Baby's Scary Health Diagnosis Will Make You Think Twice Before You Try This Alternative to Breast Milk & Formula

baby bottleAlmond milk is often marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional cow's milk, but it's definitely not a more nutritious option when it comes to feeding infants -- far from it, as it turns out: An 11-month-old baby in Spain was diagnosed with scurvy after being fed exclusively with the non-dairy, nut-based drink.


Scurvy, a disease rarely found in developed countries, can be caused by a diet deficient in vitamin C. And the saddest thing of all about this particular diagnosis, described this week in the journal Pediatrics, is that it seems to be the result of a mother's best efforts to do what was right for her child. 

According to doctors at Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe de Valencia, the baby was switched from cow's milk formula to an almond-based mixture when he was 2½ months old (at a doctor's suggestion) because he had developed skin rashes. The child rejected his mother's offerings of fruit and vegetable purées at 6 months, and by the time he was 11 months old, he was "tired and irritable," refused to "support his legs on a solid surface," and cried when someone tried to move his legs. Turns out that was because the poor little thing had femur fractures! When doctors discovered how dangerously low his vitamin C levels were, they diagnosed him as having scurvy and started him on vitamin C and D replacement therapy; they also removed almond milk from his diet and began feeding him a combination of formula, fruit, and meat. 

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And to think, his mom was just doing what the doctor suggested. Since most of us tend to get plenty of vitamin C in our fortified diets, we kind of take for granted how important it is, but our bodies desperately need the stuff for collagen production, among other things (and kids desperately need it for proper growth and development). Apparently -- and unfortunately -- the process of making almond milk causes the vitamin C in the nuts to lose its "biological activity." But this probably wasn't something the mom in this situation was aware of (or something the initial doctor who made the recommendation thought about). 

It was a near tragic mistake, but hopefully one other parents can learn from. As the case study authors wrote in Pediatrics, "This case presents scurvy as a new and severe complication of improper use of almond beverage in the first year of life," and "plant-based beverages are not a complete food."

"When plant-based beverages are the exclusive diet in the first year of life and not consumed as a supplement to formula or breastfeeding, it can result in severe nutritional problems," they warned.

Point taken! Here's to a speedy recovery for that baby!


Image via nerissa's ring/Flickr 

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