In Italy, a two-year-old girl spent a few days in the intensive care unit after suffering from vitamin deficiencies and other complications believed to be brought on by her parents’ strict vegan lifestyle.
According to The Local, Chiara (not her real name) was in a serious condition when she was rushed to Istituto Giannina Gaslini, a pediatric hospital in Genoa.
In a later report by The Washington Post, it said that the baby was found to be severely malnourished, suffering from dangerously low calcium levels.
“Complicating matters, the baby had to undergo an emergency operation because of a congenital heart condition, which was aggravated by his low calcium levels,” it said.
Chiara also weighed significantly less than the average for children her age, according to the local edition of La Repubblica.
“Chiara’s health problems are thought to be linked to her vegan diet,” said The Local report.
“Her parents have both been vegans for several years and the child was breastfed by her mother before being raised on the same diet, avoiding both meat and products with animal origins.”
Because of this, Chiara is also being checked for any genetic diseases which may have contributed to her illness.
Thankfully, after spending several days in the intensive care unit, the girl is reportedly recovering and was recently moved to the convalescence ward.
Local social services have been notified of the girl’s incident. Despite her parents not being treated as suspects for mistreatment, restrictive diets can fall into the category of “neglect.”
Although considered safe and relatively harmless even on children, vegan diets can cause Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to permanent brain damage.
For Luca Bernardo, director of paediatrics at the hospital where Chiara was treated, he was careful not to take any sides on the matter of vegan diets.
“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,” he said in a Daily Telegraph report. “But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron.”
On the other hand, an article in the Spectator argued that veganism doesn’t harm children, but neglectful parenting does. In fact, when done right, veganism can give children plenty nutrients they need in order to grow healthy, it said.
Meanwhile, Liguria’s Association of Paediatrics encourages parents who are raising vegan children to make sure that their children undergo regular health checks carried out by medical professionals, who can prescribe vitamin supplements.
This case marks the third incident in Italy of a child being brought to the hospital for a serious condition caused by their diet.