An 11-month old baby in Spain cried any time his mom tried to move his legs, so doctors took a look. They found something shocking: his growing femurs and spine were sprayed with fractures. And the culprit? A rare case of scurvy, caused by a life-long diet of almond milk.
The baby’s diagnosis of scurvy is very rare in developed nations, and the doctors who recounted his case in a recent study warned other parents to steer away from the vegan baby formulas, The Telegraph reported.
The mother who inadvertently gave her child scurvy — and she was only following a doctor’s advice — didn’t realize that the formula was dangerous. That’s because the package assured her that the almond milk formula contained all the nutrients her child needed, but didn’t warn her that the Vitamin C injected in the beverage wasn’t effective.
The lesson? Babies can’t develop normally on a plant-based diet.
This baby was born healthy and with a normal body weight. For the first couple months of his life, he was fed the standard formula. But then he started to get a rash and a doctor advised that he be taken off this formula and given an almond-milk based mixture instead.
The parents took his advice, the baby liked the almond milk just fine, and seemed to do pretty well as a result of the switch. He began to drink about 30 ounces a day, according to The Washington Post.
But when the baby was about six months, his mom tried to get him to eat some baby food with fruit and veggies, but he didn’t want it. By seven months, things still looked normal and he continued to drink the almond milk, and he even sat up without help.
However, when he sat up, he was a bit wobbly and “showed less interest in interacting.” By 11 months something seemed really wrong. If anyone tried to move his limbs, the little one cried. He also refused to try standing.
What doctors found next was astonishing — his vitamin C levels were extremely low, he lacked bone mass, his legs and spine littered with fractures. The baby was diagnosed with a disease that everyone knows as the plague of pirates: scurvy.
But didn’t the label on the almond milk formula suggest that it did, in fact, contain vitamin C? Researchers learned that it didn’t matter what the label said. The way the formula is processed strips it of the vitamin C’s “biological activity,” meaning that for the majority of his life, the infant was deprived of a critical nutrient.
Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, which is needed to form collagen and helps connective tissue develop. Pirates were common sufferers of scurvy, mostly because they didn’t get any fresh food. Anyone with a restrictive diet is at risk for developing scurvy.
The almond milk formula was thrown out, the infant given real milk, cereals, meat, and fruit, plus some extra supplements. Within a month, his vitamin levels were where they should’ve been and he finally took his first steps at 13 months.
But it wasn’t just the almond milk that caused him to develop scurvy. It seems as though the little one must have drank quite a lot and didn’t eat other foods to make up for the nutrients it lacked.
“The issue here is not one of a plant-based diet being inadequate or inappropriate, but rather the absence of formula and/or breast milk in this infant’s diet,” the researchers concluded.
If this child had been given vitamin C-rich fruits, formula, or breast milk, he’d never have developed scurvy at all. The doctors warned parents that plant-based beverages, like almond milk, aren’t a complete food, and are far from enough to keep babies healthy.
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