No Differences Seen in Growth for Children With Vegetarian Diet

Biochemical measures of nutrition did not differ, but children with vegetarian diet had increased odds of being underweight

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MONDAY, May 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Children with a vegetarian diet have no evidence of differences in growth or biochemical measures of nutrition, according to a study published online May 2 in Pediatrics.

Laura J. Elliott, R.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal cohort study of children aged 6 months to 8 years participating in the TARGet Kids! cohort study to examine the impact of vegetarian diets on growth, micronutrient scores, and serum lipids. Data were included for 8,907 children, including 248 vegetarians.

The researchers observed no association between a vegetarian diet and body mass index z-score, height-for-age z-score, serum ferritin, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or serum lipids. The odds of underweight were increased for children with a vegetarian diet (odds ratio, 1.87), but no association was seen with overweight or obesity. Among children with a vegetarian diet, cow's milk was associated with higher non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Similar serum lipids were seen for children with and without a vegetarian diet who consumed the recommended two cups of cow's milk per day.

"In this study, we did not find evidence of clinically meaningful differences in growth or biochemical measures of nutrition for children with vegetarian diet," the authors write. "However, vegetarian diet was associated with higher odds of underweight, underscoring the need for careful dietary planning for underweight children when considering vegetarian diets."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the nutrition and other industries.

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