Over the past couple of decades, an ever-growing number of adults globally have embraced the benefits of vegetarianism. But, how do plant-based meal plans affect children’s physical development? As of recently, the answer might be hiding in the Pediatrics journal.
A team of researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto tried to learn more about this by conducting a study involving 8,907 children between six months and eight years old.
The data used was gathered from 2008 to 2019 as part of a cohort study called TARGet Kids!.
Based on the information the parents provided, the children were divided into two groups depending on their nutrition, vegetarians and nonvegetarians.
Over the span of 11 years, the team scheduled health supervisions to check the kids’ cholesterol, iron, and vitamin D levels and measure their height and body mass index. No striking differences were noticed upon comparing all the aspects.
However, there was one noteworthy disparity. What the researchers discovered was that vegetarians were approximately twice as likely to fall in the underweight category as opposed to kids who consumed meat.
Body mass index is used as an indicator of whether a person’s weight is healthy for their height, build, and age. In this study, children who scored under the third percentile were categorized as underweight.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this study is that it failed to provide insight into the specificities of the children’s plant-based diets, which can vary significantly. So, perhaps the dietary lack of the kids who were classed as underweight isn’t (entirely) related to meat.
In many respects, vegetarian nutrition is seen as beneficial due to the regular intake of foods rich in helpful nutrients.
Still, research on its effects on an individual’s growth remains inconclusive — contradictory even — and more studies are necessary to demystify the matter.