23 May 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Death by Veganism,” by Nina Planck (Op-Ed, May 21):

I am a nutritionist who testified as an expert witness for the prosecution in the criminal trial of the parents of Crown Shakur. As the lead prosecutor in this case told the jury, this poor infant was not killed by a vegan diet. He was starved to death by parents who did not give him breast milk, soy-based infant formula or enough food of any kind.

Well-planned vegan diets are healthful for pregnant mothers and their infants, as well as for older children, according to a large body of scientific research. Contrary to Ms. Planck’s assertions, there are healthy plant-based sources of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA; calcium can be absorbed about as readily from soy milk as from cow’s milk; and soy does not inhibit growth.

Studies have found that vegan children are within the normal ranges for weight and height, and I personally know vegan mothers and vegan children who are healthier than many of their omnivorous peers.

Amy Joy Lanou
Washington, May 21, 2007
The writer is senior nutrition scientist, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

To the Editor:

Nina Planck’s article touches on a particularly important topic. Her use of the term food “fashion” is appropriate: many people today do not make informed choices about their diet; rather, they are influenced by trends, advertising and the political correctness of food.

Many adults do not understand the difference between feeding a baby, a child and themselves. Babies and young children who do not receive a balanced diet, with complete proteins, fats and vitamins, face potential lifelong developmental and cognitive delays. The medical journal Lancet recently published findings showing that children who are not adequately nourished in the first five years of life sometimes never catch up to their peers.

A diet that may be adequate for an adult is not always good for a baby or a child. Feed your children properly now; they will thank you later.

Ross Smith
New York, May 21, 2007

To the Editor:

I am shocked by the ignorance of the recent outcry against vegan diets in the media, most recently Nina Planck’s article about the dangers and irresponsibility of vegan diets during pregnancy and infancy. What these naysayers consistently neglect is that vegan diets, as with all other restricted diets, must be well planned.

It is not enough to simply cut animal products (or carbohydrates, or calories) out of one’s diet. Without a concerted effort by the consumer, restricted diets of any kind may fail to provide adequate nutrition.

Generalizing from a handful of ignorant vegans to the entire vegan population does a disservice to those of us who have spent years educating ourselves on human nutritional needs and how to meet them on a plant-based diet.

Well-planned vegan diets have been shown repeatedly to be sufficient, and even beneficial at all stages of life, including during pregnancy and infancy.

Nicole Speer
Boulder, Colo., May 21, 2007

To the Editor:

“Soy milk and apple juice” is not a vegan diet. Such a regimen would jeopardize anyone’s health, whether infant or adult.

Although vegans do not eat foods derived from animals, we do eat everything else—and enjoy a delicious array of high-nutrient foods, including grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and herbs prepared in tantalizing combinations and textures. It is well settled that a balanced diet of these foods provides the same essential amino acids that Nina Planck finds in an egg.

I’ll leave the question of infant care to the physicians, but I know firsthand that an adult vegan can enjoy robust physical health without contributing to the cruel suffering of animals on today’s factory farms.

Lynette C. Kelly
New York, May 21, 2007

To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing Nina Planck’s excellent article, “Death by Veganism.”

It’s appalling that anyone would think that a diet based on a dubious morality would build a human infant. Children need protein.

George Mazzei
St. Petersburg, Fla., May 21, 2007

To the Editor:

“Death by Veganism,” by Nina Planck, strays far from the truth about vegan diets. I’ve raised a vegan child since conception. Although I am a 5-foot-1, 98-pound woman, and my husband is 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, both of us having grown up on meat and dairy, our son was a long 22 inches and 8 pounds 9 ounces at birth.

His pediatrician marveled at his outstanding health. She warned us to expect him to have colds and fevers regularly once he started day care, but he got sick only once during his first three years of life. He’s now 13 and remains healthy and strong.

Yes, vegans need to ensure that their children get proper nutrition, including vitamin B12 and omega-3s, but this is easy to do. What’s harder is having a child who eats the typical American diet stay healthy.

Zoe Weil
Surry, Me., May 21, 2007

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