Vegetarian Diet Helps Kids Stay Slim
Many parents wonder what type of diet will best help their children maintain healthy body composition and weight
It is estimated that one in ten children worldwide is overweight or obese, and in the US the statistics are even worse: one in six children is obese and one in three is overweight. These facts leave many parents wondering what type of diet will best help their children maintain healthy body composition and weight. A new report adds impact to one point of consideration, suggesting that children and adolescents who eat a vegetarian diet have a lower percentage of body fat and are less likely to be overweight or obese than meat-eating children.
Weighing the evidence
The article, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included data from a number of epidemiological studies. The authors described the key differences that have been observed in studies comparing vegetarians with non-vegetarians:
Less is known about vegetarianism in children and adolescents, but the existing data point to similar trends: vegetarian children appear to be leaner, have lower BMI and waist circumference, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and have better lipid profiles. Findings from some studies suggest that meats, dairy products, and eggs are specifically associated with increased risk of overweight, while cereal grains, legumes, and nuts protect against it.
Why do vegetarians weigh less?
The study's authors proposed the following contributing factors to explain vegetarianism's protective effects against overweight and obesity:
Health considerations for vegetarian children
Although a vegetarian diet can be lower in protein, calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet can provide adequate amounts of both macro- and micronutrients, and can be healthy for children, adolescents, and adults.
"In conclusion, obesity represents a significant threat to the present and future health of children and leads to a wide range of physical and psychological consequences," the authors of the report state. While the decision to make a long-term change to your child's diet is one that should be made with careful thought toward supporting your family's specific health goals and may be served by discussion with your healthcare provider, as the the authors suggest, a "plant-based diet appears to be a sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children."
(Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1525S-9S)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.