Monday, May 21, 2007

Veganism: Bad for toddlers?

As someone who's not particularly sympathetic to the vegan cause, I tend to agree with the things Nina Planck says in her NYTimes column today. But I am not very well informed about the scientific details here, so I presume vegans will come forward to justify their choice not just for themselves, but also for their children. If you know of any rebuttals, please let me know, so that I can link to them too. Here are two key paragraphs from Planck's column:

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.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Marvin Harris (Columbia Univ - Anthropologist) in his book Cows, Pigs and Witches proposes that meat eating is essential for humans to get their required quota of essential Amino acids and proteins. Gods, Kings & Cannibals and Our Kind - other books by the same others dwells on meat eating too among other things

  2. Yogesh K. Upadhyaya said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  3. Yogesh K. Upadhyaya said...

    There is a never-ending debate going over the pros and cons of being a vegetarian. It is true that meat is quickly digested by our body (being similar to our stomach tissues) and it gives plenty of Vitamin A & D (you see very few American kids with glasses).

    According an article I read on, humans and apes turned into vegetarian and fruit-eaters, as their fast developing brains needed sucrose for nourishment.


    Yogesh K. Upadhyaya

  4. Saurabh said...

    hmm... and i always thought that vegetarian diet is best, and natural. but this article again doesn't provide a clear-cut answer... i wish doctors (instead of anthropologists and writers) would come out with some sort of a unanimous conclusion on this.

  5. Blue said...

    I'll disagree with the "you don't see many American kids in glasses" thing.

    My elementary school classmates and I all got glasses around the same time... just like we all got chicken pox together.

    I know more people (kids and adults) who wear corrective lenses than don't, although a lot of them wear contacts so it's hard to tell. ^__^

  6. Anonymous said...

    I think the growth of a human being is a complicated issue. My grand mother who lived on watery curd rice twice a day, lived very healthy up to a grand old age of 96. In the west, there is an over emphasis on proteins whereas India is an example of the fact that a variety of diets is possible for human body development.
    In the west children eat meat or fish twice a day regularly these days whereas they did that twice a week 50 years ago. All the kids grew taller than their parents but it is not clear if they are healthier.
    Due to fear of heart diseases, offlate, everyone has started eating so much fish that there will soon be no fish left in the seas. Whether it is good for health or not, massive meat and fish eating is not sustainable in the long run.

  7. Jeff said...


    Thanks for keeping an open mind and I hope you will link to corrections for this article.

    The first is that the leading dietetic associations in the U.S. and Canada agree that (well-planned) veganism is okay:

    "Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence."

    And protein is not a problem either:

    "This position paper reviews the current scientific data related to key nutrients for vegetarians, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine. A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients."


    Nina Planck fails to give any references to refute this. On her blog she says she talked to a single doctor. She also blames the child's death on veganism. In reality, the child starved to death because the parents weren't feeding him enough and also the apple juice caused further dehydration. They were afraid of germs in hospitals so they never brought the baby in for any care. This tragedy has little to do with the vegan lifestyle. No vegan group I know of would recommend feeding a child strictly soymilk and apple juice.

    In general, vegetarian diets do promote longer life (depending on what you eat, of course). Here is a summary of several studies: