Sometimes people seem to wonder if a vegan diet should also be adopted by children. Very interestingly, the Cleveland Clinic tested obese children at the age between 9 and 18 years old providing a significant impact on their health after going vegan even for a short period of time. In fact, after a month only those children had already lost weight, improved their blood levels, reduced the risk of inflammation, lowered their cholesterol and even decreased their insulin level. So, the earlier children go for a plant-based diet the higher the chances are they are going to become adults without running the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
“CLEVELAND, Ohio — Obese children with high cholesterol who followed a strict vegan diet with little added fat in a small Cleveland Clinic study showed significant improvements in both weight and heart disease risk factors in only a month, according to research released Thursday.
The children, ages 9 to 18, were mostly white and middle class, and volunteered to try one of two healthy eating plans. Two groups of 14 children were randomly assigned, along with a parent, to eat either a plant-based, no fat-added diet (PB) or the American Heart Association (AHA) diet, which is similar but permits non-whole grains, low-fat dairy, selected plant oils, and lean meat and fish in moderation.
After a month, the children in both groups had lost weight and seen improvement in myeloperoxidase (MPO), a blood test that measures inflammation related to heart disease risk. The kids eating the vegan diet, however, also showed significant improvements in systolic blood pressure, body mass index, total cholesterol, total low density lipoprotein (LDL, long referred to as “bad cholesterol”), c-reactive protein (another marker of inflammation), and insulin levels compared to their baseline.
The study, published online today in the Journal of Pediatrics, was too small to allow a head-to-head comparison of the two diets, but the results are “suggestive,” of an added benefit both for weight and heart health on the stricter vegan diet, said Dr. Michael Macknin, the study’s lead author and a pediatrician at the Clinic.
“It was exciting to see,” Macknin said. “If they can eat like this, the hope is that they can grow into adults who do not have the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. What this is is hope for the future.”
He believes the study provides a good reason to look further into vegan, no-added-fat and plant-based diets as a prescription for preventing future health problems for overweight and obese children and adolescents.
Vegetarian diets have long been supported for heart health in adults, but have been little studied in children, primarily because health concerns such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation were once unheard of in kids. Now, with obesity affecting nearly 18 percent of children aged 6-11 years and 21 percent of adolescents, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and prediabetes have become common.
All the children in the study had high cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
“We know that cardiovascular disease begins in childhood, so the concern is that the high cholesterol may put them at risk for subsequent heart attack,” Macknin said. “We’d like to lower it now to prevent the risk later on. That’s one of the joys of being a pediatrician: You actually have a chance to prevent disease rather than treat it.”
The main drawback of the vegan diet used in the study is how difficult it may be for some families to follow — not being able to easily shop for food that met the PB diet was the only significant complaint of people in the study.
That being said, the families that participated didn’t feel the food was bland, boring or unappetizing, found it easy to stay on the diet and find options at restaurants, and were satisfied with what they had to eat, Macknin said.
“Which I thought was — unscientifically — surprising,” Macknin said. “I was amazed that they found it as acceptable as they did. Part of that could be that they we took a highly motivated group that volunteered.”
It may also have had something to do with the short length of the study, a limitation that jumped out at Lisa Cimperman, a registered dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
“It’s only four weeks,” she said. “That’s when I start thinking — how doable is this long-term? The true test of any change in eating pattern is how easy it is to stick with it over time.”
Read the full article at cleveland.com!