Dietary intake and nutritional status of vegetarian and omnivorous preschool children and their parents in Taiwan

Chin-En Yen, Chi-Hua Yen, Men-Chung Huang, Chien-Hsiang Cheng, Yi-Chia Huang
Nutrition Research 2008, 28 (7): 430-6
The aim of this study was to assess and compare dietary intake and nutritional status of vegetarian and omnivorous preschool children and their parents. Fifty-six omnivores (28 children and 28 parents) and 42 vegetarians (21 preschool children with 18 lacto-ovo-vegetarians and 3 ovo-vegetarians; 21 parents with 16 lacto-ovo-vegetarians, 2 ovo-vegetarians, 1 lacto-vegetarian, and 2 vegans) were recruited. Anthropometric measurements were taken; body mass index and weight-for-height index (WHI) were calculated. Nutrient intake was recorded using 3-day dietary records. Fasting venous blood samples were obtained to estimate hematologic and vitamin status parameters. Height, weight, body mass index, WHI, and triceps skinfold thickness value differences between omnivores and vegetarians in both parent and child groups were not found. Both omnivorous parents and their children had significantly higher fat and lower fiber intakes than vegetarian parents and children. Omnivorous children had significantly higher protein and lower vitamin C intakes than vegetarian children, whereas omnivorous parents had significantly lower vitamin A and iron intakes than vegetarian parents. Vegetarians and omnivores in both parent and child groups had mean calcium consumption less than 75% of the Taiwan dietary intakes. All mean hematologic and biochemical nutrient status indices were within the reference range in any groups. However, both vegetarian parents and children had significantly lower mean total cholesterol and serum ferritin concentrations than those of omnivorous parents and children. Our vegetarian and omnivorous preschool children had normal growth and adequate nutritional status. However, both parents and children had inadequate calcium intakes, which may potentially affect bone health, especially for preschool children in the growing stage.


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