A couple of weeks ago, I was on a panel at Polyface Farm with some colleagues. It was part of the Food Freedom Fundraisers, a benefit for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. We were discussing our rights to eat the foods that we feel best nourish our family. For the most part, I believe in this. I do think we have a right to make our own decisions when it comes to our nutrition, and I also think that the USDA, a department of the government largely saddled with promoting commodity agriculture, should not also be involved in telling us what is healthy to eat. Our dietary guidelines are quite skewed in favor of large amounts of grains, and the “everything in moderation” motto touted by dietitians is not helping us get healthier.
During the panel, I brought up the recent Italian proposal to jail parents, for up to a year, who impose a vegan diet on their children, claiming a vegan diet is “devoid of essential elements for [children’s] healthy and balanced growth”. I was really curious where the other panelists, many of them liberaterian, sat on this matter.
One panelist said that feeding kids a vegan diet is the same as a junk-filled standard American diet, and said that it’s a slippery slope once the government gets involved in deciding what is legal and not legal to eat. Another person agreed. I get where they’re coming from. I wrote about the sugar tax here, and believe that taxing “bad foods” is certainly a slippery slope. What’s to stop the government from telling us that eating butter should be criminalized? Or meat? Illegal bacon? I envisioned a huge black market trade of bacon – underground tunnels – rich farmers…
A third suggested that it is not the role of the government to intervene but instead the responsibility of the community. He cited a situation where a member of his church had seemly undernourished children. He and other members of the church had a sort of intervention with the mother, sitting her down and explaining how she could be harming her children with the diet she was feeding them.
Sitting next to me was Dr. Drew Ramsey, the only MD on the panel, who disagreed that a vegan diet and “junk food” diet were equal. In a “junk food” diet, he explained, someone could be “overweight and probably very tired, but generally they will be able to make it through school and be ok.” He said this was not the case in a child on a vegan diet, explaining that B12 deficiency can cause irreversible brain damage. He further said that children have no choice in what their parents feed them, and for a parent to feed a child a vegan diet is “negligent.” As a dietitian, I happen to agree.
Before the comments come rushing in, let me clarify things by saying that Drew and I do no endorse a junk food diet at all, but we are saying that there is a very big difference between permanent brain damage to a child as a result from a vitamin deficiency and being unhealthy and obese from a standard American diet, neither of which situations are optimal.
Ramsey was recently interviewed for an article in the fall issue of Naturally, Danny Seo, “Is Meat Brain Food?” which hit newsstands this week. In the article, Ramsey is quoted:
“THERE ARE A LOT OF WAYS TO FIGHT OBESITY, DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE WITH FOOD— AND VEGANISM ISN’T ONE OF THEM. A VEGAN DIET WITHOUT A B12 SUPPLEMENT LEADS TO HEART DISEASE, BRAIN ATROPHY AND ANEMIA. I DON’T SAY THAT TO BE PROVOCATIVE, I SAY THAT BECAUSE THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE AND TO SAY OTHERWISE IS A MISREPRESENTATION OF VEGANISM.” – Drew Ramsey, MD
The potential damages of a vegan diet are well documented. Low B12 is a cause of failure to thrive, developmental delay, and neurological issues in children. Vitamin B12 plays a major role in human metabolism and is required in the Krebs cycle to produce energy. B12 is also required to form methionine. Low B12 elevates homocysteine (hHcy), a major independent biomarker to chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease.
In this systematic review and meta analysis of plasma total tHcy status of vegetarians and vegans compared to omnivores showed “an inverse relationship exists between plasma tHcy and serum vitamin B₁₂, from which it can be concluded that the usual dietary source of vitamin B₁₂ is animal products and those who choose to omit or restrict these products are destined to become vitamin B₁₂ deficient. At present, the available supplement, which is usually used for fortification of food, is the unreliable cyanocobalamin.”
In this study of 40 breast-fed babies to mothers with low B12, the researchers found that the babies suffered from failure to thrive, hypotonia, developmental delay, and 23% had microcephaly. More than half were anemic. The neurological damage from low B12 can be permanent. There have been many recent cases of hospitalized children due to B12 deficiency and other related effects from vegan diets. B12 supplementation can dramatically improve their symptoms, however, as in this case, the children may never reach their full potential, and sometimes it can lead to death.
Chris Kresser warns about the dangers of excluding meat in this post. He cites several studies about the dangers of a vegan diet, including this one, which shows lower cognitive abilities in children who were raised on a vegan diet, even after they have reincorporated meat. Chris also talks about the critical differences between plant and meat sources of nutrients. In the case of calcium, zinc, iron, EPA, DHA, and vitamins A and D, he explains how animal sources are superior to the plant sources. Plant-based supplements of B12 and DHA are not equal to the animal forms.
With 5% of the American population considering themselves vegetarian, and 2% saying they are vegan, more public awareness needs to be brought to the surface about how dangerous these diet can be, especially for children. There’s a ton of misinformation out there, and people are very vulnerable to messages like the one below:
The facts shown are incorrect. 100 calories of beef is actually 13g of protein, and 100 calories of broccoli is only 7 grams. What is not clear here, is that 100 calories of broccoli is TWO CUPS, vs only about 2 ounces of beef in 100 calories. Come on folks! Broccoli is not as easily digested as meat (can you imagine how you might feel after eating that much broccoli?) and the nutrients in broccoli can’t even begin to compare to the nutrients in beef. Plus, meat is a complete protein with no limiting amino acids. The protein in meat is highly digestible, around 94% compared with the digestibility of 78% in beans and 86% in whole wheat. Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score is a method of evaluating the protein quality, with a maximum possible score of 1.0. Animal meats like beef have a score of approximately 0.9, compared with values of 0.5-0.7 for most plant foods.
To me, the “moral argument” is really at the heart of why so many people turn to a vegan diet. They don’t want lives to die in order to live. I get that, and dive into it more in this post.
But what is at the heart of all of this to me is that humans are completely removed from natural cycles.
When I was at Polyface farm, I asked Joel Salatin what he says to vegans who come to the farm, wondering why we “need” to kill animals. His response was:
“Everything in life eats and is eaten. If you don’t believe me, go lie down naked in a flower bed for three days and see what happens. Life can’t be possible without death. Look at a compost pile, which is full of life. This is what they’re trying to get away from. The opposite of death is not life. Both must happen. This is what makes life so precious. Humans can kill in a sacred, humane way. No other animal can do this.” – Joel Salatin
Again, there are tons of films and images on the internet reinforcing the horrors of industrial animal production. However, saying you don’t want to eat meat because you don’t believe in factory farming is like me saying I won’t eat vegetables because I don’t believe in GMOs. There are alternative, sustainable models. I wrote about how meat can actually benefit the environment here.
Additionally, there are lots of compelling stories of people who claim their lives have never been better on a vegan diet. When people go vegan and give up meat, they are usually also giving up other foods like sugar and refined carbohydrates. They feel great for a while. Their weight goes down, and they have more energy. This would happen without giving up meat. What ends up happening though, is that their bodies usually turn to their own muscle tissue for much-needed protein. They experience dry skin, tiredness, depression, loss of sex drive, poor sleep, and constant hunger. For every n=1 blog touting vegan as the cure-all, simply type in vegan + diet + failure into google and see what comes up. You’ll find numerous blog posts by people who saw severe health declines on the vegan diet.
This is because humans are omnivores; a fact of nature.
For ex-vegans concerned about your nutritional status, I recommend this book, a methyl B12 supplement, some cod liver oil, a test for micronutrients to learn the status of other common deficiencies like zinc, and a good grass-fed steak.
What are your thoughts on jail time for parents undernourishing their children? Is it the same as a junk food diet? Should the government stay out of our nutrition completely? What should be done when children are nutritionally neglected? Whose job is it to step in? Is it the community or church? What if there is no community for the child? Is it anyone’s job? Should irreversible brain damage in a child be considered neglect or abuse? Is there enough public information out there about the dangers of a vegan diet? What are your thoughts?
Let me be clear before my comment. I basically eat paleo, not as hard core as you guys, but I am not a vegan or a vegetarian.
My concern with the highest degree of respect. It seems quite hypocritical that in the first part of the article you share your belief that people should eat what they want. But then you go on to say that it only applies to people who aren’t vegan.
So which is it? Do you want people to truly do what they want with regard to food? Or do you want people to be paleo because that’s what you think they should believe?
Why do you care if someone wants to eat 5 cups of little trees rather than meat? While I eat meat, there are days when I just eat vegetables. Does that make me crazy as articulated? Nope. Just makes me in tune with my body and what makes me feel good and have the energy I need.
This post has so many absolutes — not every vegan is pasty and weak, and not every paleo is Robb Wolf. I’ve seen some fat and sloppy paleos and some world-class athlete vegans.
I get that you are passionate about it and I appreciate and respect that, but I think you do a disservice to yourself with this type of argument and such a high level of absolutes.
Rant over. Love your writing, and appreciate your courage in taking a position.
With that, I am going to go downstairs and have a beer because it is neither vegan or paleo 🙂
Diana Rodgers, RD says
I guess the entire point of my article, including the title, intro and ending, is not clear. This article is asking whether children (who have no choice) should be fed a vegan diet, which can be quite dangerous. Then I outline how it can be dangerous. And if they should not be fed vegan, whose role is it to control this?
People should eat what they want – yes, but should a child be fed a watermelon-only diet? No. Everyone would agree a watermelon-only diet is harmful and neglectful, and that children have little control over what their parents feed them. Should children be fed a diet completely void of animal products? Well, that is the question. Adults can do whatever they want with their own bodies, but what happens when you do this to children, when there have been documented cases if irreversible damage from this diet?
Regarding the broccoli – I’m pointing out how illogical it is to equate 5 cups of broccoli to 3.5 oz of beef, and also to equate the protein in broccoli to beef.
The high level of absolutes are simply studies that back up my point. Evidence. Humans are not herbivores, this is a fact of nature.
As a parent that has had conversations with CPS and police about trying to feed my kids a Paleo diet, I would be very careful about saying _____ diet should be outlawed for kids.
Once that Pandora’s Box is opened, it may not be long before people are saying that a Paleo Diet for kids should be illegal.
I would never say that any one diet should be made illegal. There are people that eat healthy diets and unhealthy diets with the same name.
The real question is at what level of undernourishment and overnourishment for children should authorities step in? That is a very tricky question, IMO.
Bradley Ford says
The choice and responsibility of what to feed children belong to the parents. Communities and governments do intervene, but theoretically only to prevent or correct harm. Unfortunately, businesses that are unconcerned about health produce most of our food “education”.
Simon Hunter says
You can’t legislate diets, this is a terrible road to go down. I’m not saying its not wrong, but should you lock up parents who give their kids donuts, pancakes and cereals? This is more about educating people and having parents make their own choices. Forcing your beliefs on someone with the barrel of a gun is never a good idea. Have you even thought how this would be enforced? Its a terrible idea on many fronts.
I’m truly grateful to read your in my opinion thoroughly argued point here. I’m feeling increasingly alienated by family and friends espousing veganism as the holy grail of life. Another less oft-stated point, is that for some it can be used to rationalize a serious eating disorder. I live and hope.
Robb Wolf says
I posted this as a FaceBook comment but it’s worth adding here.
What role should the state play in “protecting” children? It’s a complex topic with no easy lines or rubrics to follow. I do notice a tendency for folks to rally behind a cause that impinges on personal freedoms, so long as that cause fits their world view. They usually give little thought as to the precedent that is being made which could easily turn the tables during the next election cycle. THAT is something to noodle on. I’d also say that folks in the paleo/ancestral health scene will likely have pause with this whole topic, as they are likely considering the knock-on effects and unintended consequences. I could be incorrect, but were vegans faced with the opportunity to jail parents who feed their kids animal products, the vegans would rally behind this pell-mell with not a moments thought as to how this could be turned upon them.
One of the core Libertarian concepts is letting people do what they want to do, so long as no one is getting hurt. In this case it does appear one can make a case that kids fed a vegan diet may face developmental challenges, which pretty clearly constitutes harm. I have also seen parents put soda in a baby’s bottle…this seems to knock on the door of abuse as well, but again, complex topic.
Becky Davis says
Definitely in the same boat. It hurts my sense of justice to say there shouldn’t be some form of protection against children being deprived of B12 but I also shudder at the thought of having the tables turned and a government deeming a diet high in saturated fat as “abuse”.
I would fall on the side of education. Any prenatal or postnatal care could include questions about diet and information about potential impacts of the diet. Presumably the parents were not aware that they were putting their child at risk. If they were aware and still chose a diet that landed their child in the hospital with irreversible damage then I lean towards calling it negligence.
Presumably, with the current conventional belief about diet, I’d get a lecture on how a paleo diet could lead to childhood obesity if we had the pre- and postnatal questionnaire but I could live with that. I already get it regularly from my insurance questionnaire.
How can we digest 86% of wheat proteins if we can’t digest gluten? There’s something wrong with this score don’t you think?
We can digest gluten just fine. I’m allergic to fish, but that doesn’t mean eating fish isn’t healthy. Just not healthy for me. Same for celiacs. Just because gluten destroys their intestines doesn’t mean it’s not fine for everyone else.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Hmm, first off I’m not sure how this is relevant to the article, and secondly, that’s an incorrect statement. Lots of people who don’t have celiac feel much better without gluten and there are numerous studies cited all over this blog about non-celiac gluten sensitivity and how gliadin is an issue for all humans. Great that you don’t seem to react. There are some people who don’t react to wheat products, yes, but to say that unless you have celiac you should be “just fine” is simply false. http://robbwolf.com/2011/01/12/hey-robb-this-person-said-gluten-free-diets-are-bogus/
How can you digest gluten if you lack the enzyme presposed to hydrolize proline-glutamine binding in gliadin? Nobody can fully digest it, some may just “resist” better than others.
Read the new study from Columbia and Bologna university that isolated inflammatory biomarkers for those with NCGS
Elizabeth Resnick says
Wow, so much to think about here. I don’t think it should be illegal to feed your kids a vegan diet, because it opens such a Pandora’s box. And despite what Dr. Ramsey said, I think a kid fed a thoughtful, whole foods vegan diet would still be better off than kids eating processed crap all day long. I was a vegetarian for over 30 years, and raw vegan for a short period. I am now a grain free, dairy free omnivore and at the age of 50 have never felt better in my life. I was vegetarian when my kids were young but always offered them meat. I thought it was important to expose them to as many whole foods as possible.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Just to clarify, he and I didn’t say that a “thoughtful vegan diet” is worse than “processed crap.” We are both saying that a B12 deficiency and long term brain damage is more harmful than the effects of “processed crap.” Both are bad, but irreversible brain damage is worse. My professional opinion based on the evidence, is that a diet void of any animal products is not appropriate and dangerous for a child’s developing brain. We are omnivores and meant to consume meat. Supplements are not a good replacement for animal products.
Alex Leaf says
My original stance on this matter was the same as the two libertarians in that the government should not intervene because it is a slippery slope. But after reading the position of Dr. Drew Ramsey, I have changed my mind.
He is right that while a junk food SAD diet may cause health problems, they are all reversible. By contrast, the malnutrition caused by a vegan diet can cause lifelong damage.
Now what I don’t understand is how the author can critique the picture comparing the protein content of beef to broccoli without FACT CHECKING the claim. The entire thing is inaccurate – all you need to do is go to the USDA food database to show that.
Briefly, 100 kcal of beef (ID# 13438) is actually 19 grams of protein, not the piddly 6 grams promoted by the vegans. Similarly, 100 kcal of broccoli (ID# 11091) is only 7 grams of protein, not the 11 grams they pulled out of their ass.
Also, the author says that “100 calories of broccoli is FIVE CUPS, vs 3.5 ounces of beef in 100 calories” – both of which is wrong. 100 kcal of broccoli is about 2 cups and 100 kcal of beef is 2 ounces. How did this make it past the editors?
Diana Rodgers, RD says
I’m sure that the volume of chopped broccoli varies depending on which source you look at and how it’s chopped. I found 5 cups per 100 calories on my initial search here http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1987
I did go back to the nutrient database and found that 1/2 cup is approx 27 cal so 100 calories would be approx 2 cups. I’ve corrected it.
For the beef, again you’re correct. 100g of beef is almost 200 calories, so 50g = 1.75 ounces. I’ve corrected this too – I’m not sure how I missed that one. I did see that it’s 13 grams of protein for 50g of beef, but this again could be dependent on what you’re searching. Cooked vs. raw and cut. This time I searched cooked sirloin and found 100g = 193 calories and 26g protein.
Finally, I’m glad that Dr. Ramsey’s position changed your mind. Thank you for your fact checking!
Alex Leaf says
This was a good article Diana. After re-reading my comment I realize that it comes off as rude and condescending. This was not my intention with the comment and I apologize for not being more aware of my choice of language.
There can be no one system that is perfect. If we let the government step in, they could get it wrong. If we let the community step in, well, they could get it wrong. Nothing is going to be the perfect solution. Kids are going to be abused, brain damaged, etc. I grew up in a house where my mom smoked excessively indoors because it was HER house and HER right to do so. Sure, it was, and I just hope like hell I don’t get lung cancer as a testament to her right to pummel me with secondhand smoke when I had little recourse as a child. I wish that someone had knocked some sense in her head, and honestly, if it had been the government doing it, well, good, actually.
Look, if vegans are raising a kid to eat vegan, and not providing B12, they are pretty stupid vegans. The ones I have met know full well they need it to live. So with respect to the couple being punished, did they just not know? Advised, but not caring because vegetables will save the kid? Or some health guru said so? What do we do in cases of Christian Scientists who pray for their kids’ health and that’s all?
I’m all for liberty, and for people killing themselves any way they want, but we are a social network, no matter how you look at it. I do want government to play a role here because the government should protect all of us, even when our parents can’t /won’t, as children. You can’t have liberty when you have brain damage. So yes, do an investigation on the parents and get the kid help. Find out what’s really going on and see how willful the ignorance is.
So, already there are thousands of children in this country who do not get any food at all when they are not in school because their parents are not present or able, and you want to jail vegan parents. I guess if a junk food diet is healthier than a vegan diet, starving for three months at a time must also be healthier. You’re right; better get these caring, law abiding citizens off the streets so we can add another 2% to the hungry.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
wow. Point completely missed. completely.
There was a case maybe 20 years ago in NYC of a woman being tried for killing her baby because she insisted on solely breastfeeding despite the fact that the baby failed to thrive. We often too easily feel rage over things that in retrospect seem simple and straightforward and need someone to pay the price in order to maintain the illusion that we really do control our fates. It’s hard to have to acknowledge how complicated the modern world is and how little control the average person really has over things. Vegans are frustrating with their misguided moral self-righteousness and all the admiration society seems to want to bestow on them (I think our local paper reviews a vegan cookbook at least once a month — wish they’d given a little space to your book, Diana!). The right path is not more and more punitive measures, but a more liberal dissemination of ideas. You certainly do your part to get the message out, Diana — keep up the good work!
This is an ethical question with a trade-off between individual and larger rights.
There is no guaranteed best outcomes or clear cut-off points as to when stupid becomes dangerous becomes negligent becomes criminal.
It’s all a matter of agreement and changes as our understanding of things and values change.
It used to be right to discipline children physically – in some countries it still is. In most it is now criminal or at least very much frowned upon.
So, what’s the best solution`?
Education, examples and using the “embrace and extend approach”.
Don’t try to force people to change, they will just resist (this is change management 101).
Give them tools to empower themselves a bit better from the position in which they are now standing.
For Vegans this is B12 supplementation. Then perhaps B12 food sources (Natto, Doenjang , Chunggukjang). Then offer the ideas as to what else the children might be missing (K, DHA, etc) – depending on diet quality.
Let people make informed choices.
Everybody wants their child to be healthy and happy.
People just need more education and be empowered (not frightened) to act even better.
Good article, thanks!
I agree with you, and I do not think any specific diet should be criminalized. I do want to correct something in your post, though. Natto does not reliably have any B12 in it (see http://www.veganhealth.org/b12/plant). I couldn’t find nutritional info regarding B12 for Doenjang or Cheonggukjang, but I really doubt it is reliable.
I was vegetarian (usually trying to be vegan) for three years and I thought I was responsible and drank a lot of B12-fortified soy milk and green drinks with spirilina. (I later found out the B12 in spirulina isn’t reliably absorbed by humans). Then, six months after I started eating meat again, I happened to get a free B12 test from my naturopath, and found out I was very B12 deficient. This could also be related to my genes (MTHFR and others).
I think it is very important that vegans/vegetarians know what actually has B12 in it and how much they need. Over the years, I’ve heard many vegans say they could get B12 from unwashed organic produce or “so-and-so is vegan and doesn’t supplement and is totally healthy,” and I think it is very important that vegan/vegetarians parents understand what actually has reliable B12 in it (i.e., they need to supplement!) and how much they need (i.e., they need to supplement! There is not enough in unwashed vegetables, fermented vegetables/beans, or seaweed!).
At the highest level, the issue of criminalising a vegan diet imposes legal restrictions on a fundamental personal activity that has no potential for greater or wider social harm.
For example, illegal possession of firearms makes sense, because left uncontrolled there is potential for serious harm to self and others.
This is not the case with a vegan, or any other, diet. There are plenty of successful vegans, and parents can allow their children to be vegans without malnutrition through simple supplementation (granted, some vitamins are derived from processes that involve animals).
Better, instead, to make malnutrition and dietary neglect the crime, regardless of what dietary regimen caused it. But in effect that probably already exists in most countries.
What the Italian example shows, and what this post echoes, is that they harbour the extreme view that vegan diets DEFINITELY result in malnutrition in children. The first step should be to determine, at the population level, what proportion of vegan children are malnourished. Without that, any legal (or philosophical) stance against veganism is reactionary.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
So, following your logic, do ALL firearms cause serious harm to self and others? no. but to you, it makes sense for them to be illegal. Is every single vegan malnourished? No. Does this mean that it’s ok for children to be this way when it’s potentially very harmful and can result in permanent brain damage? I’m seriously asking you this question and please follow your own logic.
I understand your point, but NOT all firearms are illegal – people who can demonstrate that they can manage them responsibly are permitted to use them (granted, many would be happy for them ALL to be illegal because of the risk they pose).
Similarly, people who can manage a vegan diet with supplementation (or any other diet) responsibly shouldn’t be criminalised, particularly since I haven’t come across anyone presenting either an incidence or a prevalence rate of vegan-induced brain damage … is it 1 in a 100 or 1 in a million? Surely it’s important to know the risk before attaching culpability to an action.
Trying to criminalise veganism (or any diet) is akin to making parents culpable for children who sustain injuries when riding bikes, which have probably led to more brain damage than veganism. It’s inherently risky if not done right… the key is how risky and what can be done to mitigate the risk?
And, of course, the best way to mitigate the risk of vegan-induced malnutrition is to present the type of information you mentioned about Vitamin B12 deficiencies, so that people who are adamant about that choice (and able to persist with it) can make reasonable decisions.
I really do think there’s a stigma issue here, of vegans being considered by many as extremist fringe dwellers that need to be forced into conforming to the norm, while people who unthinkingly follow the mainstream sugar diet can let their children develop early-onset Type 2 diabetes without any culpability.
I should add, and clarify, that when I mean ‘here’ I don’t mean this article, but I mean the case in Italy with the idea of criminalising veganism … Hams and cheese are so intrinsic to the diet there that it’s not surprising if the idea of veganism is confronting.
And also that I’m in agreement that, as you say, people need to be made to know that a vegan diet can be harmful.
But there are ways to manage veganism without making it a crime. The key is in what you wrote, “more public awareness needs to be brought to the surface about how dangerous these diet can be, especially for children.”
Diana Rodgers, RD says
to my knowledge, there doesn’t seem to be any studies looking at prevalence of B12 deficiency in vegan children, however in my opinion, this is irrelevant because of the papers I’ve cited. There is proven harm, and I personally consider it negligent to eliminate all animal products from children when humans are omnivores and B12 deficiency can cause permanent damage. People wouldn’t argue with me if there was a case of a “watermelon-only” diet for a child, however well intentioned the parents were to their child – I’m sure in their minds, feeding watermelon to their child was the right thing to do. We can all agree that this does not provide adequate nutrition. In my opinion (and I’m not the only one) a vegan diet does not provide adequate nutrition for children, and there have been documented cases of death and long term brain damage as a result. I also think this is much more serious than a “typical” standard American “sugary” diet, which one can recover from – which does not permanently cause irreversible brain damage.
Why is this question being framed as either/or. Either child abuse agencies, or the community? If B12 is critical to brain development, wouldn’t it be simple to test B12 levels in all pregnant moms and their babies and kids on a regular basis regardless of their parents’ diet preferences? In hospitals newborns already get heel pricked. That means that regardless of whether parents are educable, their chosen health providers can discuss it from a health prospective. Cyanocobalamin is not the only form of B12 available, so the fact that it’s “undependable” is irrelevant. The problem can mostly be solved by educating obgyns and other md’s, as well as insurance companies to enlighten them as to the cost of b-12 education vs life long neurological problems. Vegans are not monsters and just because parents are vegans doesn’t mean they will automatically feed their kids that way, especially given information re: potential brain damage. Of course getting medical schools to delve deeper into nutrition is quite a challenge by itself, but isn’t it a better option that putting well-meaning parents in jail and hoping that the foster care system will be any better for their psyche?
What kind of precedent are you trying to set by jailing people for feeding their kids a certain diet? Are we also going to jail parents who give their kids an unhealthy junk food diet because that could harm their children too, right? Should we also jail parents who don’t feed their children enough vegetables to get the right nutrients? that’s not good either!
How about meat and diary? one of the leading caused of heart attacks and disease in the world, Are we gonna jail parents who give their children to much meat too? Where do we draw the line?
We live in 2016.. There are B-12 supplements and B-12 fortified food everywhere, it is the parent responsibility to provide their children with the nutrients they need. If it wasn’t possible for parents to have access to other B-12 sources other than meat.. then maybe you’re into something but that’s not the case. B12 supplement and fortified food are available everywhere.
Also, despite what you think about whether we are omnivores or herbivores, which is a wildly debated question. In my opinion: A real omnivore or carnivore will never get a heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and all the other diseases from eating meat. you never see a lion, bear or a tiger with high cholesterol and dying from heart disease because of their consumption of meat. Humans do!
Finally, protein has never been an issue to vegans. Even though meat has more protein than most vegetables per gram. There are countless vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes that have enough protein for any human. There are vegan athletes, World record strongmen and bodybuilders who consume a 100% a vegan diet.
I would love if you watched a video on youtube by Dr Michael Greger and wrote an article about what you think about it..
the video is called “40 Year Vegan Dies of a Heart Attack! Why? The Omega-3 and B12 Myth “
Here is a direct quote from the American Dietetic Association: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
Here is a direct quote from the Dietitians of Canada: “A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. It may take planning to get enough protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and omega-3 fats from foods or supplements. A healthy vegan diet can meet all your nutrient needs at any stage of life including when you are pregnant, breastfeeding or for older adults.”
The issue is not whether someone is vegan or not. It’s how well they plan their diet. Vegan diets with appropriate supplements and planning can be perfectly healthy. This is a shaky road to travel down as well. If vegan parents would be jailed even though it’s entirely possible that they could be feeding their children a perfectly adequate diet, why shouldn’t parents feeding their children nothing but cookies be jailed?
I am questioning why you are comparing broccoli, a vegetable, to beef, as well. I understand that the original picture of the comparison clearly came from a vegan advocate, but it is misleading on your part to not address other sources of plant protein. Why not compare beef to beans or soy protein? Vegans can meet all of their essential amino acid needs by eating a mixture of legumes (like beans, soyfoods, peanuts) and grains. Most vegans know that the bulk of their protein isn’t going to come from broccoli. In addition, beef is high in both saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which animal products are significantly lower in (in fact, the only source of dietary cholesterol is from animal products). According to the World Health Organization, “Red meat was classified as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans.” The World Health Organization defines red meat by saying: “Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.” Since it says you are a registered dietician, I fail to understand why you make this argument.
Now, from an ethical standpoint, I hear you making the argument that death is a natural part of life. You quote Joel Salatin saying: “Everything in life eats and is eaten. If you don’t believe me, go lie down naked in a flower bed for three days and see what happens. Life can’t be possible without death. Look at a compost pile, which is full of life. This is what they’re trying to get away from. The opposite of death is not life. Both must happen. This is what makes life so precious. Humans can kill in a sacred, humane way. No other animal can do this.” First off, many people would tend to disagree that “humans kill in a sacred, humane way.” This is most definitely not the case all of the time. What about serial killers? More importantly, have you ever seen how animals are treated in factory farms? That is far from “sacred” or “humane.” Also, the argument you present is a fallacy attempting to appeal to nature. By this logic, anything deemed “natural” would be justified. Killing is natural, so therefore people should be allowed to kill each other because it’s “natural” right? Joel Salatin, whom you quote, says: “Everything in life eats and is eaten. If you don’t believe me, go lie down naked in a flower bed for three days and see what happens.” In contrast, I urge the both of you to try to live in the most natural state possible and then come back to me and tell me how enjoyable that was. There are numerous horrible, unethical acts that could be “natural.” This does not mean that anything natural is okay.
A correction to what I said earlier: I meant to say “both of which plant foods are significantly lower in (in fact…”
So here is a question then. What if your kid does not like meat? My child won’t eat meat. I feed him eggs I get at my local farm, but according to what I have read….eggs don’t cut it.
Basically what I am reading is liver, mackeral, sardines, red meat are tops. Other than that it is fortified foods.
No one wants to harm a child, but I know there are 1000’s of moms our there reading this saying…good freaking luck getting my kid to eat liver.
Tell me what you would do? Put him on an IV of meat?
I think this article would go a long way if someone suggested what a parent could do to help their child if they don’t want to or won’t eat meat.
Mike Quinoa says
Just an addition to your comment about the PDCAAS: If you look at grain (PDCAAS of 0.45) and white beans (PDCAAS of 6.5), and eat both of these in a given day, you will obtain a PDCAAS of 1.0, which is equivalent to meat.
In the study that’s mentioned of the 40 breastfed infants that are B12 deficient, only 6 of the mothers were vegetarian (the other 34 mothers were, ostensibly, omnivore). Seems to be an issue for various diet-styles.
As some are aware, B12 is made by neither animals nor plants. B12 supplementation is often added to livestock feed, to bolster the health of deficient cattle and sheep. As for “the unreliable cyanocobalamin,” people can always take a methylcobalamin supplement, although, the Linus Pauling Institute indicates, “the form of cobalamin used in most nutritional supplements and fortified foods, cyanocobalamin, is readily converted to 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin in the body.”
You are certainly right about the meme, 100 Kcal of steak has more protein than 100 Kcal of broccoli. Much better plant sources of protein would be peas, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Broccoli, though, provides much better quantities of fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.