Doctors in Spain have diagnosed an 11-month old baby with a rare case of scurvy, a disease that is most often found in developing countries. According to the doctors, the almond milk-only diet is to blame.
The diagnosis was described in the journal Pediatrics, and shows the risk of only exposing children to plant-based sources of food.
According to the doctors, the baby was fed a formula based on cow milk until the age of 2-and-a-half months. After that, he developed rashes, and the doctor suggested a diet change, after which the baby was switched to a mixture based on almond milk. At the age of six months, the mother of the child tried to switch the baby to feeding him pureed fruit and vegetables, but it didn't work. By 11 months old, the baby seemed to be healthy, but was referred for testing because he was tired, irritable and showed fractures of the femur.
These are among the main symptoms of scurvy, along with pain in the limbs, and the appearance of red and blue spots on the skin. These spots often occur mainly on the patients shins, and will often grow hairs out of them. These hairs will twist around, and will break very easily. Other symptoms include things like swollen gums and shortness of breath, and swelling to recently healed wounds.
Scurvy is caused by a diet that doesn't offer enough vitamin C, and while the disease is often associated with pirates and explorers pf centuries ago, it is a disease that still often occurs, although not in the developed world. Children who are most at risk of getting the disease are those with restrictive diets.
Treatment of scurvy can often simply be adopting a better diet, and often a dietrician is encouraged to help with this change in diet. In particular, more vitamin C needs to be consumed.
If left untreated, scurvy can end up causing jaundice, or the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and eodema, which is a swelling caused by a build-up of fluid. Last but not least is the fact that it can cause fatal heart problems in extreme cases.
Of course, while an almond milk-only diet may be to blame, parents will often compensate with other foods that offer the nutrients needed. Because of this, a plant-based diet is feasible, but only if the baby is getting all the nutrients that it needs.
"When plant-based beverages are the exclusive diet in the first year of life and not consumed as a supplement to formula or breastfeeding, it can result in severe nutritional problems," said doctors in the report. "We report a case of scurvy after exclusive intake of almond beverages and almond flour from 2.5 to 11.0 months of life."
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