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The article, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included data from a number of epidemiological studies. The authors described the key differences that have been observed in studies comparing vegetarians with non-vegetarians:
Less is known about vegetarianism in children and adolescents, but the existing data point to similar trends: vegetarian children appear to be leaner, have lower BMI and waist circumference, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and have better lipid profiles. Findings from some studies suggest that meats, dairy products, and eggs are specifically associated with increased risk of overweight, while cereal grains, legumes, and nuts protect against it.
The study’s authors proposed the following contributing factors to explain vegetarianism’s protective effects against overweight and obesity:
Although a vegetarian diet can be lower in protein, calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet can provide adequate amounts of both macro- and micronutrients, and can be healthy for children, adolescents, and adults.
“In conclusion, obesity represents a significant threat to the present and future health of children and leads to a wide range of physical and psychological consequences,” the authors of the report state. While the decision to make a long-term change to your child’s diet is one that should be made with careful thought toward supporting your family’s specific health goals and may be served by discussion with your healthcare provider, as the the authors suggest, a “plant-based diet appears to be a sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children.”
(Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1525S–9S)