In November 2019 researchers from Germany, on behalf of the Nutrition Committee of the German Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, published a Position Paper on the use of vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. They stated that the nutritional needs of growing children and adolescents can generally be met through a balanced, vegetable-based diet. However, due to their higher nutrient requirements per kilogramme of body weight, vegetarian children have a higher risk for developing nutrient deficiencies than adults. With a vegetarian diet, the average intake of some nutrients, eg docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, is lower than in omnivores or those eating fish. For other nutrients, such as iron and zinc, the availability from vegetables is reduced when the intake of phytates and fibre is high. Therefore the incidence of iron deficiency can be increased despite a high vitamin C intake. In addition, vitamin B12 is only found in animal-source foods. It is therefore recommended that vitamin B12 should be supplemented in people of all age groups who follow a strict vegan diet without consuming animal products. A vegetarian diet in childhood and adolescence requires good information and supervision by a paediatrician, if necessary in cooperation with an appropriately trained dietary specialist.
Rudloff S et al. Vegetarian diets in childhood and adolescence : Position paper of the nutrition committee, German Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Mol Cell Pediatr. 2019 Nov 12;6(1):4.