A 14-month old baby has been taken away from his parents after he arrived in the hospital severely malnourished from being kept on a vegan diet, the New Zealand Herald reports.
The baby, whose name has not been released, was brought to a hospital in Milan, Italy, on July 2 by his grandparents. Tests revealed that the baby was extremely underweight and had critically low calcium levels. He was also suffering from a congenital heart condition, which required immediate surgery. While the heart condition was caused by a cardiac abnormality, as opposed to the diet directly, doctors said that the low levels of calcium certainly aggravated the serious medical issue.
“It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition and we certainly do not want to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision,” Luca Bernardo, the director of Pediatrics at the hospital, said. “But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron.”
Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Director Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, says a vegan diet should never be considered safe for babies. “While veganism can be achieved in a healthful way for adults, children require key nutrients for proper growth and brain development, including essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, and protein — all of which are difficult to meet in adequate amounts on this type of restrictive diet,” she told GoodHousekeeping.com.
The baby, who is now recovering in the hospital, was taken away from the parents after the hospital called social services to report the case. A children’s court will decide whether or not his grandparents should be given full custody. Reports say this is the fourth case of a child being hospitalized in Italy, where veganism is on the rise, due to a vegan diet in the last 18 months.