An Italian baby with vegan parents was hospitalized in Milan earlier this month. His grandparents took him to the hospital because he exhibited signs of severe malnutrition. Doctors were shocked to see the baby’s condition. At the age of one year and two months, he weighed only slightly more than a 3-month old baby.
Further examination revealed a horrible picture. The baby was put on a vegan diet, with no diet supplements, by his vegan parents. This led to him being severely malnourished, with dangerously low calcium levels. The baby went through an emergency surgery because the low calcium levels had aggravated his congenital heart condition.
Hospital staff reported the case to social services, and the parents have lost custody of the child. Dr. Luca Bernardo, director of pediatrics section, told the press that if parents chose a different diet for the baby, they should have given him calcium and iron supplements.
This isn’t the first case of children on vegan diets, hospitalized for malnutrition. In June, a two-year-old girl was hospitalized in Genoa, in intensive care. Doctors diagnosed her with vitamin deficiencies and low levels of hemoglobin. Last June, an 11-month-old baby, with vegan parents, was also treated for severe malnutrition at a Florence-based hospital.
All over the world, there were reports of similar cases. In 2007, a vegan couple received life imprisonment after their six-week-old baby died of starvation in 2004. They had fed the baby a diet of apple juice and soy milk.
In Italy, 2.8 percent of the population is vegan. The Academy of Nutrition suggests parents may feed their children a vegetarian diet, as long as it’s supplemented with iron, calcium, Vitamin D, and B12. Parents who are interested in this diet should see a dietician first.
The child will probably be given to his grandparents for custody. Doctors were cautious not to make judgments about vegans, or other different or unusual diets, but instead advised that parents who chose to give their babies a vegan diet should also include calcium and iron since birth.
Now, almost three percent of the Italian population avoid all animal products. The number is on the rise worldwide.
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