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"Death by Veganism" NYT opinion piece

post #1 of 275
Thread Starter 
Here's an interesting (but obviously controversial) op-ed piece from the New York Times:

Quote:
Death by Veganism
By NINA PLANCK
Published: May 21, 2007

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/21/opinion/21planck.html
post #2 of 275
I think that's just nonsense. Humans can thrive on a wide variety of foods. I did think the news agencies took an interesting point of view. Why play up that they were vegans? The headlines could have just as easily trumpeted that they were UC'ers, or bf'ers (if not exclusively.) It seems that the vegan issue is the one that makes it the most controversial, and incites these types of letters in response. Why not just say "irresponsible parents allow child to starve" instead of harping on their lifestyle choices? Doesn't it make it seem like only those "wacky vegans" would starve their child? Sadly, there are people of all persuasions who starve their babies; it's not because they are vegan.
post #3 of 275
Again with the "fish oil is necessary for babies" thing. She said that in the bit she sent out on her email list talking about this tragic case (which was a slightly more emotional version of the above). I take cod liver oil and give it to my kids, but I'm somewhat annoyed by her insistence that babies need fish oil. "...babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil" just sounds silly to me. As if fish oil in and of itself is an essential nutrient, babies must have it and will necessarily be unhealthy without it. There are other ways to get omega-3s and the other good stuff in fish oil, especially in a pasture-based agricultural system.
post #4 of 275
hogwash.

the fact that, that poor babe was starved was NOT because his parents were "vegans" it was because they obviously were extremely uneducated. (because honestly, i consider it common sense that a baby cannot live on apple juice and SOY milk--aparently it's not)

thousands of people for years around the world are vegans and have healthy vegan children as well because they are educated and know what to eat in order to get the right nutrition for their bodies. i can't stand that mentality that "you need to consume animal products or by-products in order to be healthy" : it's ridiculous.
post #5 of 275
ITA with the other PPs.

This line in particular bothers me,
Quote:
This particular calamity — at least the third such conviction of vegan parents in four years — may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.
Hmmm... and how many omni babies have died from nutritional issues? Of course that's not included because it's not controversal.
post #6 of 275
Wow, she is such an idiot! That poor child was the victim of parents who were grossly undereducated and misinformed. How dare she blame that on a vegan diet!
post #7 of 275
Hmm who is this woman? She sure is ignorant. I THRIVE on a vegan diet and I know Harvest will as well. If he doesnt, well his health will have to come before our vegan lifestyle. I am bothered by the fact that this opinion piece was even published. Now more ignorant people will join this woman and believe this misinformation.
post #8 of 275
ack! this was brought up before. ignore her. she's just trying to cash in on tragedy to sell her agenda. tactless. :Puke
post #9 of 275
OK, since this ISN'T on the Veg*n board, I'm going to weigh in with my completely unpopular opinion. Bear in mind that what I post here is based entirely on anecdotal evidence rather than published studies (I've looked, but haven't found enough of them that didn't have an obviously pro-dairy-industry slant).

I've known a LOT of vegan children. I was raised by hippies, first of all, and then I ran a veg*n restaurant that had a really "family" clientele including lots of vegans. I've worked on organic farms alongside vegan families. I've been doing this for a long time. I've also been a private vegan chef, and studied a fair amount of nutrition. FWIW, I was ranting about processed soy several years ago and everyone told me I was CRAZY, soy was BY DEFINITION nutritious and healthy. I'm so glad there's a more reasoned view on that now.

Some more caveats here: I think veganism is the ethically ideal way to eat. I was raised Buddhist. I try to live as close to that ideal as I can. I do NOT scoff at veganism. I love and applaud people who raise their children with the ethical structure that veganism implies.

That said.

In my experience, I think it is difficult to the point of being nearly impossible to raise children with a nutritionally adequate vegan diet. (Here's where the flamethrowers start to get charged up, I'm sure.) Yes, I know some people can make a full-time job of it with supplements and perfect nutritional balance and can achieve near-adequacy. However, this is assuming a Herculean level of planning and a basically-healthy-in-all-other-ways child. Most parents do not have either.

When I ran the restaurant, it was an ongoing topic of conversation among the (almost entirely vegetarian) staff, several of whom decided they would not raise their children vegan given what they'd seen. It was scary. You could pick the vegan children out at a glance. They were shorter. They were spindly. They clutched asthma inhalers or had tremors. They were, for want of a better word, sickly. I stopped guessing ages, because I would be so wildly off with vegan kids "He's so cute, is he two?" "Actually, he's five."

I have never--not once--met a vegan child who did not have health problems, or who was not VISIBLY more unhealthy than his/her peers.

I'm assuming they exist, because parents on internet message boards are always telling me that their child is completely healthy, and is vegan. And I will not call such parents liars. But I have met many, many more vegan and vegetarian children than the average person, and based on my observations I do not consider strict veganism to be an appropriate diet for a child.

Sometimes a do see a normal-looking kid, and the parents will claim to be vegan. And this will make me very happy, as I want veganism to be healthy for children! Inevitably, it comes out that the family is vegan but the child was given raw milk until the age of eight, or the child is given fresh fish caught by the family in a stream, or the mother believes children should be able to eat eggs. SOME kind of animal protein is sneaking its way in there.

I really wish this weren't what I had observed. And hey--if you're in NYC and want to show me otherwise, please do! I'd love to see if I could transition my children to veganism. But I can't--won't--do so until I see something different than what I've seen so far.

So yes, I think this article is dealing with reality. If debate on this topic is not allowed, then this thread should be moved to the veg*n board. As I said, I would never post this there--I would consider it rude to invade veg*n space with debate. However, I do think this needed to be said.
post #10 of 275
Individuation, I agree with your observations, and I don't choose veganism for my kids for health reasons based on my own observations and intuition (I was veg*n for a time, as well). I don't take issue with frankly discussing the drawbacks and benefits of any particular dietary philosophy, whether it's in an op ed piece or not. What annoys me about this particular piece is the "babies are built from fish oil" thing. I know this author is one of those promoting the findings of Dr. Price, with which I also agree, but there were plenty of healthy populations who didn't take fish oil. For instance, how about the Swiss he studied, who ate almost entirely sourdough rye bread and raw dairy, with small amounts of meat, fresh veggies in summer and preserved veggies in winter? I don't think he found they had sickly, stupid children.

I wish there was more tact and less absolutism being spread around by nutrition authors on all sides of the fence.
post #11 of 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by AJP View Post
Individuation, I agree with your observations, and I don't choose veganism for my kids for health reasons based on my own observations and intuition (I was veg*n for a time, as well). I don't take issue with frankly discussing the drawbacks and benefits of any particular dietary philosophy, whether it's in an op ed piece or not. What annoys me about this particular piece is the "babies are built from fish oil" thing. I know this author is one of those promoting the findings of Dr. Price, with which I also agree, but there were plenty of healthy populations who didn't take fish oil. For instance, how about the Swiss he studied, who ate almost entirely sourdough rye bread and raw dairy, with small amounts of meat, fresh veggies in summer and preserved veggies in winter? I don't think he found they had sickly, stupid children.

I wish there was more tact and less absolutism being spread around by nutrition authors on all sides of the fence.
Fair enough with the fish oil thing... she is kind of coming off like a shill for the makers of DHA capsules, you're right.
post #12 of 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by AJP View Post
Again with the "fish oil is necessary for babies" thing. She said that in the bit she sent out on her email list talking about this tragic case (which was a slightly more emotional version of the above). I take cod liver oil and give it to my kids, but I'm somewhat annoyed by her insistence that babies need fish oil. "...babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil" just sounds silly to me. As if fish oil in and of itself is an essential nutrient, babies must have it and will necessarily be unhealthy without it. There are other ways to get omega-3s and the other good stuff in fish oil, especially in a pasture-based agricultural system.
Yeah I don't eat fish because I don't like the smell at all, especially when pregnant since we're also talking about diet of the mother during pregnancy - she made me feel like I was stunting their brains just because it's the one healthy thing that we really don't eat.
post #13 of 275
I think this article is ridiculously slanted. I really liked Nina Planck before she wrote this, but reading this feels like propaganda.
post #14 of 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by Individuation View Post
Fair enough with the fish oil thing... she is kind of coming off like a shill for the makers of DHA capsules, you're right.
I guess that's part of my irritation, statements like that seem like a hard sell for fish oil. I've grown weary of the "your child must have cod liver oil/fish oil or else they won't ever be optimally healthy or grow normally!" It's just not true, IMO. Sure, those products are a good superfood source of some important nutrients, but are not the only source.

I've been getting more concerned about pollutants in fish oils (heavy metals, flame retardants, organochlorines, etc.) which have been found in fish even from the supposedly pristine Arctic waters and would be concentrated in the oils, so I've been trying to increase my family's intake of those nutrients from other, safer, more ecological whole food sources and thinking about phasing out the fish oil supplements. I haven't found that there's any unbiased oversight or testing for the purity of fish oil products.
post #15 of 275
the sad thing is that veganism is a fad. look at all the celebrities who are vegan selling their agenda to kids and adults alike. 'be animal cruelty free just like me!' big grins. most vegans (all vegans i have ever met IRL) are far from eating an adequate diet. they went in eating Big Macs every day and once they decided to be kind to the animals the went on to become junk food vegans. potato chips and coke are vegan. so when someone says they are vegan and raising vegan children i often wonder what type of vegan they really are. it's difficult being vegan in this world. when you're vegan you need to eat more and more often of whole foods. we should really be doing this anyway but for vegans especially. but we are conditioned to eat this and that at this time and this time only and don't eat more greens then this etc etc.
great on PETA for trying to help the animals but the sad truth is they are doing more harm then good. they are pushing their own propaganda making junk food, half butted vegans who turn out to be wildly unhealthy which, in turn, makes people untrusting of a vegan diet.

just FYI- i was vegan and a very happy vegan. i do prefer being "flexitarian" eating meat twice a year. i also believe in Yogurt so i'm no longer technically veg*n and definitely not vegan. but the diet can be a good one if done right. it does take work to change our preconceptions though.
post #16 of 275
One of the reasons I am raising organic free-range hens is so that my children can have good, useable animal proteins without having to eat much meat or depend on processed food.

I was in the vegan/veg/macro community for years and years and the children of parents who 'let the kids have dairy--eggs, a little yogurt-- he likes it so much, and our friend who has the cutest hens gave us the eggs, and my MIL got this really wonderful raw cheese', were absolutely taller and more other things than those who kids who got no dairy or animal anything, ever. (I think 100% breastfed infants of careful, dedicated mothers do fine-- good breastmilk depend on the stores of the mothers. I am more talking about weaned children). Plus, food as religion has been tricky for me.

I would never comment on this if there were posted in the vegan forum. I repsect veganism.

We eat a mostly vegetarian diet, although are not vegetarians right now. My 13 yr old ds is talking about going back to being vegetarian, and I asked him if he was thinking about being vegan. He said no, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I would absolutely support him, having gone that route myself, but as a mother, I was glad I didnt have to think about making sure he got all that he needed as a growing male vegan.

I thought it was very hard, I felt hungry a lot, had heachaces etc. It was my own fault. I didn't always do/eat/pre[are as I should have. And believe me, I do not think we need as much protein as we think we do! Still, I don't want him to load up a lunch box full processed soy and such, or sugar things teens are tempted to fill up one when they are starving after an active day etc-- when he could have an incredibly nutritious egg from our beloved hens-- an easy, cheap source of some good stuff--that did not depend on trucking, tons of water to process, plastic to package, fossil fuels etc.


For me, there is a lot to consider.
post #17 of 275
I obviously read this differently. I'm not vegan, vegetarian, etc. and it doesn't affect me one way or another if someone is- totally that person's choice, IMO.

However, reading this I understood that she was saying that it's the DHA that's important and that can be provided through breastmilk, but it can be deficient even in the BM of vegan women. Having said that, I wonder if someone who eats other animal proteins but NOT fish would also have deficient DHA in BM?? I, for example, rarely eat fish whether I am pregnant, BF, or not.

I did not see that she was promoting to give a child fish oil, just touting that DHA is supposed to help with growth.... but isn't that a recent find as well? I mean, they only recently started adding it to formula, which would mean that decades of FF babies may NOT have received the benefits of DHA.

Manda
post #18 of 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by magstphil View Post
the sad thing is that veganism is a fad. look at all the celebrities who are vegan selling their agenda to kids and adults alike. 'be animal cruelty free just like me!' big grins. most vegans (all vegans i have ever met IRL) are far from eating an adequate diet. they went in eating Big Macs every day and once they decided to be kind to the animals the went on to become junk food vegans. potato chips and coke are vegan. so when someone says they are vegan and raising vegan children i often wonder what type of vegan they really are. it's difficult being vegan in this world. when you're vegan you need to eat more and more often of whole foods. we should really be doing this anyway but for vegans especially. but we are conditioned to eat this and that at this time and this time only and don't eat more greens then this etc etc.
great on PETA for trying to help the animals but the sad truth is they are doing more harm then good. they are pushing their own propaganda making junk food, half butted vegans who turn out to be wildly unhealthy which, in turn, makes people untrusting of a vegan diet.

just FYI- i was vegan and a very happy vegan. i do prefer being "flexitarian" eating meat twice a year. i also believe in Yogurt so i'm no longer technically veg*n and definitely not vegan. but the diet can be a good one if done right. it does take work to change our preconceptions though.


As you said, people can be very healthy on vegan diets. I don't think most people choosing vegan diets do so because some celeb is vegan.

I think veganism for adults is an entirely different animal than veganism for infants and young children.
post #19 of 275
Even as a non-veg*n, this article pisses me off. What those people were feeding that baby was not an appropriate vegan diet for a baby. If an omni family fed an infant something so absurdly inappropriate, the papers wouldn't be trumpeting it as the death of an omni baby. This baby didn't die of DHA deficiency, this baby died of starvation.

Just for posterity, though, I do think that DHA is critical to brain growth. And I believe fish oil is a very easily available source of DHA. No, it's not the only source in existence. Many societies got it from other animal sources. But it's a highly concentrated source, available at a time when most of our most readily available traditional sources (meat, milk, eggs) are highly compromised by vastly inappropriate animal husbandry techniques; and when most of the population's bodies are severely out of balance because of a lifetime of eating inappropriately. It's a very valuable foodstuff. But, no, ya'll are right - it's not the only source of DHA in existence.
post #20 of 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by UUMom View Post
As you said, people can be very healthy on vegan diets. I don't think most people choosing vegan diets do so because some celeb is vegan.
i'm only saying in my IRL experience with vegans i have known short of DH and i it was because Pam Anderson or Tobey McGuire (sp?) or whomever led them to PETA and the truth about animal cruelty. the thing is i don't care how someone gets to where ever they choose to be but i do care when the people are putting themselves in danger because they are less concerned about their health than they are not eating animal products. they might be doing it for a good cause but that is no excuse for screwing yourself up. and don't even get me started about when children are in the mix of this. :

Quote:
I think veganism for adults is an entirely different animal than veganism for infants and young children.
completely agree.
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