Popular, strict diets can have negative effects

Thursday, June 8, 2017

There’s no question the typical American lifestyle could use some improvement, such as more exercise and fresh fruits and vegetables and less fast food and screen time.

But a desire for healthy living shouldn’t outweigh common sense and accurate information, especially when it comes to babies and children.

A couple of extreme examples can be found in Europe, where one couple accidentally starved their 7-month-0ld to death on an inadequate diet and another couple lost custody of their toddler over a heart birth defect aggravated by low calcium levels.

In fact, notes the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, some fashionable diets are causing old diseases to return.

In the cases cited above, a Belgian couple, who operated a health-food store near Antwerp, inadvertently starved their baby by insisting he be fed only a gluten-free diet of quinoa milk that was insufficient to meet his nutritional needs.

In Italy, a couple who kept their child on a strict vegan diet since birth, without additional supplements, lost custody after their son had to have emergency surgery to repair a birth defect aggravated by low calcium levels. The Washington Post reported it was the third case of an Italian child being hospitalized as a result of a vegan diet.

Strict diets, lacking in variety, are being blamed for the return of a variety of ills:

* Goiter. Low- or no-dairy, gluten-free and salt-free diets cause low thyroid function and goiter caused by iodine deficiency, formerly combatted by iodine supplements in table salt.

* Vegan-associated heart disease. Lack of meat, fish and dairy can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency, which a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine blamed for giving vegetarians a 20 percent or higher risk of heart attack, stroke or other circulatory problems, canceling out some of the diet’s benefits.

* Skim-mile related metabolic disease. Several studies seem to indicate an advantage to consuming full-fat dairy products when it comes to managing blood sugar.

* Fruit juice. Pediatricians have stopped advising parents to give fruit juice to infants and children as a source of vitamin C and water before the transition to solid food. Instead, they are warning parents to cut out fruit juice for babies under 6 months old to ensure adequate consumption of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals from other sources.

Of course, dietary advice should be always be taken with a grain of salt — pun intended — if it comes from an advocacy group like the grocery industry or someone promoting a fad diet.

Instead, consult with your family physician, pediatrician, dietitian or other qualified healthcare provider and take their advice.

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