Anemia

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Second opinion for 8-year-old with anemia?

We recently changed to a vegan diet. We have a daughter who is 8 years old who had been feeling dizzy as well as headaches. So we decided to take her to the doctor where they did blood and urine analysis. The diagnosis was anemia. The doctor told us that animal products are necessary because they have aminoacids and other nutrients that non-animal sources do not have. The doctor gave us vitamins and we are still following our vegan diet. We have also added extra portions of iron-rich foods (beans, lentils, soy, and nuts) for my daughter. I would like to know what is your opinion?

pachitorex666 / Originally posted on Constructing a cognitive portfolio

Answer:

Sounds like your doctor needs a refresher in basic nutrition. You may want to share the official American Dietetic Association position statement, stating that vegetarian and vegan diets are suitable for all ages (i.e. animal products are unnecessary). In fact the most esteemed pediatrician of all time, Dr. Benjamin Spock, recommended in his final edition of Baby and Child Care that children be raised without exposure to meat and dairy. I talk about Dr. Spock in my video Doctors’ Nutritional Ignorance.

In terms of anemia, the iron status of vegetarian children is comparable to that of omnivore children. I am concerned that your physician may have jumped on the dietary explanation out of ignorance without considering other causes. There are multiple reasons for anemia. Is she not making enough blood? Is she losing blood? (At age 8 I wouldn’t expect her to be.) Are her blood cells not living long enough? Are her kidneys not making enough blood-boosting hormone? Your physician can test for all these possibilities. I would be happy to review her lab results and offer a second opinion (can email them directly to me at mgh1@cornell.edu if you don’t want them public).

Image credit: Thirteen Of Clubs / Flickr

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


3 responses to “Second opinion for 8-year-old with anemia?

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  1. Dr. Michael Greger,
    I have anemia for about 8 yrs. now. It was found just before the doctors found my first cancer. I don’t understand why it doesn’t go away. Is there a reason for this? Recently my numbers went down a little meaning more anemia. What is this problem? Do you have anything I could read about this problem?

    Thank you.

  2. Being on a vegan/vegetarian diet does not mean that one does not get all the nutrients needs. After considering all the factors mentioned by Dr.Greger, you should also make sure that she is eating different colored vegetables, especially a lot of greens, berries and sweet potatoes. They are all rich in iron and also when you cook your beans and lentils, its a good idea to add lemon juice to it at the end as Vitamin C is necessary for the absorption of Iron if it is Iron deficiency anemia. I hope your daughter feels better.

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