A VEGAN diet could be harmful to children, one of Britain’s top experts in child nutrition has claimed.
Professor Mary Fewtrell said that a lack of nutrients can cause “irreversible damage” and in some cases even death.
The diet can also lead to malnutrition and devastating effects on the brain, she said.
Professor Fewtrell, from University College London specialises in paediatric nutrition.
She is also the chairman of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition.
She said: “It is difficult to ensure a healthy and balanced vegan diet in young infants.
“The risks of getting it wrong can include irreversible cognitive damage and, in the extreme, death.
“The B12 vitamin deficiency can have devastating effects on the brain, nervous system and blood.”
Children following vegan diets are more likely to develop “leaner and “smaller” than children who eat meat, mother expert has also claimed.
Professor Myriam Van Winckel from Ghent University said they are also exposed to vitamin B12 deficiency and can grow to be mentally and physically unstable.
She said: “The more restricted the diet of the child, the greater the risk of deficiency and this is by far highest in vegan children.
“Vegan mothers who breastfeed also need to be aware that their children can develop vitamin B12 deficiency between two and 12 months because of the lack of reserves in their body at birth, even if the mother is not showing any signs of deficiency herself.”
According to Prof Van Winckel another problem with vegan diet is an excess of fibre. She says that too little protein can lead to stunted growth while too much fibre stop children absorbing enough nutrients.
It was also noted that parents should be aware of milk supplements. Nutritionists warn that it’s easy for parents to be tricked into thinking that rice, soy and almond milk is a good replacement for cow milk.
However, in many cases these should not be called “milk” but rather “drinks” because of their low nutritional value.
Veganism is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. The number of vegans has risen by 360 per cent in the past ten years.
Based on the adult figures there could be as many as 110,000 vegan children under 16 years of age in the UK.