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Are babies at risk on a Vegan diet?


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Parents have been convicted over baby killed by 'alternative' diet.

7 month old infant died recently following its parents' refusal to seek medical care, despite knowing their child was in ill-health. The judge stated the death of baby Lucas resulted from inadequate suitable nutrition, which led the baby's organs to drastically shrink to less than half of their original size. At the time of death, the baby weighed only 9.5 pounds. 

Lucas had not been diagnosed with any form of food intolerance, but despite this, his parents - owners of a health food shop - proceeded to feed him using alternative milk substitutes in the form of rice and quinoa. When the health of their baby started to deteriorate, they did not follow medical advice from doctors and stopped attending social care meetings.

The upsetting case of baby Lucus has caused much outrage and called into question the suitability of raising vegan babies. Many vegan parents would argue that raising a child on a diet without animal products is completely safe, whereas opposition has raised concerns over whether such diets meet nutritional guidelines. 

There's no doubt that veganism is on the rise, with the number of people in Britain following a vegan diet increasing by 360% between 2006-2016.

More people are opting for a plant-based diet for a whole host of reasons, ranging from animal welfare issues to environmental concerns, or the copious health benefits. Cases such as that of baby Lucas bring the issue of whether it is safe to raise a child on a vegan diet to the forefront of the controversies. 

NHS guidelines for parents intending to bring up their baby as a vegan advise special care is taken to ensure enough calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D are included in the diet. They suggest plant-based sources of these nutrients and advise the use of a vitamin B12 supplement, as B12 is the only nutrient which cannot be sourced through a diet free of meat and dairy. 

The Vegan Society makes similar suggestions in the way of using a B12 supplement. They also provide helpful extensive guidelines for meeting nutritional needs throughout each stage of life; how different food groups should be introduced, such as mashed up beans and pulses after 6 months.

There's plenty of reassurance that a well thought out, plant-based diet can be a very healthy option, which allows children to develop normally and without posing any kind of risk in the way of nutritional deficiencies.

It seems unfair that vegans feeding their children a vegan diet for positive reasons like protecting the environment or improving animal welfare are met with disapproval. More focus needs to be placed on what parents are actually feeding their child, rather than making assumptions based on the vegan label.

Meat eaters often argue that you should let a child make its own decisions and not inflict veganism on them, but there's also an argument for not inflicting the consumption of animal products - or any other exclusionary diet - on them either.

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