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Dangers of Raising Vegan Babies

Kids excited for veggies

By Dr. Mercola

Feeding infants and children only vegan, plant-based meals could put them at risk of stunted growth, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Children eating vegan diets faced an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies and lower bone mineral content (BMC) and were shorter by about 3.15 centimeters (1.2 inches) than omnivores.
  • Concerning nutrient deficiencies were also found in the vegan children fed a nutritionist-planned diet.
  • Nutrient deficiencies in vegan children included vitamin A insufficiency, “markedly low” total HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, essential amino acids, and omega-3 fat DHA.
  • One of the pitfalls of a vegan (or vegetarian) diet is that many people rely on ultra-processed foods such as soy infant formula, soy milk, or fake meat products.
  • In most cases, infants and children do best with whole animal foods in their diet to meet their complex nutritional needs.

The debate over the healthiest diet for children is almost as controversial as the debate over plant- versus meat-based diets. And no vegan parent wants to be told that feeding their baby a vegan diet is dangerous. However, it could, in fact, be damaging to children’s health.

While it’s true that most people, children included, could benefit from adding more whole foods to their diets — including certain plant-based foods — there are risks involved when you move from eating a diet rich in plant foods to a strictly plant-based diet.

While the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) compiled a guide to feeding vegan infants and children ages 5 and under, it noted:1

“We are not recommending a vegan diet. It is important to note that meeting the nutritional requirements of babies and young children will be challenging on a vegan diet, and using fortified foods and some supplements will be essential. Animal sourced foods provide good sources of many nutrients to the diet.”

While healthy foods have a reputation of of being more expensive, there are a few steps to reduce your cost and upgrade your diet.

 

Vegan Children May Face Stunted Growth, Bone Problems

A study of Polish children between the ages of 5 and 10 years evaluated the body composition, cardiovascular risk, and micronutrient status of vegetarian and vegan children compared to omnivores. 2

“Our data suggest that restricting animal-based foods could prevent children from achieving optimal height or bone mineral status and could lead to selected nutritional deficiencies. The shorter height of children consuming PBDs [plant-based diets] may have mixed implications for long-term health. Taller height is associated with higher social status, and this association may be causal rather than just an artifact of social correlates.”

The researchers called the lower bone mineral content among those eating a vegan diet “concerning” since maximizing bone mineral content in childhood is recommended to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life:4

“We found that vegans have lower BMC even after accounting for smaller body and bone size. It does not seem optimal to enter adolescence, a phase when bone-specific nutrient needs are higher, with a BMC deficit already established. If such deficits are caused by a diet that persists into adolescence, this might increase the risk of adverse bone outcomes later in life.”

Vegans Faced Several Nutrient Deficiencies

The vegan children in the group were more likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, low HDL levels, and lower vitamin D levels,5each of which could have implications for their current and future health.

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is necessary for your body to make red blood cells as well as for proper nerve function and DNA synthesis. A number of physical symptoms, ranging from numbness to fatigue, can occur without adequate levels. Mental health can also suffer significantly, as vitamin B12 plays an important role in neurological function.

It’s been shown, for instance, that people with depression and high B12 levels have better responses to treatment,6while up to 30% of patients hospitalized for depression may be B12 deficient.7

While choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development, wasn’t covered in the featured study, it’s another essential nutrient that humans must get from dietary or supplement sources. Animal foods are a major contributor of choline to the diet, and it’s difficult to get enough of this essential nutrient if you don’t consume them, particularly eggs, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients.8

Additionally, important nutrients such as carnitine, carnosine, and creatine are also very low in a plant-based diet and ideally need to be supplemented. In another example, researchers followed 40 children with a median age of 3.5 years who attended a Finnish daycare.9 There, they received nutritionist-planned vegan or omnivore meals designed to meet their nutritional needs.

However, even then, nutrient deficiencies were found in the vegan children, including vitamin A insufficiency and “markedly low” levels of total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol, essential amino acids, and the omega-3 fat DHA. According to the researchers:10

“The markedly low cholesterol in vegan infants and children in our study raises the question of whether such levels are healthy, as cholesterol is essential for cellular growth, division, and development of physiological systems due to its major role in the synthesis of cell membranes, steroid hormones, bile acids, and brain myelin …

DHA and active vitamin A are both important for eyesight, and the low statuses of both in [vegan] children may raise a concern for the visual health.”

Soy Beans

 

Recommendations for Soy Milk Put Children at Risk 

NHS also states that, from age 1, “you can give your baby unsweetened, calcium-fortified, plant-based drinks (such as soya, oat, and almond drinks) as part of a healthy balanced diet.”11,12

However, not only is most soy genetically engineered (GE) and sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides like Roundup, with its dangerous active ingredient glyphosate, but soy products contain phytoestrogens such as genistein, which may affect the development of the reproductive system.13

When it comes to soy formula, I believe it’s unsuitable for all children. But soy-based beverages should also be avoided later in childhood, and you’ll definitely want to steer clear of ultra-processed foods like Soylent.

Soylent is a Silicon Valley creation, dreamed up by a group of software engineers14 with no nutrition or human biology education. The primary premise behind Soylent is that you can drink your complete nutritional requirements and never have to eat real food again. But this GE concoction, which is heavily promoted as a panacea to fill in nutritional gaps in those following plant-based diets, will not propel you or your children to optimal health.

Its products contain ingredients like soy protein isolate, canola oil — a major dietary source of toxic linoleic acid — artificial flavors, and the artificial sweetener Sucralose.15 Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of a vegan (or vegetarian) diet is that many people end up relying on ultra-processed foods such as this, mistakenly believing them to be healthy.

fake meat beyond meat lab factory alternative meat research science 109622786

 

Fake, Plant-Based Meat, Dairy Aren’t Healthy, Either

Raising children on a plant-based “burgers” diet isn’t doing their health any favors either. Swapping traditional, whole foods grown by small farmers for mass-produced fake foods grown in a laboratory is, unfortunately, part and parcel of The Great Reset.

The EAT Forum, co-founded by the Wellcome Trust, developed a Planetary Health Diet that’s designed to be applied to the global population and entails cutting meat and dairy intake by up to 90%, replacing it largely with foods made in laboratories, along with cereals and oil.16 Sadly, this is not what you or your children need to thrive, but it’s being pushed as a healthy, green, and sustainable alternative to animal foods. As such, lab-grown, animal-free milk proteins are becoming all the rage.

Sadly, this is not what you or your children need to thrive, but it’s being pushed as a healthy, green, and sustainable alternative to animal foods. As such, lab-grown, animal-free milk proteins are becoming all the rage.

The process of making these concoctions is far from natural. Still, one company, Perfect Day, is trying to get around that, describing their process as involving “nature’s code,” another way of describing the DNA they are manipulating.17

They use GE fungi microflora, which they go so far as to say “grazes” on plant-based inputs, hoping your mind’s eye will revert to a cow grazing in a field rather than the tanks in which their GE fungi are actually grown.

It’s quite telling that while the healthiest dairy products come from grass-fed cows that are integrated into their surrounding environment, Perfect Day’s fake milk proteins can only be produced in a system that’s isolated from the outside world.18

In the foreword to Navdanya International’s report “False Solutions That Endanger Our Health and Damage the Planet,” Vandana Shiva also details how lab-grown foods are catastrophic for human health and the environment, as they are repeating the mistakes already made with industrial agriculture:19

“In response to the crises in our food system, we are witnessing the rise of technological solutions that aim to replace animal products and other food staples with lab-grown alternatives. Artificial food advocates are reiterating the old and failed rhetoric that industrial agriculture is essential to feed the world.

Real, nutrient-rich food is gradually disappearing, while the dominant industrial, agricultural model is causing an increase in chronic diseases and exacerbating climate change. The notion that high-tech, “farm-free” lab food is a viable solution to the food crisis is simply a continuation of the same mechanistic mindset that has brought us to where we are today — the idea that we are separate from and outside nature.

Industrial food systems have reduced food to a commodity, to “stuff” that can then be constituted in the lab. In the process, both the planet’s health and our health have been nearly destroyed.”

Beware of Fake Breastmilk Dubbed Biomilq

Breastmilk is the healthiest food for babies that can’t be replicated in a lab. But that didn’t stop Bill Gates from announcing the startup company Biomilq in June 2020. It’s using biotechnology to create lab-made human milk for babies.

Using mammary epithelial cells placed in flasks with cell culture media, the cells grow and are placed in a bioreactor that the company says “recreates conditions similar to in the breast.”20 Another company, Helaina, aims to create glycoproteins “identical to those found in breast milk,”21 which can then be added to various infant formulas. They may also be used in seniors’ nutrition and, eventually, all sorts of foods.

Many familiar globalists are invested in these faux dairy ventures. Biomilq investors, for example, include Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, Chinese business magnate Jack Ma, Michael Bloomberg, and Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff.22

The first Biomilq product is expected to be ready for the market within the next three to five years.23 Other animal-free milk products are expected to hit the shelves sometime between 2023 and 2024.24, 25 That includes ice cream made with lab-grown dairy, slated to go into Ben & Jerry’s product line.26

But don’t be fooled. Fake meat and dairy cannot replace the complex mix of nutrients found in grass-fed beef and dairy — or in human breastmilk — and it’s likely that consuming ultra-processed meat and milk alternatives may lead to many of the same health issues that are caused by the processed food diet. So if you’re vegan or raising vegan children, do not base your diet around these pseudo foods.

What’s the Healthiest Food for Babies?

Breastmilk is the healthiest food for babies, but if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, be sure you make a point to supplement where needed, including for choline, omega-3s, folate, and vitamin B12. If you cannot breastfeed or obtain human breastmilk for your baby, I do not recommend using commercial infant formula — especially not soy-based varieties.

Instead, you can find my preference here. You’ll notice it’s not vegan — it’s filled with nutrient-rich animal foods, such as raw grass-fed cow milk, organic cream, and beef hydrolysate gelatin, along with some items that many vegans will be familiar with, such as nutritional yeast flakes and organic, virgin coconut oil.

In most cases, infants and children do best with whole animal foods in their diet to meet their complex nutritional needs.

Disclaimer: This article’s contents are based upon Dr. Mercola’s opinions unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the respective author’s opinions, who retains copyright as marked.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Mercola and his community. Dr. Mercola encourages you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional. 

If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your healthcare professional before using products based on this content.

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Feel free to check out our blog and discover more amazing articles authored by Dr. Mercola!


 

  1. NHS, Eating well: vegan infants and under-5s, Page 5
  2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Jun; 113(6): 1565–1577
  3. 3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Jun; 113(6): 1565–1577
  4. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Jun; 113(6): 1565–1577
  5. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Jun; 113(6): 1565–1577
  6. Open Neurol J. 2013; 7: 44–48
  7. Compr Psychiatry. 1997 Nov-Dec;38(6):305-14
  8. Nutrients August 5, 2017
  9. EMBO Mol Med. 2021 Feb 5; 13(2): e13492
  10. EMBO Mol Med. 2021 Feb 5; 13(2): e13492., Discussion
  11. NHS, Getting ready
  12. Daily Mail January 16, 2023
  13. Environmental Health Perspectives March 12017; 125(3)
  14. Soylent, About
  15. Soylent Powder, Cacao, Ingredient List
  16. Eatforum.com The Planetary Health Diet
  17. Perfect Day Foods, Nature’s Code
  18. Perfect Day Foods, Fermentation Tanks
  19. Children’s Health Defense April 5, 2022
  20. BIOMILQ, Our Science
  21. Food Navigator December 12, 2022
  22. CNBC June 16, 2020
  23. Alarabiya.net May 3, 2022
  24. Startup Daily July 27, 2021
  25. Sydney Spring Herald September 13, 2022
  26. ZME Science December 9, 2022
Dr. Mercola

Dr. Joseph Mercola is a physician and New York Times best-selling author.

He was voted the 2009 Ultimate Wellness Game Changer by the Huffington Post and has been featured in several national media outlets including Time magazine, LA Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, the Today Show and The Dr. Oz Show.

His mission is to transform the traditional medical paradigm in the United States into one in which the root cause of disease is treated, rather than the symptoms.

In addition, he aims to expose corporate and government fraud and mass media hype that often sends people down an unhealthy path.