Although there are many health benefits to a vegan diet, one Italian family had to learn the hard way how dangerous this strict diet could be for children. Their one-year-old baby boy weighing as much as an average three month old was rushed to the hospital for extreme malnutrition after a strict vegan diet left him with dangerously low calcium levels and heart irregularities.

The child, whose identity, along with his family’s, has been withheld for privacy, shocked doctors with his extremely small size. Allegedly, his parents had kept him on a strict vegan diet without any additional dietary supplements. As a result of his restrictive diet, his body was running on the levels of calcium described as “the minimum needed to survive,” The Local reported. The child needed immediate treatment, as his malnutrition had aggravated an existing heart condition, causing him to require heart surgery. The child has reportedly survived the operation and is recovering, but has been taken out of his parent’s custody.

Veganism is a strict lifestyle that involves completely eliminating all animal products from a diet and from use, including eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. The lifestyle is practiced throughout the world, although The Local reported that it is increasing in popularity in Italy where 2.9 of the population avoids all animal products.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a baby’s health has been in danger due to his parent’s strict dietary needs. For example, last June another Italian baby was taken to the hospital for severe malnutrition, The Washington Post reported. The child also had vegan parents. Unfortunately, these stories do not always have happy endings, as a 2011 case where a French vegan couple was charged with child neglect when their 11 month old died from vitamin deficiencies, The Telegraph reported. Although veganism is not inherently unhealthy, it is extremely important, especially in the case of children and infants, to ensure that their diet is supplemented with vitamins and minerals.

Calcium deficits are common in vegans, as they do not consume dairy products, one of the most popular ways we get our calcium. Vegans who have low calcium intake are also at greater risk for compromised bone health as they age. Breast Milk is naturally high in calcium, but The Vegan Society recommends that parents meet the calcium needs of their older children by giving them calcium-fortified cereals and plant milks. In addition, it can be helpful to have non-dairy milks, such as soy milk, that are also fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin b12, The Vegan Society reports. Above all, it’s best to speak with a licensed dietician when planning a vegan diet for an infant or child.

Despite the dangers associated with veganism, there are actually many positive health benefits to the lifestyle. According to Medical News Today, eating animal fats and proteins has been shown to raise a person’s risk of cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and a number of other illnesses and conditions. In addition, vegans have been found to live longer than red meat and processed meat eaters.