Note: After all of this recent insanity concerning vegan diets, a few reasonable voices have been railing back, trying to take the passion out of the logic about the health of a vegan diet and replacing it with some genuine science. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (not The New York Times, unfortunately) published the following story on June 11, 2007, by Amy Joy Lanou, a senior nutrition scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
By AMY JOY LANOU
It was a horrific crime. Last month in Atlanta, two parents were convicted of intentionally starving their six-week-old child to death. As part of their defense, the parents of Crown Shakur claimed that they are vegan, meaning that they do not consume meat, dairy, or other animal products. Their conviction has brought international attention to vegan childrearing.
As a nutritionist who testified as an expert witness for the prosecution in this trial, I want to clear up some disturbing misunderstandings about this case. Vegan diets are not only safe for babies; they're healthier than ones based on animal products.
Crown was not killed by a vegan diet. As the autopsy report stated, Crown died of complications of starvation. His parents fed him the wrong food for an infant — soymilk and apple juice. But the real problem was that he was not given enough food of any sort.
The other reason Crown died was that his parents did not seek medical care or even advice from a relative when it was clearly warranted. Parents have a legal and moral responsibility to protect their children and keep them well-fed. And doctors and nutritionists agree that the best food for infants is mother's breast milk. The only viable alternative for the first six months of life is infant formula. Many nutrition experts recommend soy-based formulas. Interestingly, the breast milk of vegan mothers has been shown to contain significantly lower levels of environmental contaminants, such as pesticides, dioxins, and bovine growth hormone, than the breast milk of meat-eating mothers.
First weaning foods, which should generally be introduced around six months of life, are nearly always foods from plant sources — mashed cooked vegetables, mashed fruit, or rice-cereal thinned with breast milk or formula if need be.
A few months later, more protein-dense foods can be offered. Good choices include mashed beans, lentils and peas. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cow's milk is not recommended at all during the first year or so of life. Its consumption increases the risk of diabetes.
According to the American Dietetics Association, there is no need to introduce any meats, eggs, or dairy products into an infant, toddler, or child's diet. Well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets not only provide all the nutrients necessary to support growth, they also promote good health in childhood and start disease prevention early.
That all sounds pretty darn responsible to me.