Are Vegetarian Diets Adequate for Children?
In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that about 5% of Americans do not consume any meat products. Those who are meat eaters argue that meat is essential to human health, while non-meat eaters argue that it is not because the necessary nutrients in meat could be consumed in non-animal products. This brings us to the issue of the adequacy of vegetarian diets for children. This is an issue that’s rising because many argue that because children are still in the growing process, it is important for them to consume meat because it has the essential nutrients for development. On the contrary, advocates argue that vegetarians are more likely to achieve the current American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations which is important for the development of children as well.
Non-vegetarians often argue that meat is an essential factor in dieting because it provides important nutrients that assist with growing and development. In the experiment that Shull, et. al (1977) conducted, they stated that vegetarian preschool children weighted less and were shorter than the norms established from the Harvard growth study. Children who were under the age of 2 were low in their growth velocity, while those over the age of 2 were more comparable to the Harvard standards. When researchers compared macrobiotics (eats organic and sea foods) and non-macrobiotic (vegetarian) diets, they found that there wasn’t a significant difference in children’s growth velocity. Although there were no significant differences, the average weight of children with macrobiotic diets over the age of 2 were higher than the average weight of children with non-macrobiotic diets. Results showed that low growth in children under the age of 2 years old were more prevalent in those who had a vegetarian (non-macrobiotic) base diet. In addition, American children with non-macrobiotic diets tend to experience effects of malnutrition and insufficiencies in growth and hemoglobin levels. Further, children over 2 years old with macro-biotic diets were shown to gained weight rapidly compared to those with non-macrobiotics. These results showed how the effects of dieting varied depending on age. Those who were younger appeared to be more affected by non-macrobiotic diets than those who were older. Thus, concluding that children under the age of 2 years old should consume meat because it does have an impact on their development and growth velocities. Consequences from insufficient dieting depended on timing, severity, and to extent it lasted. If sufficient nutrient levels were not adequate, this may cost children permanent growth retardation.
This study was composed of 72 preschool children. There were 33 boys and 39 girls. Of the 72 children, 34 were on the macrobiotic diet while the rest were on non-macrobiotic diets. Participants who were recruited were primarily healthy white preschool vegetarian children under 5 years old in Boston....