Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digestive enzyme development?

Dear Monique, I have heard that babies raised on a vegetarian diet fail to develop a certain enzyme which would enable them to digest meat (or something similar) and thus they will be unable to eat meat for the rest of their lives. Is this true? Thanks a lot, Agnes.

Answer: I do not believe this to be true. I am not aware of any studies that indicate that infants raised on a vegetarian diet fail to develop enzymes that would prevent them from digesting meat later in life.

I do know that any change in your diet will require a period of adjustment for your body to get accustomed to the new foods. When there are drastic dietary changes, the body may not have enough digestive enzymes or beneficial bacteria to assimilate the new foods properly. Fortunately, this is only temporary and the body will correct itself in time.

This situation frequently occurs when traveling to other countries and eating different cuisines. It also occurs when meat eaters quickly turn vegetarian (they often experience gas, flatulence or loose stool), or if vegetarians begin to eat meat again (they usually get constipation or heart burn).

However, I have not heard of any vegetarian raised children growing up and having permanent difficulty eating meat or any other type of food that they did not eat when they were young. Our bodies are very adaptable and will adjust to many types of conditions.

For more information, read...

"Vegetarian Diets for Children: Right from the Start" at

and the books...

Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (8th edition) 

Plant Based Nutrition and Health 

The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet 

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.

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