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Plant based pregnancy, lactation and infancy: benefits and risks - Leila Masson

What are the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and for young children? Are there any potential deficiencies associated with a vegan diet?  Which are the supplements that can prevent these deficiencies? In this video Dr. Leila Masson medical director of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine Kids Clinic in Sydney, Australia will reply for Veggie Channel to all this questions.
"I’m Dr. Leila Masson and I’m a pediatrician and I work in Sidney in Australia. I have a practice where I see children with chronic illnesses. I use nutritional medicine and environmental medicine so I always try to improve the children's diet and nutrition to help them to be healthier because I really truly believe that diet is the most fundamental basis of good health.
I spoke today about the risks and benefits of the plant based diet during pregnancy and also breastfeeding. We know that women have higher needs, nutritional needs when they are pregnant because they’re growing baby so they need more nutrients, more calories. And the question was whether a plant based whole foods diet can meet those requirements. And yes, it can. There are some of those nutrients, women who are on a vegan plant based diet get even more off. So, for example, folate and magnesium and fiber, they get more off than the non vegan counterparts and that's very beneficial. They also get more antioxidants and antioxidants are particularly important in pregnancy because every time you create new cell, there is a certain amount of oxidative stress and antioxidants will neutralise that. Magnesium, for example, is a very important in pregnancy because it reduces the risk of getting high blood pressure, preeclampsia and needing to be induced and having the baby earlier. If you have good magnesium levels you less like to get muscle cramps, which is quite common in pregnancy and you sleep better if you have enough magnesium. So there are certain nutrients that women on a plant based diet, whole foods plant based diet, get more off, but they are some that are really difficult or impossible to get from a purely vegan diet. I think that is really important that everybody knows that, for example B12. 
The vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria and you get it when you eat animal products. You don’t get it from vegan products unless they are fortified with that but usually there are very small amount in the fortified foods. It is very very important that any woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding or any child takes a daily B12 supplement. I think that’s the most important message of my talk, that you need to take the B12. Because, you know, time and time again we read in the press that a couple raised a child vegan that not give B12 just because they didn’t know and the child got very very ill or even died. So veganism get very bad rep there. But actually if you take the B12 and some other supplements your child can go up really really healthy.
So other nutrients that are really important in pregnancy that I think may be hard to get enough from a plant based diet are the omega 3 fatty acids. So that is EPA and DHA, the essential fatty acids that make up a big part of our brain and so the brain is growing really really fast. When you think, in pregnancy the brain develops from one cell to the most complicated organ that we know in the universe. You need all the ingredients to make that brain and the brain is made up from 50 to 60 per cent of fasts and about a third of that is highly unsaturated fats like EPA and DHA. So we need to get them in a diet in order to produce that brain, grow that brain. And you can get those omega 3 fatty acids from algae oil. So it’s vegan, it’s healthy, it’s not full of chemical, like fish oils. The fish oils can be very contaminated with mercury and other toxins. And algae oil is produced organically so it is much more superior.
Another one is vitamin D. Vitamin D comes usually from the sunshine. When you’re outside, the sun hits your skin and you produce vitamin D but in the winter in northern Europe or in the southern hemisphere where I am, you just don’t get enough sunshine and the sun is at an angle where doesn’t really produces vitamine D. So we need supplements. Some animal products have some vitamin D, like milk often is fortified with vitamin D. So, non vegans still get some in their diets and vegans don’t. So you really really need to take vitamin D supplement especially in the winter. This is important not jut for vegans. Probably most omnivores also need that.   
Then I was also talking about choline. Choline is one of the B vitamins that is very important for brain development. It’s quite high in eggs, so people who eat eggs get big doses of it and the vegan diet is much lower in choline. It’s very controversial, there are people who think that choline is very pro arterosclerotic, so causing more arteriosclerosis and it is not so good to have it. We don’t really have the studies yet to decide. So the vegan foods that contain choline are quinoa, tofu, broccoli and foods like that, and it is important for brain development.
Then there are certain minerals that are really really essential for thyroid function for the mother in the pregnancy. We know that if the thyroid doesn’t work well, the child’s development can suffer. So that’s iron, zinc, selenium. And that’s, again, you get some from animal foods maybe but everybody is at risk of having low levels, not just vegans, also the omnivores. But it’s very important to insure that the pregnant woman, the breastfeeding woman and the young child get enough of those".
This video was realised during the International Congress VegMed 2018 in Berlin.
This is a video of the web-tv Veggie Channel.
Director: Massimo Leopardi
Editor: Julia Ovchinnikova

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VegMed 2018

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