An exclusively vegetable-based diet? If it is done with the right medical supervision, it is also possible and safe for children. Not only that, recently the Scientific Society for Vegetarian Nutrition gave the go-ahead also to pregnant women who, even in that particular moment of their lives, are free to choose not to eat foods derived from animals. The announcement was made by the prestigious peer-reviewed magazine ‘Nutrients’, which published in late December 2018 the article, “Vegan nutrition for mothers and children: practical tools for health professionals”. Among the authors of the study, who are part of the Scientific Committee of SSNV, there is also Dr. Silvia Goggi, a doctor specializing in food science of Humanitas and referent of the Baby Green clinic in Humanitas Pio X.
The guidelines published in the new article focus on the management of certain nutrients, giving specific indications to obtain them from a 100% vegetable diet even in persons with more specific nutritional needs, such as growing children and pregnant women.
The guidelines for use by clinicians are those to be followed to plan a vegan diet even in the stages of breastfeeding and present a complementary point of view to those of PiattoVeg, already published previously always in an accredited journal.
“The publication of this document on Nutrients is an important recognition of their accuracy and validity – said Dr. Goggi – and a demonstration of how out of place are the alarmism of some pediatricians and nutritionists who advise against a vegan diet in pregnancy and childhood.
Vegan diet: the benefits
According to specialists, a 100% vegetable diet has considerable benefits: during pregnancy it can protect against preeclampsia and excessive weight gain, minimizing exposure to genotoxics. It also protects the unborn child from the development of various pediatric diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, neural tube defects, the harelip and some pediatric cancers. Vegan children also have a lower risk of developing overweight and obesity and are not exposed to antibiotics used in animal husbandry.
“The need for a practical tool like this, aimed at those who care for vegan mothers and children – concluded the specialist -, was also confirmed by the Italian Society of Human Nutrition, which already in 2017 had issued a document approving vegan diets for mothers and children, while suggesting to institutions to provide resources and tools that would make health professionals sufficiently prepared to follow vegan patients.
Basic nutrients in pregnancy
For all types of diets there are some nutrients considered critical in the delicate stages of pregnancy (especially in the second and third trimester), lactation, weaning and early childhood: protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
The article indicates that the only specific supplement to be used, compared to omnivores, for mothers and vegan children, is the vitamin B12, and recommends the appropriate dosages and blood ranges of reference. However, this nutrient should also be considered in omnivorous diets, as it cannot be excluded that a deficiency may occur. As for other supplements, such as DHA (a long-chain omega-3) and vitamin D, the same rules apply as for the rest of the population: they must be integrated into both the mother and the child regardless of the type of diet followed.
“These guidelines reiterate that, contrary to what is often reported, no calcium or iron supplement is necessary – continued Goggi -. It is sufficient to consume plant foods that are rich in them and put into practice simple actions in the preparation of foods, so as to increase their absorption.