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Dieticians warn against Banting for baby

Parents raising children on the low carbohydrate, high fat Banting diet may be exposing kids to health risks, including nutritional deficiencies, gall bladder problems, kidney stones and even heart problems.

Dieticians warn that Banting can cause nutritional deficiencies and other health problems n children.

Dieticians warn that Banting can cause nutritional deficiencies and other health problems n children.

“It is risky to assume that the pure Banting diet could meet all the nutritional needs of a growing child, especially if one is cutting out most fruit and high-starch vegetables,” said paediatric dietician, Kath Megaw.

Banting guru Emeritus Professor Tim Noakes is facing a Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) inquiry for alleged “unprofessional conduct” after advising a mother to wean her baby onto low carbohydrate, high fat foods last year via the social media platform Twitter.

Association for Dietetics in South Africa’s (ADSA) president, Claire Julsing-Strydom, laid the complaint, and the hearing is scheduled to take place on 4 and 5 June 2015.

“There are specific nutrients that are exclusive to certain foods – either in quantity or quality,” Megaw told Health-e News.

Carrots and butternut, which are only allowed in limited quantities on the Banting diet, are rich sources of beta carotene, a form of vitamin A that is key for good vision, strong immunity and general health. Unrefined grains are a good source of various B vitamins that are essential for growing babies’ brains and bodies.

All grains are forbidden on the Banting diet.

Risk factors of the low carbohydrate, high fat diet in kids include kidney stones, low bone density and heart complications

According to Megaw, the Banting diet provides adequate amounts of protein – although too much protein may be taxing on the kidneys – but the high amounts of fats can place a child at risk of gall bladder problems.

“Other long-term risk factors of the low carbohydrate, high fat Banting diet in children are kidney stones, a lower bone density and a drop in selenium levels – which is a very important nutrient for the heart muscle. Selenium deficiency can place a child at risk of heart complications,” she warned.

Lawyers have advised the ADSA not to comment on the case until the hearing concludes however in a statement, the group laid out internationally recommended guidelines for infant feeding.

In the statement, it explains that the World Health Organisation and the Institute of Medicine recommends that the diets of infants between the age of six and 24 months should be comprised of about six percent protein and between 30 and 45 percent fat with the remainder coming from carbohydrates. These proportions are similar to those found in breast milk.

The Banting diet recommends carbohydrates only make up 10 percent dietary intake.

“High nutrient needs, due to babies’ rapid growth and development in the first two years of life, coupled with the relatively small amounts of complementary foods [food given in addition to breast feeding] eaten in the period, means that nutrient density in complementary foods must be very high,” reads the ADSA statement.

Since news broke of Noakes’ HPCSA inquiry, a Cape Town dietician, Tamzyn Campbell has come out in defense of ‘banting for children’, claiming that despite very limited evidence of the benefits or potential harm to children, she has raised her two-year-old daughter on a banting-style diet.

Campbell contributed to the book, Sugar Free: 8 Weeks to Freedom from Sugar and Carb Addiction by Karen Thomson and Kerry Hammerton. Thomson has a long-standing affiliation with Noakes and runs a sugar-addiction clinic that “weans” clients off sugar with the Banting diet.

The low carbohydrate, high fat diet Campbell recommends for children excludes added sugar and grains in line with Noakes’ diet, but unlike the Noakes’ version of the Banting diet, includes fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes and even the odd piece of chocolate, which is a no-go for serious ‘banters’. – Health-e News

Edited versions of this article were first published in The Star and Pretoria News newspapers, and it was also republished in the Daily News and Cape Argus.

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