds of the daily food needs. So a third is still left to the homes.

“Those who choose a vegan diet are, in principle, required to commit to a vegan diet at home as well,” says Jalovaara. In practice, however, it is impossible to control this.

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