Liberation BC & PCRM: Vegan Diet Doesn’t Cause Birth Defects

March 4th, 2009 4:02 pm by Kelly Garbato

Sigh. Almost two years after “vegan” parents Lamont Thomas and Jade Sanders were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for starving their son, Crown Shakur, to death (hence Nina Planck’s oh-so-clever – and, not to mention, compassionate – “Death by Veganism” column title), non-vegans *still* refer to this case as proof that vegan diets are inherently unhealthy and unsuitable for infants and children. (And, in more extreme cases, that vegan diets constitute child abuse and warrant state intervention.) Even though, as I explain at over at Bitch, these “death by veganism” cases could be more accurately described as “death by starvation.” With proper knowledge and planning, vegan diets are actually healthier than diets which involve animals and animal by-products. For infants, breast milk and soy formula – rather than the soy milk and apple juice Crown Shakur received – are part of a healthy vegan diet.

Anyhow, cue the latest bit of anti-vegan scare-mongering: “Vegan diet tied to birth defects,” which PCRM and Liberation BC critique below. Please consider contacting the newspapers that ran the story, and politely correct their shoddy science “reporting.”

Mary Martin at Animal Person also offers an interesting deconstruction of PCRM’s press release from a radical vegan perspective. I’m embarassed to say that I didn’t pick up on PCRM’s odd choice of wording at first!

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Liberation BC
Date: Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 4:10 PM
Subject: Vegan Diet Doesn’t Cause Birth Defects

Liberation BC has had a few people write to us asking about an article in several newspapers, “Vegan diet tied to birth defects”, so we thought we’d send out an Action Alert with a little more information.

The article claims that a study shows that “…vegans and women who eat little or no meat, fish, eggs, milk or cheese are at the highest risk, as well as women with stomach or intestinal problems…that keep them from absorbing enough B12.”

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has issued a press release in response, stating that what the article doesn’t mention is that “…the study is based on analysis of stored blood samples originally collected during pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990. It’s not clear if any of the women were vegan, but the study clearly states that this population was deliberately chosen because vitamin supplementation and food fortification were rare at that time. The women lived in a region of traditionally high neural tube defects prevalence, suggesting a moderately high genetic predisposition.” (Doctors endorse vegan and vegetarian diets for healthy pregnancies, 2 Mar 2009)

Of course, it is absolutely true that everyone needs to get B12. It is the only vitamin or mineral that one cannot get on a totally vegan diet. An incredibly small amount of it is necessary–less than 10 micrograms a day–and yet it is so important that without it, we can become very ill indeed. Fortunately, however, it is also a very easy vitamin to get.

It is also worth noting that the experts wholly endorse a vegan diet. The Dieticians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association have stated that:

“Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation. Appropriately planned vegan diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth.”

Learn more about B12, where it comes from, and how to get it, at VeganHealth.org.

And check out some great photos of healthy, happy vegan kids!

It is very important that newspapers realize that a vegan diet is perfectly appropriate for a healthy life, including pregnancy! Please contact the local papers which published this deceptive article and let them know how you feel: National Post, Vancouver Sun (sunletters [at] vancouversun.com), The Province (provletters [at] theprovince.com), and the Victoria Times-Colonist (letters [at] tc.canwest.com)!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Becci

The following physical address is associated with this mailing list:
Liberation BC PO Box 14324 Granville Island Post Office Vancouver, BC V6H 4J6

———————–

Doctors Endorse Vegan and Vegetarian Diets for Healthy Pregnancies

Nutrition Experts Available for Comment in Response to NIH Study About B12

WASHINGTON—Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are healthful choices for pregnant women and their children, and vitamin B12 needs can be easily met with fortified foods or any common multivitamin, say doctors and dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). PCRM nutrition experts are available for comment in response to a new Pediatrics study showing that low levels of vitamin B12 may increase the risk for neural tube defects.

The Pediatrics study is based on analysis of stored blood samples originally collected during pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990. There’s no indication that any of the women were vegan or vegetarian, but the study clearly states that this population was deliberately chosen because vitamin supplementation and food fortification were rare at that time. The women lived in a region of traditionally high neural tube defects prevalence, suggesting a moderately high genetic predisposition.

“Because of the way that the samples were obtained for our study, we were not able to determine whether or not the women were vegans,” study author James Mills explained in an e-mail responding to questions about the study. “At the time that the study samples were collected, I think it is safe to say that vegans were uncommon.”

Experts agree that pregnant women can thrive on vegan diets. The American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, states that “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.” Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher levels of fiber, folate, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

“Women who follow vegan diets not only have healthy pregnancies, they are often healthier than moms who consume meat,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., staff dietitian with PCRM. “By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthful vegetarian foods and including breakfast cereals or other foods fortified with vitamin B12, mothers and their children can obtain all the nutrients they need to thrive.”

Choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet can also help women avoid the unhealthy hormones and environmental toxins found in dairy products, meat, and fish. Analyses of vegetarians’ breast milk show that the levels of environmental contaminants in milk are much lower than in non-vegetarians.

Vitamin B12 needs can be met easily with fortified breakfast cereals and soymilk, which are low in fat and calories. The most convenient and reliable B12 source is a daily multivitamin.

For more information or an interview with Ms. Levin or another PCRM nutrition expert or a vegan mother, please contact Tara Failey at 202-686-2210, ext. 319, or tfailey [at] pcrm.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Tara Failey
202-686-2210, ext. 319
tfailey [at] pcrm.org

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D

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