Can Advocating for Veganism in Prepubescent Children Be Unhealthy or Even Dangerous?

Dr. Habib Sadeghi
Jun 28 · 22 min read
Source: Unsplash

Recently, a patient of mine contacted me to request help for her son. The son was suffering acutely—over the course of his life he had developed ADD, ADHD, depression, and genital identity issues, and had also attempted suicide.

Interestingly, this patient had been pushing her son into a vegan diet since he was a young child. I wrote the following letter in response to the questions she posed about whether a vegan diet could have played any role in the manifestation of his illnesses, and to some information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that she careshared with me.


My dear friend,

Thank you so much for your authentic openminded curiosity and caresharing these two pieces of information with me. In addition to the claims that were made in them, I had several concerns.

There are several problems with the claim that, because saturated fatty acids and cholesterol are synthesized in the body, there is no need for them in the diet.

How can this be when 50% of the calories in breast milk come from saturated fat, and the level of cholesterol is nearly six times the level adults consume in their food?(Jensen, R. (1999). Lipids in human milk. Lipids, 34(12), 1243–1271, PMID: 10652985.)

Although I hold the intention of loving respect towards the author, I choose to take exception with anything provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) because to a large degree, it is a political lobbying organization.

One of their primary goals has been to drive legislation mandating “licensing” in order to dispense nutritional information in various states. This move is aimed directly at alternative healthcare providers such as chiropractors, homeopaths, and acupuncture therapists, especially in states with rigid versions of the law.

AND has also been accused of trying to limit competition in nutrition education and violating free speech. In addition, the organization has repeatedly come under fire for unethical relationships with processed food manufacturers like General Mills, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, as well as pharmaceutical corporations.

In 2015, AND gave its first “Kids Eat Right” healthy seal to Kraft singles, a processed food cheese product. In fact, the FDA doesn’t even allow Kraft to call their singles “cheese” because real cheese makes up less than half the laundry list of ingredients. AND quietly removed the seal of approval after the public and media balked at the designation.

AND also charges food companies like Hershey’s and Wendy’s $20,000 to participate in creating nutrition fact sheets for their own products endorsed by the organization.

Therefore, you’ll understand when I say cannot consider AND an authority on any matter related to health or nutrition.

As I have humbly careshared with you before, cholesterol is the precursor for the master hormone, pregnenolone, from which six types of steroid hormones including mineralcorticoids, glucocorticoids, androgens, estrogens, progestagens, and vitamin D are derived.

Cholesterol is the apex of this hormonal cascade and is vital for all humans, but especially during the rapid development of childhood and puberty, a time where fundamental growth patterns occur that have no opportunity of happening at any other time in life.

Nutrition drives the pubertal process, and deficiencies as often seen in a vegan diet result in delayed puberty, stunted growth spurt, ovulation prevention, delayed first menstruation, lack of menstrual cycle, and more.

Aside from puberty, the hormones derived from cholesterol are an essential factor in countless processes from brain and immune function to electrolyte balance, carbohydrate metabolism, transmission of neurons, menstrual regulation, bile salt production, and more. The membranes of all 1 trillion cells in the body require cholesterol to maintain their very structure. New cells couldn’t be created without cholesterol. Not one single neuron could fire without cholesterol.

This is a massive demand—and yet, the body only produces 75% of the total cholesterol we need.

Eating a low or no cholesterol diet leaves one at a significant 25% deficit and risks serious consequences that will certainly come when an overworked liver begins to falter. Of course, this assumes a person’s liver is functioning at maximum capacity, which is not the case for most people, due to accumulation of environmental toxins.

Because cholesterol is absolutely essential for the brain and nervous system, (the brain is 60% saturated fat), low cholesterol plays a significant role in depression, lack of concentration, and mood instability, and yet there are millions of people taking antidepressants when it’s likely that for many, their depression is linked to lack of cholesterol in their diet and/or compromised liver function.

People on statins, cholesterol lowering drugs, have been known to commit suicide. With regard to cognitive development for children, cholesterol is absolutely essential, and research finds that it is “…critical to learning and memory, and disturbances in cholesterol levels, synthesis or metabolism have significant consequences.” (Schreurs, B. (2010). The effects of cholesterol on learning and memory. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34(8), 1366–1379, doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.04.010.)

In late life, high cholesterol has also been found to reduce risk of dementia. (Mielke, M et al. (2005). High total cholesterol levels in late life associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Neurology, 64(10), 1689–1695, doi: 10.1212/01.WNL.0000161870.78572.A5.)

Unfortunately, research shows that phytosterols, cholesterol-like molecules found in small amounts in plants and high levels in vegetable oils, are entirely inadequate for performing the countless functions of cholesterol because they actually lower cholesterol in the body and increase the “…occurrence of major coronary events” and risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).

They also interrupt cholesterol synthesis and are related to the development of atherosclerosis. An overview of 16 studies concluded, “…there is no evidence that plant sterols reduce the risk of CHD and much evidence that they are detrimental.” (Harcombe, Z. Baker, J. (2014). Plant sterols lower cholesterol, but increase risk for coronary heart disease. Online Journal of Biological Sciences, 14(3), 167–169, DOI : 10.3844/ojbsci.2014.167.169.)

My intention has always and only been to offer the information that will provide your son with the best chance of growing up into a vibrant, healthy, young man.

I’ve done my best to keep my explanations of the various studies as brief as possible.

The following list contains multiple studies spanning more than 60 years from independent sources showing the vital importance of cholesterol and disproving the most common myths about it.

Also included are the official statements of various nutrition and pediatric organizations around the world that have either spoken out against a vegan diet for children and/or strongly urged for caution and oversight in doing so. It also contains studies examining the consequences of under-nutrition as seen in vegan diets on children prior to and during puberty.

The list is structured so that it provides direct responses to the three main comments you submitted. These are:

1. “There is no dietary requirement for cholesterol at all because our livers make far more than we need for biological reasons.”

2. “Saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and cholesterol are synthesized by the body and have no known beneficial role in preventing chronic diseases.”

3. “Children can get everything they need without consuming animals.”

While I wholeheartedly understand the personal convictions that compel someone to follow a vegan diet, it is critical to realize that there is a difference between philosophy and biology. While you may be emotionally committed against consuming animal products, your son’s body isn’t having the same debate.

Biology is not emotional. It must have what it needs to thrive; if not, it will not.

Humans have lived for great lengths of time through ice ages with no access to carbohydrates. In fact, samples of human corprolites, fossilized feces, from 300,000–50,000 year ago show no plant matter of any kind. The Inuit people of the Arctic live almost entirely on seal meat and fat.

In fact, while science recognizes essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (proteins), there is no such thing as an “essential” carbohydrate. Humans can live and have lived healthy lives without eating any carbohydrates, but they cannot do so without protein and animal fat. This is supported by the fact that never, in all of human history, has there been a civilization based on a strict vegan diet. For further reading, I would highly recommend The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.


Claim #1: “There is no dietary requirement for cholesterol at all because our livers make far more than we need for biological reasons.”

On the contrary, the body produces so much cholesterol internally because it’s virtually impossible for us to consume the amount that it actually needs.

Mary Enig, PhD, biochemist, nutritionist and author of Know Your Fats: The complete primer for understanding the nutrition of fats, oils and cholesterol has stated, “It’s not possible for humans to eat enough cholesterol-containing foods every day to supply the amount that a human needs.” She also adds, “The statement, ‘even if you didn’t eat any cholesterol, your liver would manufacture enough for your body’s needs’ has been made so frequently it is often believed.”

Only about 75% of cholesterol in the human body is made by the body. If a person didn’t eat any cholesterol or restricted their diet to low cholesterol foods, one would still be at a significant 25% overall deficit, eventually leading to chronic health problems.

Most people’s livers aren’t functioning at an optimal level because of exposure to toxins in the environment like pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, parabens, BPA and petrochemicals in plastics, heavy metals, EMF contamination from Wi-Fi and so on, and these are the people that think they’re otherwise healthy. It’s naïve and dangerous to assume the liver produces all the cholesterol we need, especially for a child’s pubertal development. Eating low or no cholesterol is to invite illness somewhere down the road when an overtaxed liver begins to falter.

Claim #2: “Saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and cholesterol are synthesized by the body and have no known beneficial role in preventing chronic diseases.”

It’s astonishing that this comment was made by a medical professional.

Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K can only be transported throughout the body by fat, and our ability to absorb them is highly dependent upon the presence of fat, as well. Even more, vitamins A, D, E, and K are only available in dietary fat.

It is a misconception that plants contain vitamin A. This is incorrect. Plants contain pro-vitamin A, which can only be converted to vitamin A with…fat. Without fat, the body could not utilize any of these vitamins including vitamin D, and osteoporosis would result. Without fat, the inability to utilize vitamin A would occur and night blindness would be the result. With the help of fat, vitamin A is essential for cell division, bone mending, immune function, forming tooth enamel and healthy skin. Fat and cholesterol by their natural functions protect us from a host of chronic diseases.

See below for a small sample of numerous studies spanning more than 60 years showing fat and cholesterol do indeed prevent and protect us from disease:

Cardiovascular Disease

1. Research shows that phytosterols, cholesterol-like molecules found in small amounts in plants and high levels in vegetable oils, are entirely inadequate for performing the countless functions of cholesterol because they actually lower cholesterol in the body and increase the “occurrence of major coronary events” and risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). They also interrupt cholesterol synthesis and are related to the development of atherosclerosis. This overview of 16 studies concludes, “…there is no evidence that plant sterols reduce the risk of CHD and much evidence that they are detrimental.” You will see in following studies how cholesterol has been proven to have no connection to CHD and, in fact, protects us from it.

Harcombe, Z. Baker, J. (2014). Plant sterols lower cholesterol, but increase risk for coronary heart disease. Online Journal of Biological Sciences, 14(3), 167–169, doi : 10.3844/ojbsci.2014.167.169.

2. Eighty participants were given a specific diet, where the only difference was one group received corn oil in place of saturated fat. The corn oil participants experienced a 23mg/dl decrease in serum cholesterol…and died at much higher rates from cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. The researchers themselves noted, “…under the circumstances of this trial, corn oil cannot be recommended in the treatment of ischaemic heart disease. It is most unlikely to be beneficial and is possibly harmful.”

Rose, G et al. (1965). Corn oil in treatment of ischaemic heart disease. The British Medical Journal, 1(5499), 1531–1533, doi: 10.1136/bmj.1.5449.1531.

3. In 1966, the Anti-Coronary Club was the name of the first controlled study of the Lipid Hypothesis in the U.S. A group of 1,100 men ate by the Prudent Diet guidelines, which was a low fat/low cholesterol recommendation that came out of the New York City Department of Health in 1957. It replaced saturated fat with vegetable oil. A control group ate regularly. Initially, the cholesterol levels of the treatment group on the Prudent Diet dropped from an average of 260 to 225. Naturally, the study sponsors looking to confirm the efficacy of low fat, low cholesterol diets were elated. Unfortunately, just nine months later, follow up documentation revealed that eight of the Prudent Diet men had died from heart attacks — from the control group, none. By the end of the study, 26 of the Prudent men would die, compared with just 6 from the control group.

Christakis, G. Rinzler, S. (1966). Effect of the anti-coronary club program on coronary heart disease risk factor status. Journal of the American Medical Association, 198(6), 597–604.

4. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick used current data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) MONICA project, which is short for monitor trends in cardiovascular diseases and conducted what was the largest study in cardiovascular disease and diet ever performed, covering 21 countries with 10 million people and lasting a full decade. The results showed zero correlation between fat intake, cholesterol levels and deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Kendrick, M. (2007). The Great Cholesterol Con: The truth about what really causes heart disease and how to avoid it. (1st ed.). London: John Blake Publishing.

5. The Framingham Heart Study, first begun in 1948 and still going today, is the longest, most comprehensive health study in medical history. It started with 15,000 Boston area residents in order to find a link between serum cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. The continuing results consistently show that declining cholesterol levels in people over 50 increases overall mortality, as well as death from cardiovascular disease. In fact, in the first 14 years of the study, participants experienced a 14% increase in cardiovascular death for every 1mg/dl decrease in cholesterol levels, as well as an 11% increase in deaths from other chronic diseases over the next 18 years. Even the study’s director, Dr. William Castelli, has publicly admitted in writing that, “In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol…We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.”

Anderson, K et al. (1987). Cholesterol and mortality30 years of follow-up from the framingham study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 257(16), 2176–2180, doi: 10.1001/jama.1987.03390160062027.

Castelli, W. (1992). Concering the possibility of a nutritional link between cholesterol and heart disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 152(7), 1371–1372, doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400190013003.

6. The risk of dying for patients with chronic heart failure was strongly and inversely associated with total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and also triglycerides; those with high lipid values lived much longer than those with low values.

Rauchhaus M and others. The relationship between cholesterol and survival in patients with chronic heart failure. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 42, 1933–1940, 2003.

Horwich TB and others. Low serum total cholesterol is associated with marked increase in mortality in advanced heart failure. Journal of Cardiac Failure 8, 216–224, 2002.

7. Senior citizens with low cholesterol die twice as often from a heart attack as do those with high cholesterol.

Krumholz HM and others. Lack of association between cholesterol and coronary heart disease mortality and morbidity and all-cause mortality in persons older than 70 years. Journal of the American Medical Association 272, 1335–1340, 1990.

8. A five-year study from UCLA showed that heart failure patients with low cholesterol below 129 mg/l were twice as likely to die than those with high cholesterol above 223 mg/l.

Horwich TB and others. Low serum total cholesterol is associated with marked increase in mortality in advanced heart failure. Journal of Cardiac Failure 8, 216–224, 2002.

9. Unlike saturated fat, polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils are highly inflammatory in the body. To emphasize the point; scientific analysis of arterial plaque shows only 26% is saturated, while the remaining 74% is unsaturated with the vast majority being polyunsaturated.

Felton, C. (1994). Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and composition of human aortic plaques. The Lancet, 344(8931), 1195–1196.

10. People with hypercholesterolemia (genetically-related high cholesterol levels) do not die at greater rates of CHD than the general population.

Scientific Steering Committee on behalf of the Simon Broome Register Group. Risk of fatal coronary heart disease in familial hypercholesterolaemia. British Medical Journal 303, 893–896, 1991; Sijbrands

EJG and others. Mortality over two centuries in large pedigree with familial hypercholesterolaemia: family tree mortality study. British Medical Journal 322, 1019–1023, 2001.

Gastrointestinal and Respiratory Disease

11. A study of 68,000 deaths showed low cholesterol predicted increased risk of dying from gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.

Jacobs D and others. Report of the conference on low blood cholesterol: Mortality associations. Circulation 86, 1046–1060, 1992.

Cancer

12. The American Institute for Cancer Research, along with the World Cancer Research Fund released a 700-page report in 1997 that stated there was neither “convincing” nor “probable” evidence that saturated fat consumption had any connection whatsoever to cancer risk. The American Cancer Society openly admitted in 2006 that, “…there is little evidence that the total amount of fat consumed increases cancer risk.”

Glade, M et al. (1997). Food, nutrition, and the prevention of cancer: A global perspective 1997. Washington D.C.: American institute for cancer research.

Taubes, G. (2008). Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, carbs and the controversial science of diet and health. (1st ed. p. 74.). New York: Anchor Books, Random House.

13. The Nurse’s Health Study, a 30-year research project following 89,000 nurses by Harvard University found breast cancer risk in women increased as their saturated fat consumption decreased. Follow up reports in 1992 and 1999 remained consistent; the more saturated fat women ate, the lower their breast cancer risk fell. Every update ever filed consistently shows that a woman’s risk of breast cancer drops by 9% for every 5% of saturated fat that replaces carbohydrates in her diet. Results also showed no association between cholesterol and heart disease.

Willett, W. (1992). Dietary fat and fiber in relation to risk of breast cancer: An 8-year follow-up. Journal of the American Medical Association. , 268(15), 2037–2044.

14. A study from the National Institutes of Health following 49,000 women showed a whole grain, low-fat diet provided zero improvement of cancer risk when compared to women consuming the Standard American Diet.

Prentice, R et al.. (2006). Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer: The women’s health initiative randomized controlled dietary modification trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. , 8(295), 629–642.

Infectious Disease and Immune Support

15. A 15-year study following 100,000 people found those with low cholesterol were admitted to the hospital more often with infectious diseases.

Iribarren C and others. Serum total cholesterol and risk of hospitalization, and death from respiratory disease. International Journal of Epidemiology 26, 1191–1202, 1997.

Iribarren C and others. Cohort study of serum total cholesterol and in-hospital incidence of infectious diseases. Epidemiology and Infection 121, 335–347, 1998.

16. High cholesterol protects against infections and atherosclerosis.

Ravnskov U. High cholesterol may protect against infections and atherosclerosis. Quarterly Journal of Medicine 96, 927–934, 2003.

17. A 16-year study of 300,000 men with AIDS found those with cholesterol lower than 160 were four times more likely to die from the disease than those with levels over 240.

Neaton JD, Wentworth DN. Low serum cholesterol and risk of death from AIDS. AIDS 11, 929–930, 1997.

18. Children with the Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome have very low cholesterol because the enzyme that is necessary for the last step in the body’s synthesis of cholesterol does not function properly. These children suffer from central nervous system problems and frequent, severe infections. When their diet is supplemented with pure cholesterol or eggs their cholesterol levels go up, and the infections become less serious and less frequent.

Elias ER and others. Clinical effects of cholesterol supplementation in six patients with the Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS). American Journal of Medical Genetics 68, 305–310, 1997.

19. LDL, the “bad” cholesterol reduces hemolysis (destruction of the cell membrane) of red blood cells by Staphylococcus aureus α-toxin by 90%.

Bhakdi S and others. Binding and partial inactivation of Staphylococcus aureus a-toxin by human plasma low density lipoprotein. Journal of Biological Chemistry 258, 5899–5904, 1983.

20. LDL eliminates the cytokine producing effect of bacterial endotoxins

Flegel WA and others. Inhibition of endotoxin-induced activation of human monocytes by human lipoproteins. Infection and Immunity 57, 2237–2245, 1989.

Weinstock CW and others. Low density lipoproteins inhibit endotoxin activation of monocytes. Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis 12, 341–347, 1992.

21. A study of healthy men found “significantly” lower white blood cell counts in those whose LDL cholesterol was below 160 mg/dl than those with higher levels with the mean at 185.5 mg/dl.

Muldoon MF and others. Immune system differences in men with hypo- or hypercholesterolemia. Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology 84, 145–149, 1997.

There are now more than 60 years of countless epidemiological and controlled, double-blind studies that entirely discredit the Lipid Hypothesis.

Fat and cholesterol protect us from heart disease, cancer, and many other chronic conditions.

Claim #3: Children can get everything they need without consuming animals.

Various health agencies around the world have spoken out against a vegan diet for children and/or advised extreme care in doing so because of the highly complex process of daily food combining and supplementation that must be followed rigorously. The opportunities for making mistakes and under-nourishing a child are far too great. Just the fact that the vegan diet requires so much supplementation and food combining should tell anyone that it’s inherently unnatural.

European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHN)

“It is difficult to ensure a healthy and balanced vegan diet in young infants, and parents should understand the serious consequences of failing to follow advice regarding supplementation of the diet. The risks of getting it wrong can include irreversible cognitive damage and, in the extreme, death.” — Dr. Mary Fewtrell, ESPGHN Nutrition Committee Chair

“The more restricted the diet of the child, the greater the risk of deficiency, and this is by far highest in vegan children. But the risk does not stop there. Vegan mothers who breastfeed also need to be aware that their children can develop vitamin B-12 deficiency between 2 and 12 months because of the lack of reserves in their body at birth, even if the mother is not showing any signs of deficiency herself.” — Dr. Myriam Van Winckel

“Our advice is that if parents pursue a vegan diet for their child, they must seek and strictly follow medical and dietary advice.” — Dr. Mary Fewtrell

German Nutrition Society (DGE)

“On the basis of current scientific literature, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) has developed a position on the vegan diet. With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients. The most critical nutrient is vitamin B12. Other potentially critical nutrients in a vegan diet include protein resp. indispensable amino acids, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, other vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin D) and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium). The DGE does not recommend a vegan diet for pregnant women, lactating women, infants, children or adolescents. Persons who nevertheless wish to follow a vegan diet should permanently take a vitamin B12 supplement, pay attention to an adequate intake of nutrients, especially critical nutrients, and possibly use fortified foods or dietary supplements. They should receive advice from a nutrition counselor and their supply of critical nutrients should be regularly checked by a physician.”

Belgium Royal Academy of Medicine

“Increasingly imposed by parents on their infants, the vegan diet should not be allowed. This is the opinion given by a Commission of Physicians of the Royal Belgian Academy of Medicine (ARMB). This restrictive regime leads to inevitable deficiencies and requires constant monitoring of children to avoid deficiencies and stunting that are often irreversible…Veganism or pure veganism is a restrictive diet from which animal proteins are banned. Essential vitamins such as D and B12, calcium or trace elements and nutrients essential for proper development are absent from this diet.”

The statement warns against high risk for stunted growth, psychomotor delays, malnutrition, and anemia. It stresses that childhood is a time period when crucial developments take place that are entirely dependent on the nutrition of a balanced diet. If those nutrients are not available or inadequate in their amounts, there is no other opportunity for those essential developments to take place at any other time in life, and the consequences are “irreversible.”

“The Commission advises against subjecting a child to such a scheme. If this is the case, however, it is imperative that the patient be monitored, regularly tested and supplemented. In children, the body creates cells for particular developmental purposes, especially the nervous system and brain. This implies a greater need for protein and essential fatty acids. The demand is such that for optimal development, it must be provided by animal proteins. Therefore, we cannot recommend a vegan diet for children or pregnant or lactating women. Our intention is to support parents, not sit in judgment of them. Vegan parents absolutely must seek the guidance of a qualified dietician who works in collaboration with their paediatrician. Even in this arrangement, we must emphasize the fact that it is abnormal to medicalize a healthy child in this way.”

Canadian Paedeatric Society

While the organization cautiously states a “well-balanced vegetarian diet” can provide for the needs of children, it warns against the enormous challenges of doing so because of the complex food combining, risk of deficiency, and constant monitoring by physicians and nutritionists.

“However, appropriate caloric intake should be ensured and growth monitored. Particular attention should be paid to adequate protein intake and sources of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamins B12 and D. Supplementation may be required in cases of strict vegetarian diets with no intake of any animal products. Pregnant and nursing mothers should also be appropriately advised to ensure that the nutritional needs of the fetus and infant are adequately met. Recommendations are provided. Adolescents on restricted vegetarian or other such diets should be screened for eating disorders.”

The same article goes on to explain that vegan children require 35% more protein per day because plant proteins have lower digestibility in humans. Even combining foods for the proper protein and amino acid profiles may not be enough because the individual foods that are combined may have different levels of digestibility resulting in a lack of nutrition.

Delayed Puberty and Stunted Growth Spurt

The following is a list of citations from various scholarly articles about how veganism can delay puberty and stunt children’s growth.

“Moreover, the progression of puberty is affected by nutrition… Severe primary or secondary malnutrition also can delay the onset and progression of puberty.”

“Chronic malnutrition during childhood is associated with delayed puberty and compromised pubertal growth spurt.”

“The interaction between nutrition and pubertal development involves many endocrine and metabolic pathways…”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4266867/

“Inadequate childhood nutrition reduces the growth spurt.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7436349/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12065928/

“Nutrition–hormone interaction during critical periods of growth plays an essential role in the control and prediction of metabolic adaptation and pubertal development later in life.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17495000/

“Nutritional status during childhood has a significant effect on pubertal development and can explain as much as 25% of the variation in the timing of puberty.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12065922

Accelerated Growth Demands

“Pubertal growth acceleration is largely due to the synergetic effects of increased secretion of gonadal sex steroids, growth hormone (GH), and IGF-I and insulin….that regulate the efficiency of protein utilization during puberty.”

“Children grow between about 5cm per year in prepubertal ages and closer to 10cm per year during puberty. Weight significantly increases from 3kg/year in prepubertal males to 9kg/yr during puberty….virtually all of it lean muscle mass.”

“Girls ages 9 to 13 generally require 1400 to 2200 calories and girls ages 14 to 18 usually need 1800 to 2400 calories each day during puberty. Active pubescent girls require more calories than those with low activity levels. Boys during puberty need more calories than girls because of their larger frames and bigger muscle mass. Boys ages 9 to 13 need 1600 to 2600 calories, and teen boys ages 14 to 18 require 2000 to 3200 calories per day to maintain healthy body weights. Teenage athletes who regularly participate in vigorous sports training may require up to 5000 calories per day.”

A vegan diet is NOT calorically dense enough to meet these accelerated growth requirements.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8023918/

Delayed First Menstruation and Lack of Menstrual Cycle

“Chronic primary malnutrition during childhood modulates the timing of adolescent sexual development in both sexes and is associated with later age of menarche (first menstruation) as well as secondary amenorrhea” — (lack of a period in fertile woman)…

Forbes GB. Influence of nutrition. In: Forbes GB, editor. Human body composition: Growth, aging, nutrition and activity. New York: Springer-Verlag; 1987. pp. 209–47.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7113957/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/35400/

Ovulation Prevented

“In lambs, prepubertal under-nutrition prevented initiation of ovulation through inhibition of Luteinizing Hormone secretion. Refeeding resulted in catch-up growth and beginning of ovulation.”

The Dangers of a Macrobiotic Diet

A macrobiotic diet is very similar to a vegan diet with the only difference being fish is allowed twice per week. No other animal products whatsoever.

1. Children born to macrobiotic mothers are under-weight and remain so throughout childhood. Muscle mass accumulation is only half that of omnivorous children. Muscle wasting is seen in 30% of children on a macrobiotic diet. 60% of macrobiotic infants were found to have a protein intake that was 80% less than the recommended daily levels. Language and gross motor development were also delayed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2737170

2. Children ages 9–15 on a macrobiotic diet had “significantly” reduced whole-body bone mass of up to 10% in some areas.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1359/jbmr.1997.12.9.1486

3. “The growth of a child is a sensitive indicator of the potential negative effects of vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic diets. Children younger than two years of age who were fed vegetarian or vegan diets exhibited significant lower mean weight and length velocities.”

https://europepmc.org/articles/PMC2528709

4. “It is important to note that atypical diets are more likely to cause problems of malnutrition in children than in adults due to their greater nutrient requirements relative to body weight. Thus, without the appropriate care for these children, health issues may arise that could concern health care professionals…Without the appropriate monitoring and supplementation, these diets may have deleterious effects on a child’s health outcomes. Nutritional deficiencies, particularly early in life, may adversely affect growth, bone mineral content, and motor and cognitive development.”

https://europepmc.org/articles/PMC2528709#b12-pch12185

5. “In addition, seven infants exclusively breastfed by vegan mothers developed nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency. Most of these children presented with hypotonia, lengths and weights below the third percentile, and psychomotor retardation…”

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/15846026

6. “Plant foods are not a high-quality source of vitamin B12. Thus, it is not surprising that studies have shown low serum concentrations of vitamin B12 in children on vegan and macrobiotic diets without supplementation…Even a change to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian or omnivorous diet at six years of age is not sufficient to restore normal cobalamin status in previously strict macrobiotic adolescents.”

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/10197567

7. “Iron intakes in vegan preschoolers have been shown to be above the current recommended daily allowance; however, nonheme iron from plants is less bioavailable than heme iron from animal sources. Consequently, iron deficiency anemia has been shown in many studies to occur in vegetarian children and in a greater proportion of macrobiotic children. Iron deficiency is also not a benign condition, because anemic infants may have significantly lower Mental and Psychomotor Developmental Index scores compared with control infants.”

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/7391470
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/59/5/1187S/4732584?redirectedFrom=fulltext

8. “Calcium intake for vegan and macrobiotic children may be below current recommendations, and their diets may contain substances found in plant foods that may impair calcium absorption. Low calcium may result in rickets and reduced bone mineral content or osteoporosis, with important implications for future fracture risk.”

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/12778049
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/59/5/1187S/4732584?redirectedFrom=fulltext

For more health and inspirational insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit Behiveofhealing.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter, check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN, or for messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram and Twitter @beingclaritynow.

Dr. Habib Sadeghi

Written by

Dr. Habib Sadeghi is the founder of Be Hive of Healing, an integrative medical center based in Los Angeles, and author of The Clarity Cleanse.

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