Toddler in hospital with vitamin B12 deficiency after being raised on a vegan diet
A two-year-old girl has been hospitalised for vitamin deficiencies, thought to have been brought about by a poorly implemented vegan diet.
The girl was admitted in a serious condition to Istituto Giannina Gaslini, a children’s hospital in Genoa, Italy. She was kept in intensive care for several days, but is now showing signs of recovery.
The child’s parents are also vegan and strictly controlled her diet, La Repubblica reported. In addition to being raised on a strict vegan diet, the girl was also breastfed by her mother while she was on the same diet, resulting in less nutritious breast milk.
After the girl became ill, her parents took her to hospital on the advice of local doctors.
Specialist doctors found the girl was underweight and suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency and low haemoglobin levels, according to the newspaper.
She was also reported to be suffering from some associated symptoms, such as slow reactions and sluggish movements.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in young children can be particularly dangerous. Infants affected can suffer from failure to thrive (poor growth), developmental delay and difficulties with movement. These symptoms can become permanent if left untreated.
Tests are also being carried out to check for the possibility of hereditary diseases which may have contributed to the girl’s condition.
While authorities do not believe the child’s parents to be abusive, they could still be charged with neglect and the case is likely to go before the Juvenile Court.
According to nutrition experts, children can follow vegan diets, but caution should be exercised.
“It is a very strict diet, but a child can follow,” paediatrician Alberto Ferrando told the newspaper. “Only provided that they are cared for, with continuous checks by a paediatrician who is ready to take action against deficiencies in vitamins or other elements that are dangerous to the health of a small child.”
Dr Ferrando added: “The lack of B12 causes irreversible neurological damage. If action is taken fast to rebalance the conditions, the more chances you have of recovering the health of the child. Unfortunately, the damage is much greater in the youngest.”