The Problems with Vegetarian Diets in Adults and Children

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Vegetarian diets in adults and children can create medical problems. Inadequate protein can make a great difference in a patient's health. Children can be put at great risk with a vegetarian diet.

I had a telephone call the other day from a sixty-year-old woman who asked my thoughts about why she had had a fracture of her leg and a hip replacement. Now she has a new crack in the bone of her leg. I knew she was a vegetarian and in asking her about her diet, I found she was eating little protein and calcium. Even with the three problems with her bones, her doctor had not asked about her diet or done a test for osteopenia or osteoporosis, calcium, or Vitamin D.  She was not drinking milk or taking any calcium supplement. I must admit that I was not surprised the doctors were providing such inadequate care. Even surgeons should know that diet and calcium intake can make a difference. The woman is not  overweight and gets exercise when she is not bedridden with her hip and leg problems. The orthopedic surgeon she was seeing was technically good, but certainly wasn't looking at the whole patient.

I realize few medical schools teach anything about nutrition. I have been told by medical students and house staff that I am the only doctor they have ever heard ask about diet.  Even gastroenterologists, in my experience, don't ask about food intake, which always amazes me.

Children on a vegetarian diet can get into real trouble with malnutrition. Dr. Henry Legere in his book, Raising Healthy Eaters, notes that a child must eat anywhere from three to seven times as much non-meat protein to get the amount of protein in a single serving of meat or cheese. Two cups of beans would equal two slices of cheese. Amazing! Also, a child has to eat much larger quantities of everything to get what is needed for growth and development.


Image copyright: jill111/pixabay/CC0

Article last time updated on 19.04.2017.

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"Recently the lay press has claimed a hypothetical association among dairy product consumption, generation of dietary acid, and harm to human health. This theoretical association is based on the idea that the protein and phosphate in milk and dairy products make them acid-producing foods, which cause our bodies to become acidified, promoting diseases of modern civilization. Some authors have suggested that dairy products are not helpful and perhaps detrimental to bone health because higher osteoporotic fracture incidence is observed in countries with higher dairy product consumption. However, scientific evidence does not support any of these claims. Milk and dairy products neither produce acid upon metabolism nor cause metabolic acidosis, and systemic pH is not influenced by diet. Observations of higher dairy product intake in countries with prevalent osteoporosis do not hold when urban environments are compared, likely due to physical labor in rural locations. Milk and other dairy products continue to be a good source of dietary protein and other nutrients. Key teaching points: Measurement of an acidic pH urine does not reflect metabolic acidosis or an adverse health condition. The modern diet, and dairy product consumption, does not make the body acidic. Alkaline diets alter urine pH but do not change systemic pH. Net acid excretion is not an important influence of calcium metabolism. Milk is not acid producing. Dietary phosphate does not have a negative impact on calcium metabolism, which is contrary to the acid-ash hypothesis.
#3 at 25.04.2017 from Dentist JP Sansen (Dentist)
Dear Dieter Buchner. Milk is pH neutral. Please also read: Best regards.
#2 at 25.04.2017 from Dentist JP Sansen (Dentist)
You might want to look into calcium derived from plant sources such as spinach, kale, broccoli, nuts and seeds, etc. Drinking milk to prevent osteoporosis is really outdated advice achieving the opposite. Dairy creates acidity and pulls calcium from teeth and bones. I am surprised you are still propagating drinking milk for that purpose.
#1 at 25.04.2017 from Dieter Buchner (Other)
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