A 14-month-old Italian boy is recovering from malnutrition after his parents reportedly fed him a vegan diet without proper supplementation. The Telegraph reported that the boy, whose name wasn’t disclosed, weighed slightly more than a newborn after his grandparents took him to the hospital, where doctors found he had calcium levels slightly above what is necessary for survival. Italian authorities have removed the parents’ custodial rights of their child.
“It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition, and we certainly do not want to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision. But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron,” Luca Bernardo, director of pediatrics at the Milan hospital that took the boy in, told the Telegraph.
The baby’s low calcium levels caused him to suffer a congenital heart condition, which compelled doctors to perform emergency surgery.
“This forces us to reflect on uncommon feeding regimes, even if in this case it was complicated by a cardiac malformation,” Bernardo told the news website.
In Italy, where an estimated 2.8 percent of the population is vegan, four other Italian children have been hospitalized for malnutrition within the past 18 months, according to the Telegraph.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics doesn’t advise parents against feeding their children a vegetarian diet as long as it’s well supplemented with vitamins B12, vitamin D, calcium and iron. However, the group recommends parents interested in this route consult a dietitian.
The future of the Italian toddler remains to be seen. The Telegraph reported that he is recovering in the hospital, and authorities are determining whether his grandparents will gain custody.