Vegan diets can cause deficiencies and eating disorders in adolescents

Meat and animal source foods are fundamental in a delicate phase such as development during adolescence. Let’s see why.

Meat is essential in pregnancy and baby nutrition. For this reason, all the main pediatrics’ associations firmly discourage plant-based diets at this critical stage. The same applies to the later stages of adolescence when young boys prepare to become adults, as meat helps to meet all their nutritional needs.

It is proven that meat-eater adolescents, even when eating higher doses of meat than recommended, have a better body mass index (BMI), with more lean muscle mass instead of fat. They also show more significant growth in height and lower blood pressure.

The main associations of #pediatricians discourage #vegan diet during #pregnancy and for #children. Click To Tweet

So, physical advantages and better intellectual performance, as boys who eat reasonable amounts of meat showed better cognitive, arithmetic, learning, and memory skills than those who eat an insufficient quantity of meat or do not eat meat at all.

Meat contains critical nutrients for growth and development, available in significant quantities. They are high-quality proteins, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, iodine, and zinc, which must never be missing in adolescence, contributing to good nutrition at this stage, essential for the early prevention of chronic diseases of adulthood.

It is proven that #teenagers eating #meat have a better #BodyMassIndex. Click To Tweet

Especially iron is a critical element in this period of rapid growth, which can cause deficiency anemia associated with severe adverse outcomes. In boys, the need for iron increases during the growth spurt in puberty and the increase in muscle mass. In girls, it is essential to cope with iron losses during the menstrual cycle.

Meat, especially red meat, is the food of choice to meet these iron needs because it is a highly bioavailable heme form. It is now widely documented that people with a low or no red meat intake have lower hemoglobin concentrations and are more likely to be anemic. Meat is a necessary food for all reproductive life.

Like iron, iodine is also involved in these essential metabolic mechanisms, such as myelin production in the brain and nerve conduction. Together with zinc and vitamin A, they are indispensable for cell growth, membrane stability, and the development of an excellent immune system during adolescence.

The #Veg #diets in #adolescents often hide #food disorders such as #anorexia and #bulimia. Click To Tweet

Even the long-chain omega-3 EPA and DHA, essential in pregnancy and for the child’s brain development, are indispensable in adolescence for the cognitive abilities of young people. Unfortunately, a lower intake than recommended is frequent due to insufficient consumption of fish and seafood. So, it would be desirable to increase the intake of foods that contain them in good quantity, such as meat and eggs.

There is also another worrying side of vegan diets in adolescents: adopting these restrictive regimens can be related to eating disorders. The decision to adopt these punitive diets in this complex age could hide disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

An increasing number of studies have reported significant correlations between vegetarianism and eating disorders during the difficult period of adolescence. These showed a higher risk of disordered eating behaviors in vegetarian adolescents, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and greater alcohol use than in meat-eaters.

The risk of excessive consumption of unhealthy hyper-processed foods or soy products to replace meat is also worrying. Their high content in phytoestrogens such as isoflavones can interfere with hormones and with the sexual development of adolescents, negatively impacting reproductive function.

Since the activity of soy isoflavones is the subject of in-depth analysis, the wisest choice is not to abuse these products but to try to promote greater adherence to the Mediterranean Diet in the complex age of development.


The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.