Home & Leisure

Vegetarian vs. meat-eating kids: How they differ

Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Parenting News

Study finds similar growth and nutrition between diet preferences; but there is one key difference

Plant-based foods are found everywhere these days, making it easier than ever to enjoy a vegetarian lifestyle.

According to a study done last year by researchers from the University of Glasgow, vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat eaters, “and this applies to adults of any age and weight, and is also unaffected by smoking and alcohol consumption.”

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto studied nearly 9,000 kids in an effort to determine just that.

“Over the last 20 years we have seen growing popularity of plant-based diets and a changing food environment with more access to plant-based alternatives, however we have not seen research into the nutritional outcomes of children following vegetarian diets in Canada,” Dr. Jonathon Maguire, lead author of the study and a pediatrician at St. Michael’s, said in a press release.

For their study, the St. Michael’s team evaluated 8,907 children who were part of the TARGet Kids! cohort study. Data was collected on the children — ages 6 months to 8 years — from 2008 to 2019.


For the most part, the vegetarians and the meat-eaters showed little difference in health and nutrition, with “similar mean body mass index (BMI), height, iron, vitamin D, and cholesterol levels,” they wrote.

They found one key difference between the groups, however. The children who followed a vegetarian diet “had almost twofold higher odds of having underweight, which is defined as below the third percentile for BMI,” the scientists found.

Being that underweight could be a sign of undernutrition and that those children aren’t getting the proper nutrition for normal growth. The scientists encourage parents and doctors to more closely monitor vegetarian kids to ensure their nutritional needs are being met.

“Plant-based dietary patterns are recognized as a healthy eating pattern due to increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, whole grains, and reduced saturated fat; however, few studies have evaluated the impact of vegetarian diets on childhood growth and nutritional status. Vegetarian diets appear to be appropriate for most children,” said Maguire, who is also a scientist at MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The researchers acknowledge more testing is needed to determine the quality of vegetarian diets, considering there is a variety of them out there. The study was published last week in the journal Pediatrics.

©2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus