Babies Don't Want Vegan Mommies? What a Load of Baloney

Categories: Beet Reporter
beet_reporter.jpg
This past weekend, the LA Times published an editorial suggesting pregnant women who adhere to a vegan diet and subsequently raise vegan children are irresponsible. The writer, Alexandra Le Tellier, was responding to the release of Vegan Is Love, a new children's book that explains and advocates a vegan diet. Le Tellier was clearly looking for evidence to support her own half-baked belief that veganism can't be good for kids. Shamefully, some of the sources she came up with were pathetic, and she cited the decent ones incompletely.

First, she quotes another LA Times article that explains a study by Swedish researchers which concluded that early humans' meat consumption helped them reproduce faster than they could have if they'd adhered to a strictly plant-based diet. What Le Tellier forgot to mention is that Elia Psouni, one of the Lund University researchers, was careful to note that the results of the study say nothing about what humans today should or should not eat.

Of course they don't! I don't think I need to explain to anyone how different our world and available nutritional choices -- plant and otherwise -- are from what would have been available to our cave-dwelling ancestors. Read on as I continue to rip this nutritionally and ethically ignorant editorial apart.

The study talks about how meat-eating sped development of our ancestors' infants. That may have been good at the time. But today our development at all stages of life is speeding up at alarming rates. Today, about 16 percent of American girls get their periods by the age of 7, and 30 percent by age 8. Among the primary reasons is increased animal protein consumption, childhood obesity, plastic residues and pesticide consumption. This early maturation also increases breast cancer risk. So, does Le Tellier think this is good news too?

Then, this great journalist goes on to include nutritional advice from the author of a cookbook:
"We have extraordinary needs for nutrients not found in plants. They include fully formed vitamins A and D, vitamin B12, and the long-chain fatty acids found in fish," explains Nina Planck, author of "The Farmer's Market Cookbook," on the New York Times' Room For Debate. She continues: "For babies and children, whose nutritional needs are extraordinary, the risks are definite and scary. The breast milk of vegetarian and vegan mothers is dramatically lower in a critical brain fat, DHA, than the milk of an omnivorous mother and contains less usable vitamin B6. Carnitine, a vital amino acid found in meat and breast milk, is nicknamed 'vitamin Bb' because babies need so much of it." And she concludes: "You may choose to be a vegan. Your baby doesn't have that luxury. Let her grow up omnivorous and healthy. Then watch her exercise her own freedom of choice with justifiable pride."
All of this information is misleading. Reality is that Vitamin A occurs in the form of carotenoids in plant foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, butternut squash, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce. It's converted into "fully formed" vitamin A in the human intestines and other tissues.

Vitamin D indeed doesn't occur in plant foods, but one of the best sources of it is simple sun exposure. Most people eating a standard western diet are deficient in it anyway, so supplements are a reasonable idea for everyone.

As an alternative to fatty, cholesterol-laden, hormonally toxic animal products, vitamin B12 can easily be obtained by eating small amounts of nutritional yeast, which contains quite a bit of protein and has a pleasant cheesy, nutty taste as an added bonus. You can also take a vegan supplement. It is important for vegans to do one or both of these things to avoid B12 deficiency.

As far as long-chain fatty acids go, the body can convert short-chain omega-3 fats (from walnuts, green vegetables, chia, flax and hemp seeds) into them. Or we can get the long-chain fatty acids from the same place the fish get them: from marine algae. Consuming quality-controlled marine algae as our source of long-chain fatty acids also assures that we're not being poisoned by the highly concentrated toxins in much of the available fish supply. Dr. Joel Fuhrman makes a supplement derived from fresh, uncontaminated, lab-grown microalgae for anyone who is concerned he or she may not be consuming enough DHA and EPA fats.

Carnitine does not have to be consumed directly. The human body makes its own in the liver and kidneys. People consuming a well-rounded plant-based diet will automatically be equipped with the building blocks needed to make this essential amino acid.

As far as I can see, the "definite and scary" "risks" of a vegan diet are mysterious and exemplified only by a few misguided individuals who are adopting the lifestyle without having done any reading on the subject. Of course simply subtracting nonvegan foods from a pitiful standard American diet is going to leave people who were already malnourished in an equally poor or poorer condition than the one they started in. But educating yourself and making the change to a colorful and well-rounded vegetable-rich plant-based diet has huge benefits in preventing and reversing disease, avoiding obesity, and increasing overall vitality, for mothers-in-progress and their eventual offspring.

As far as a book that explains veganism to kids, I think Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Center, said it best in an ABC News article:
"As long as any nutrient shortfalls are addressed, a vegan diet is certainly apt to be better for most kids than than the typical American diet they have now." 
He went on to say:
"Adults are too willing to turn a blind eye to the way our animal-based diets are achieved. The torture and maltreatment of animals are real, whether or not we acknowledge them. Adults can make the conscious choice not to look there, to help protect a lifetime of dietary preferences. Kids are more malleable and impressionable. Maybe childhood is the best time to create awareness and change behavior accordingly."
Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.
My Voice Nation Help
37 comments
Michelle
Michelle

During my vegan pregnancy I went to two nutritionists (due to changing doctors) and BOTH said that I was one of the healthiest pregnant women they saw because I was informed and paying attention to my diet. They both told me that most of the women that come see them know very little about vitamins, nutrients, serving sizes, etc. I took a vegan prenatal vitamin, never needed any other supplements, never went anemic and gave birth to an 8lb, 1 oz healthy baby girl. I exclusively breastfed while maintaining my vegan diet. For her first 9 months of life she was literally off the percentile chart for height and in the 75 percentile for weight. 

 

I think that the sad fact is that newborns sometimes die because mothers are uninformed or unsupported no matter what their diet is. Neither my obstetrician nor pediatrician has made a big deal about my vegan choices, because I think about the food that's going into my body and my baby's. I can't say how many times I've seen a 10 month old eating ice cream or a toddler sucking the grease from a french fry. Vegan or not, some people make poor dietary choices. I also second looking at the American Dietetic Association guidelines. People have researched this.

 

Thank you for providing such a strong rebuttal. 

Erika McDaniel
Erika McDaniel

As a clinical nutritionist, I do have to mention a couple of ideas.  People who are bashing animal products are mentioning "hormone-laden, never see the light of day, treated inhumanely" animals.  Those meats are the WORST to consume and are the reason behind many degenerative diseases we are facing today.  However, organically raised, grass fed, truly free range, treated humanely etc....meats are never the ones that are studied in the research that demonizes meat eating.  From a health standpoint, it's not a fair comparison to eating organic forms of animal products.

There are certain people, based on their metabolic type, who will fare poorly even on a well balanced vegan diet.  (While I've taken courses about the effects of an individual's metabolic type on diet, I am in no way an expert and am not claiming to know the absolute truth on this).  I am mentioning it as food for thought.

I have had clients who for ethical reasons do not want to eat meat, but then they end up going the opposite direction in their health.  Especially during pregnancy.  And they happen to be that metabolic type.  I feel horribly for them having to suggest they start incorporating organic meat, but ethically I need to share my knowledge and experience with them - they can do what they want with the info.

In any case, I get saddened to see the veg vs. meat debate get so polarizing.  One size does not fit all - for some people, they will THRIVE on a vegan diet.  Others will not (even when they follow all the dietary guidelines to meet all the nutritional needs).  

Each person needs to listen to their own body, and realize that other people will do the same and just because someone chooses one diet over another, does not make them ignorant or less enlightened.  This is what I always advocate, no matter which side of the "debate" you fall on.

BeaElliott
BeaElliott

Many thanks for the excellent response!

ViancaGorordo
ViancaGorordo

Its important that pregnant moms to be healthy and being healthy you can prevent diseases like kidney disease. Kidney disease is known to be the silent killer because its symptoms are not quite obvious. Which makes it one of the top 10 leading causes of death. If you want to know more about kidney disease, here's a link http://diseasedietcentral.com

lulu
lulu

Bravo. A well-thought out response to what has been a lot of poorly supported claims in the criticism of this book. As long as you learn to consume what you need, you can make choices so that there is no dissonance between your consumption and your morals. 

guest
guest

you know what vegetarian breast milk is nearly devoid of (1/100th) vs omnivore breast milk? pesticides. and vegan cancer rates are 10% of their's too. man, we are missing out on so much...

Rachel Avalon
Rachel Avalon

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist and vegan. I had a wonderfully healthy, vegan pregnancy in 2011 and now my breastfed baby is in the 80th percentile for height and weight. He has advanced motor skills and his (non-vegan) pediatrician has no concerns with his health or diet. Our story is more common than the media and general public often realizes. Thanks for your article!

joeyrain
joeyrain

People are very scared that they will have to give up want they want to eat if they look to close to the facts. Good job getting some real information out there.

crom14
crom14

I keep looking for many Dr's of Nutrition or anyone that has done research on this subject to come forward and clear this up once and for all.  Who could think in their right mind that eating blood,flesh of a poor animal has been raised never seeing sunshine or grass, shot up with drugs, chained,caged and many times laying in feces, taken from his/ her Mother at birth ( because it is healthier then her nursing them ??!!XX)is in some way "heathy " for ANYONE?

Yeshim
Yeshim

Great response and I completely agree every word of it. Thank you!

cybergabi
cybergabi

I tried to comment on the horrible LA Times piece, but technology failed on me - so yay for this thoughtful reply.

Romi
Romi

Thank you SO much for writing this article! I was getting seriously frustrated every time I read all the non-sense about veganism and all the ignorant attacks that Ruby got these days. Finally an AWESOME article based on actual scientific facts and knowledge.Today I got my hemoglobine checked (cause I've donated blood) and oh my goodness! Vegan blood rocks! 9.5 mmol/L!! Even the nurses thought it was amazing for a girl!Thanks again!!Love from Holland

STLVegans
STLVegans

Thank you for dispelling some of this rampant disinformation. We need your voice.

Deewilcox84
Deewilcox84

Excellent rebuttle! Thank you for speaking the truth and bringing light to this misinformed article and author...what a ignoramus! More articles like yours please :) keep up the GREAT work!

Ukuleleandy21
Ukuleleandy21

What is really most interesting to me, as a social psychology phenomenon, is how committed omnivores get so worked up about someone who suggests veganism is a more thoughtful, conscious, and healthy way to eat.  If I was one of them I'd simply say, "Vegan, schmegan", and get on with my life.  But so many people get irate and spend a good deal of time writing vitriolic comments on blogs and elsewhere condemning veganism, most in quite an ignorant fashion.   It puts me in mind of a psychological concept I learned about in college, known as cognitive dissonance.  Perhaps there are a lot of people who already, maybe even subconsciously, have a moral ambiguity about eating animals but the concept is in conflict with their eating habits and lifestyle.  In classical examples of cognitive dissonance, subjects will often choose the alternative which is most easily attained (McDonald's vs washed and prepped kale salad for example), while vehemently criticizing the other alternative, i.e.they become biased towards a decision even though other factors, such as environmental factors or health, favour another alternative .  Smoking is a common example of cognitive dissonance because it is widely accepted that cigarettes are harmful to your health, and smokers must reconcile their disgusting habit with the desire to live long and healthy lives. In terms of the theory of CD, the desire to live a long life is dissonant with the activity of doing something that will most likely shorten one's life. The tension produced by these contradictory ideas might be reduced by any number of changes in cognitions or behaviors, including quitting smoking, but also often denying the evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease.   Notice the parallels with the anti-vegans? 

LisaF
LisaF

Thank you for presenting the facts so eloquently! I'm about to give birth to two very healthy girls and am sick of defending my vegan dietary choices. It's sad that many people just don't want to consider another point of view if it's inconvenient to them. And even sadder that they certainly don't want to consider that what they've always believed may not be the best choice.

Sugati
Sugati

Such an informed response to such nonsense!  I'm a vegan parent and my children have been vegan since birth- they're all the healthier for it!  Thank you!

Ari
Ari

Thank you for writing this fantastic take down! It should also be noted that the "expert" cookbook writer's husband owns and runs a cheese shop and charcuterie in New York. No conflict of interest there. Quite something to be against veganism when your livelihood depends on people not being vegan.

divavegan
divavegan

Great response! I have been vegan for a very long time and I get my vitamin levels tested regularly. My levels of B-12, Iron and D were all in healhy ranges. My meat eating friends went and took the same test and all 5 of them were D deficient and 3 were iron deficient. Not to mention that 2 of my friends have high cholesterol and they are under 30. If you eat a well balanced vegan diet full of whole foods, you are going to be healthier than most of your peers.

Heatherdee
Heatherdee

As a completely plant-based mother of two healthy, intelligent, active, thriving boys, I want to thank you for writing this article. We have annual physicals and have had blood work. We are not in any way deficient. We have the support of our doctor, of our dietitian, the American Dietetic Association, as well as a *vast* and overwhelming number of scientific studies, not to mention a *huge* list of medical professionals who are having *incredible* success in preventing and reversing ailments and chronic disease. 

There is a lot of ignorance, as well as hugely uninformed opinions carelessly being publicized. If I were any one of those people who spoke/wrote so ignorantly about veganism, I would be incredibly embarrassed.They really should do some honest in-depth research first. Hey, here's an idea....they should research both sides, then come to their conclusion. That's what I did! That would be a *great* start for them. 

bbvv
bbvv

Great article!  Thanks for presenting the FACTS!!

Amanda Erickson
Amanda Erickson

Thank you, Camille, for being the voice of informed reason.

Crystal Hammer
Crystal Hammer

Thank you for clearing the air of all the fear-based reporting saying a vegan diet is wrong for children.

Ryan_kelly
Ryan_kelly

Thank you for writing such a well written piece with factual evidence!

Aidan Mountford
Aidan Mountford

Very well said. About B-12: in the UK it's in most standard breakfast cereals (and given that they are designed to be drenched in cow's milk, it's not there for the vegans...) and it's in milk and yogurt alternatives. I've had more than enough by the time I've finished breakfast.

Jo
Jo

I find it incredibly frustrating that journalists never seem to consult the American Dietetic Association with regards to this issue. Instead, they share as gospel the ignorant "opinions" of cookbook authors and meat-peddlers. The ADA clearly states that a properly planned vegan diet is nutritionally appropriate for humans at ALL life stages. So much of this fear-mongering could be avoided if journalists took just a moment to do some basic research before publishing the opinions of the unqualified and ill-informed. http://www.eatright.org/about/...

Tracy
Tracy

Excellent, excellent peice!!!! :)

EatRight
EatRight

Alexandra Le Tellier, another idiot know-nothing trying to tell everyone the 'facts'.  She sucks.

Dani
Dani

I completely agree! I have been keeping my eye on vegan related articles since Ruby Roth's book has been media burned repeatedly. It's great to see an informative response to one of the most ignorant articles yet. Thanks Camille!

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...