MILAN – Veganism is on the rise in Italy, and while it’s been shown to be the best diet for weight loss, a few babies who are also on a strict no-animal-products diet appear to be paying a price. A 14-month-old was rushed to a Milan hospital this month by his grandparents and found to be so severely malnourished that he weighed what most babies weigh at 3 months, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. His calcium and iron levels were extremely low, which in turn exacerbated a congenital heart condition for which he had to undergo emergency surgery. And while the surgery was successful and the boy is recovering, a Milan court ruled that his parents, who refused to give the baby animal products or dietary supplements, would not be given custody of the child while an investigation is underway.
The extraordinary case appears to be growing more common as a 2-year-old was hospitalized in Genoa in June for malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, while an 11-month-old was treated for similar problems in Florence last June, reports the Washington Post. These cases are forcing doctors “to reflect on uncommon feeding regimes,” Luca Bernardo, director of pediatrics at the Milan hospital, tells the Telegraph. “It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition … but since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron.” Media reports estimate that nearly 3% of Italy is now vegan. (The mother of the vegan climber who died on Everest wants answers.)