Doctor Puts Baby on Almond Milk Diet, Then Baby Gets Disease Rarely Seen Since the 1800s

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
January 21, 2016 Updated: January 21, 2016

A new study published in the Pediatrics journal details how things went very wrong when a doctor put a baby on an almond milk diet.

The baby was only 2.5 months old when the doctor told the mother to only feed the infant almond beverages and almond flour because a cow milk-based formula was blamed for skin rashes.

When the baby was referred to a hospital at 11 months, it was hard to recognize. 

“The patient was referred for pathologic fractures of the femur, irritability, and failure to thrive,” wrote the study authors, from the Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe de Valencia in Spain. 

The worst part? Symptoms indicated very low level of vitamin C–the baby was diagnosed with scurvy, a disease that has been mostly wiped out for centuries. 

The child was quickly given vitamin C replacement therapy at a dose of 300 milligrams a day.

“Over the following 3 months, his general condition, the pain in the legs, and the radiologic features improved; the plasmatic vitamin C level was normalized; and the child started walking,” the authors wrote.

“In summary, this case demonstrates that scurvy is a new and severe complication of improper use of almond drinks in the first year of life. Manufacturers should indicate that these beverages are inappropriate for infants who consume a vitamin C–deficient diet.”

They called what happened an “improper use” of a plant-based beverage, although they noted that if the diet would have been supplemented by fruits, formula, or breast milk, the baby likely would have been fine.

“The issue here is not one of a plant-based diet being inadequate or inappropriate, but rather the absence of formula and/or breast milk in this infant’s diet,” Las Vegas-based dietitian Andy Bellatti, unaffiliated with the Spanish case study, told the Washington Post.

Cow milk also lacks vitamin C, requiring it to come from another source.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.