Vegetarianism is a Risk Factor
A number of studies show that the practice of vegetarianism is a risk factor for
developing an eating disorder. It certainly is common in eating-disordered patients.
Adolescents may use vegetarianism to express independence from parents. It may
be a cover for reducing fat and caloric intake.
Most important is to assess the family's response to having a vegetarian child.
Do the parents practice vegetarianism? Do they have to cater to her/him? Does
the child eat meals with the family?
. My advice to families is that unless the whole family eats vegetarian, the child
should wait to practice this restrictive form of eating until she/he is eating
on hers/his own. At the very least vegetarianism in one member of a family is
a major inconvenience to other members of the family and at the very worst vegetarianism
increases risk of an eating disorder.
Nutritionally, vegetariansim is not the best choice. Vegetarians rarely consume
adequate amounts of protein, calcium, iron, and zinc. Vegan diets, which exclude
all animal products including dairy products and eggs, are also low in B12, a
vitamin found only in animal products. Chronic B12 deficiency can result in a
progressive degenerative paralysis common enough in strict vegetarians to be called
"vegan back." To consume adequate B12 on a vegan diet, one must either take supplemental
B12 or eat specially fortified foods, such as soy milk. Fortunately, most multivitamin
supplements contain adequate B12.
Think about it...