No Vegans in Foxholes

From the New York Times:

WHEN Crown Shakur died of starvation, he was 6 weeks old and weighed 3.5 pounds. His vegan parents, who fed him mainly soy milk and apple juice, were convicted in Atlanta recently of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty.

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.

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.

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I read this op-ed when it came out. It is filled with factual inaccuracies -- everything from the fact that there are, in fact, vegan societies, to a failure to note that there are plenty of sources of omega 3 fatty acids in a vegan diet (and that lack of such fatty acids is as big a problem for non-vegetarian children as it is for vegan children), to a "small" omission" by the author: failing to mention the fact that there are actual peer reviewed medical studies on vegan children vs. children with ordinary diets, and the results of those studies do not support the claim in the op ed.

It is stupid not to breast feed your kids, but after weaning children have no special need for dairy products, and in fact, only a small fraction of the world's population has the genetic mutation that permits digestion of dairy products after infancy in the first place. If you're not of European descent, chances are that you're lactose intolerant. (There are a couple of African lineages that can digest lactose as well, but most of the world loses the ability to digest lactose after infancy, which is one reason you don't find dairy in, say, the Chinese diet.) The authors note an isolated case of crazy people malnourishing their child, but this is hardly evidence for their position, any more than the fact that some people who are not vegans have malnourished their children is evidence for a vegan diet.

The piece was the purest lump of excrement I've ever seen in the Times, and I've seen pretty bad stuff in the past. The only thing in it that was vaguely accurate was the fact that B12 is not present in a modern vegan diet (one needs very tiny amounts and traditional vegan societies got enough from accidental insect and dirt ingestion), but even that was ridiculously overhyped. I've never seen an article where not merely the majority but in fact the overwhelming majority of the facts were nearly made up before, but I suppose there is a first for everything.

FYI, the piece was also written by an author about to go out on a tour hyping their new book on children's nutrition.

I blogged on this earlier

I blogged on this earlier yesterday and had a couple of vegans show up to correct me too. You might be interested in the discussion and links in the comments.

Perry beat me to it. I'm

Perry beat me to it.

I'm neither a vegan nor a vegarian, but this story has no bearing whatsoever on the optimal diet for an adult human.

Apparently these vegans were to stupid to realize what the human mammary gland is there for, or that infants are one group that most definitely should not attempt a dairy-free lifestyle. It's a shame that natural selection skipped a generation; I wish those two had died before they had a chance to reproduce and inflict such a horrible death on their offspring.

I hope the Times has the

I hope the Times has the decency to print a letter to the editor rebutting Plancik's allegations.

Lester Hunt


For those worried about a vegan diet being too low in B-12, here's a note. If your digesive tract has plenty of friendly lactobacillus, and other beneficial bacteria, don't worry. They will produce B-12 for you.
And of course, the best way to get those friendly flora in the first place? Mother's milk. And the best way to keep them there? A VEGAN diet. Good eating!