Vegetarians and Malnutrition

by Ann Marie Michaels on July 10, 2008

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Former Raw Vegan Admits Her Children Were Malnourished

Holly Paige couldn’t understand why her children, Bertie, then four, and Lizzie, three, were looking so drawn and skinny, yet their stomachs were full.

Then when Lizzie smiled at her one day, Holly was horrified to see that her top row of teeth were brown and full of cavities.

‘I couldn’t work out what was going on,’ says Holly, who lives in Totnes, Devon. ‘We all ate exceptionally healthily, with plenty of vegetables, nuts and seeds.’

The problem was that this was all the Paiges ate. They had a strict vegan diet, and ate only raw food.

From the day they were weaned, Bertie and Lizzie had never eaten meat, fish or dairy foods – except a slice of raw goat’s cheese once a month.

‘I’d heard about the raw food diet through a friend and thought it sounded like a really healthy thing to do,’ says Holly, 45.

‘I was assured by the people who devised the diet that we would get all the protein we needed from nuts and seeds, and we also took a daily supplement to replace the nutrients found in animal foods.

‘We also ate pulses, grains and soya; I thought we were on the most nutritious diet possible.

‘But then I started noticing that something wasn’t right. The children were wearing clothes two sizes smaller than they should have been. I have two older children and they never had growth problems or tooth decay. Bertie and Lizzie’s muscles seemed weak and they had problems seeing at night.

‘When we went to the supermarket, Lizzie would grab a pack of butter and start gnawing on it. I couldn’t understand why this well-fed child was behaving like this. I was so brainwashed that the fact our bodies were craving dairy products had passed me by.’

Holly referred to a vitamin book, where she discovered the children’s symptoms were a sign of serious protein and vitamin D deficiency.

She immediately introduced dairy into their diet, and says the change in the children’s health has been ‘remarkable’.

Read the whole story: How a Strict Vegan Diet Made My Children Ill

In a related story, a 12-year-old Glasgow girl brought up by her parents on a strict vegan diet was admitted to hospital with a degenerative bone condition which left her with the spine of an 80-year-old.

Professor Tom Sanders, head of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, warned that while most vegan parents give their children vitamin and mineral supplements, there was a core of hardliners putting their children’s health at risk.

Read the whole story here: Vegan Girl, 12, ‘Has Spine of 80-Year-Old’

A lot of people say raw veganism is a healthy diet. But let me ask you something. If a diet requires synthetic supplementation in order to get adequate nutrients, how can it be healthy?

Another story worth reading is Chris Masterjohn’s story of health decline after he went vegetarian:

In the second year of being vegetarian, I began having several full-blown panic attacks per week that were becoming disabling. I was overall lethargic and apathetic. And then, I went to the dentist and was struck with the final blow.

Fifteen cavities, and two dead teeth needing root canals! How could this be? I had been sure that, since eating animal protein was what caused the body to acidify and leach calcium from bones and teeth, I would be immune to tooth decay. And the phytoestrogens in soy that supposedly help assimilate calcium should have been an extra defense, sealing shut for good the possiblity of a cavity.

Yet there it was. Tooth decay. And not just any tooth decay– massive tooth decay.

Read Chris’s story on his website, Cholesterol and Health.

To me, these stories (and many others which you can find online), make it very clear: we need meat and dairy products in our diet to be healthy. I think you can get along okay on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. But we are simply not built to live soley on plant foods.

And raising children vegan is a terrible idea.

In the words of Nina Planck:

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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