Celebrity-Endorsed Alkaline Diet Leads to Rickets and Brain Damage in Infants

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According to the CDC, three infants, across three states, developed rickets and brain damage from a homemade alkaline diet formula.

From appetite-suppressing lollipops to detox teas, celebrities are known to endorse the strangest, and not always the healthiest, of things. Moreover, in this age of social media people often blindly follow these absurd trends in the hopes to look more like the photoshopped pictures they see on television. So, when someone like Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Aniston say they stick to an alkaline diet to maintain their youth and energy, it is no surprise that people would not even think twice before jumping onto that bandwagon. However, some people may have taken this obsession a little too far by not only following it themselves but also feeding infants a homemade alkaline diet formula.

The alkaline diet consists of eating alkaline foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, soy, coconut water, and sea moss while limiting acidic foods such as meat and grains. The aim is to help the body maintain a slightly alkaline pH balance of 7.365. Although the diet has zero to no scientific support, many celebrities promote the diet for its benefits. These can include anti-ageing, increased concentration, prevention of disease, and fat loss. However, the diet lacks essential nutrients and vitamins.

A recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), details the cases of three infants who underwent hospitalization after being fed an alkaline diet formula. The three cases belonged to three different states.

Infants fed an alternative diet can develop severe deficiencies and experience long-lasting developmental consequences

CDC Report

Both the CDC and FDA have issued a warning against the use of homemade infant formula. They caution parents to stick to breast milk or commercial formulas to avoid any deficiencies and long-lasting developmental consequences.

3 Hospitalized with Brain Damage and Rickets

According to the report, the first case had occurred on August 7th, 2020. The 9-month-old infant had presented with a history of irritability and had severe gross and fine motor delays. His lab results revealed low calcium levels, but also no vitamin D; thus, with the help of X-rays, doctors diagnosed him with rickets. Moreover, his thyroid-stimulating hormone levels were well beyond the normal range, pointing to an iodine deficiency. His parents had later revealed that they fed the child a homemade alkaline vegan diet that included coconut milk, dates, and sea moss. The infant, after receiving calcium and iodine supplementation, was discharged to a long-term care facility.

The other two cases occurred in January 2021: a 4-month old and a 5-month old. The 4-month-old suffered respiratory distress earlier this year and underwent intubation at the hospital. The lack of oxygen had caused him to suffer brain damage. Moreover, he had severe electrolyte imbalances and was diagnosed with rickets. The 5-month-old had presented with cyanosis and stiff limbs. His lab results also pointed to low calcium and vitamin levels. The X-ray revealed bone deformities consistent with rickets.

Both set of parents had disclosed feeding their child an alkaline diet formula consisting of coconut water, dates, hemp seeds, and sea moss. The infants were later discharged after receiving the required supplementation.

Although sea moss is a high source of iodine, too much of it can also be harmful. Excess iodine in the body can lead to thyroid damage and affect hormone levels in the body. All three infants had consumed sea moss; however, the first infant’s parents had discontinued adding sea moss in the formula a few months before hospitalization. It is unclear as to how much of the sea moss did the three infants received.

Reference:

Calello DP, Jefri M, Yu M, Zarraga J, Bergamo D, Hamilton R. Notes from the Field: Vitamin D–Deficient Rickets and Severe Hypocalcemia in Infants Fed Homemade Alkaline Diet Formula — Three States, August 2020–February 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1124–1125. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7033a4external icon

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