In France, more and more people are becoming vegans. But for Professor Patrick Tounian of the Trousseau Hospital’s Nutrition and Gastroenterology Department in Paris, this trend has become a serious public health problem … especially when it is imposed on children.
A “vegan” diet means a rejection of all products that come from animals: meat, dairy, eggs, fish, honey … Professor Tounian believes that “this diet can constitute mistreatment when it affects children and in particular infants. In fact, the latter can become victim to extremely severe complications and even death. Lack of iron early in life adversely and definitively affects brain development. And lack of calcium means weaker bones for the rest of one’s life.”
Up to the age of one, almost all the nutrients a child needs should be provided either by breastmilk and/or infant formula. “However, in veganism infant formula is replaced by totally unsuitable vegetable drinks, the composition of which leaves the child at risk of deficiencies”.
And during childhood?
The real risk of deficiency to which vegans are exposed is that of vitamin B12. “This is provided only by animal-derived foods and is not found in any vegetable foodstuff. “Of course, it is possible to find calcium in endives, broccoli and cabbage too, but these need to be eaten in large amounts, which isn’t easy for very young children”. People have become increasingly mistrustful of food and scaremongers are only too eager to prey on this. Professor Tounian believes “it is imperative that we go back to basics when it comes to our diet”.