INSIDER – Pediatric nutritionist Marina Chaparro was working at a Children’s hospital in Miami about five years ago when an infant was admitted with symptoms including weight loss and vomiting.
The baby had ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when the body starts breaking down fatty acids for energy, releasing ketones and making the blood dangerously acidic.
At first, Chaparro and her physician colleagues, who worked in the pediatric endocrinology unit, thought the baby had type 1 diabetes, a common culprit of ketoacidosis.
But after a slew of tests, the providers learned the baby’s condition wasn’t caused by diabetes, but by starvation: His mom was feeding him an almond-milk diet, presumably based on medically unsound advice she’d found online.
Chaparro, who now runs her own bilingual children and family nutrition practice, said the story has stuck with her over the years because it illustrates the dangers of medical misinformation — something that’s only become more widespread in recent years.
While nut milk can be integrated into most toddler’s diets, it doesn’t have the right nutrients to replace breast milk or formula in babies under 1, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Neither does cow’s milk, or other non-dairy milk substitutes.
Baby formula is “really hard to remake, it’s really hard to have that balance that food scientists are studying for years,” Chaparro said on a webinar hosted by the California Strawberry Commission. “Not to mention the risk of cross-contamination and infection” when making your own formula.
The baby’s mom “was doing the best she could,” Chaparro, added, and likely thought that because almond milk worked for her, it was good for her baby.
Chaparro said the baby ended up being OK, and was discharged after a few days of being fed with an appropriate formula. The mom left better educated, too …