Vegan diets are gaining popularity, also in families with young children. However, the effects of strict plant-based diets on metabolism and micronutrient status of children are unknown.
We recruited 40 Finnish children with a median age 3.5 years-vegans, vegetarians, or omnivores from same daycare centers-for a cross-sectional study. They enjoyed nutritionist-planned vegan or omnivore meals in daycare, and the full diets were analyzed with questionnaires and food records.
Detailed analysis of serum metabolomics and biomarkers indicated vitamin A insufficiency and border-line sufficient vitamin D in all vegan participants. Their serum total, HDL and LDL cholesterol, essential amino acid, and docosahexaenoic n-3 fatty acid (DHA) levels were markedly low and primary bile acid biosynthesis, and phospholipid balance was distinct from omnivores.
Possible combination of low vitamin A and DHA status raise concern for their visual health. Our evidence indicates that (i) vitamin A and D status of vegan children requires special attention; (ii) dietary recommendations for children cannot be extrapolated from adult vegan studies; and (iii) longitudinal studies on infant-onset vegan diets are warranted.
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