Serum homocysteine, folate, vitamin B12 and total antioxidant status in vegetarian children

J Ambroszkiewicz, W Klemarczyk, M Chełchowska, J Gajewska, T Laskowska-Klita
Advances in Medical Sciences 2006, 51: 265-8

PURPOSE: The results of several studies point to the positive role of vegetarian diets in reducing the risk of diabetes, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases. However, exclusion of animal products in vegetarian diets may affect the cobalamin status and cause an elevation of the plasma homocysteine level. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of vegetarian diets on serum concentrations of homocysteine, folate, vitamin B12 and total antioxidant status (TAS) in children.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The study included 32 vegetarians (including 5 vegans), age 2-10 years. Dietary constituents were analyzed using a local nutritional programme. Serum homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 were determined with fluorescence and chemiluminescence immunoassays. The concentration of TAS was measured by a colorimetric method.

RESULTS: Average daily energy intake and the percentage of energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates in the diets of the studied children were just above or similar to the recommended amounts. It could be shown that vegetarian diets contain high concentrations of folate. In vegan diets it even exceeds the recommended dietary allowance. Mean daily intake of vitamin B12 in the studied diets was adequate but in vegans was below the recommended range. The serum concentrations of homocysteine, folate, vitamin B12 and TAS in vegetarian children remained within the physiological range.

CONCLUSIONS: The presented data indicate that vegetarian children, contrary to adults, have enough vitamin B12 in their diet (excluding vegans) and normal serum concentrations of homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12. Therefore, in order to prevent deficiencies in the future, close monitoring of vegetarian children (especially on a vegan diet) is important to make sure that they receive adequate quantities of nutrients needed for healthy growth.

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