Vegetarian vs. meat-eating kids: How they differ

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Vegetarian kids differ from meat-eating kids , in one key health factor, study finds.The study was conducted by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital of Unity Health Toronto.It was published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics.It found that while kids on a vegetarian diet and one where meat is consumed have similar growth patterns, height and measure of nutrition.... kids on a vegetarian diet are more likely to be underweight.Over the past 20 years we have seen growing popularity of plant-based diets .., Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead study author, via CNN.... and a changing food environment with more access to plant-based alternatives, , Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead study author, via CNN.... however we have not seen the research into the nutritional outcomes of children following vegetarian diets in Canada, Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead study author, via CNN.According to the study press release, being underweight could be an indicator that a child is malnourished.However, the study authors acknowledge that the limited information contained in the data means more studies are essential.A host of other factors would likely contribute to malnourishment, including ethnicity and socio-economic position.Experts agree, however, that the study points to the need to monitor the health of children.It's important for kids to be monitored for their growth, regardless of their diet, Amy Kimberlain, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, via CNN.A vegetarian diet can be a healthy choice for all kids. The key is making sure that it is well planned out. , Amy Kimberlain, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, via CNN.With the help of a registered dietitian nutritionist, kids' growth can be monitored as well as their nutrients needs to ensure they are being adequately consumed, Amy Kimberlain, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, via CNN

Study finds similar growth and nutrition between diet preferences; but there is one key difference

Plant-based foods are found everywhere these days, making it easier than ever to enjoy a vegetarian lifestyle.

According to a study done last year by researchers from the University of Glasgow, vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat eaters, “and this applies to adults of any age and weight, and is also unaffected by smoking and alcohol consumption.”

ExploreStudy: Vegetarians’ biomarkers healthier than meat eaters’

But what about children? Is a vegetarian diet a healthy option for them?

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto studied nearly 9,000 kids in an effort to determine just that.

“Over the last 20 years we have seen growing popularity of plant-based diets and a changing food environment with more access to plant-based alternatives, however we have not seen research into the nutritional outcomes of children following vegetarian diets in Canada,” Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead author of the study and a pediatrician at St. Michael’s, said in a press release.

For their study, the St. Michael’s team evaluated 8,907 children who were part of the TARGet Kids! cohort study. Data was collected on the children — ages 6 months to 8 years — from 2008 to 2019.

For the most part, the vegetarians and the meat-eaters showed little difference in health and nutrition, with “similar mean body mass index (BMI), height, iron, vitamin D, and cholesterol levels,” they wrote.

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They found one key difference between the groups, however. The children who followed a vegetarian diet “had almost two-fold higher odds of having underweight, which is defined as below the third percentile for BMI,” the scientists found.

Being that underweight could be a sign of undernutrition and that those children aren’t getting the proper nutrition for normal growth. The scientists encourage parents and doctors to more closely monitor vegetarian kids to ensure their nutritional needs are being met.

“Plant-based dietary patterns are recognized as a healthy eating pattern due to increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, whole grains, and reduced saturated fat; however, few studies have evaluated the impact of vegetarian diets on childhood growth and nutritional status. Vegetarian diets appear to be appropriate for most children,” said Maguire, who is also a scientist at MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The researchers acknowledge more testing is needed to determine the quality of vegetarian diets, considering there is a variety of them out there. The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

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