Saturday, 14 November 2015

V is for animal flesh deficiency

Like the several hundred papers I have on my hard drive, I can’t quite remember how I came upon von Schenck et al, - The persistence of neurological damage induced by dietary vitamin B-12 deficiency in infancy

You could, quite understandably, read it and conclude that vegan parents who subject their offspring to their nutritional beliefs are a special breed of deluded, but there’s always the counter-argument, admittedly fairly feeble, that kids’ nutrition is generally pretty shitty over the entire population.

Brain damage from B12 deficiency vs type 2 diabetes from hyperglycemia…discuss. 

Beyond a regular vitamin pill, I have no idea the safeguards vegans (generally and presently) put in place to avoid what happened to the child in von Schenck, but I would hope they are substantial. How a parent could watch their child deteriorate to such an extent before seeking help is hard to comprehend. 

The parents did eventually seek medical advice and the child received the vitamin B he was lacking (not by food, obviously because well...that would be unacceptable), however it appears the damage had already been done and he showed evidence of neurological damage months later.

von Schenck et al table similar instances of dietary deficiency as follows:

I’d saved the paper and not thought much more of it because I don’t like to waste my time on what vegans do, and anyway, I’m not sure it’s relevant to the generally 'switched on' population of B12-aware plant people. 

OK, I'm obviously going out of my way to be open-minded here. One could discuss the merits of any child-focused nutrition plan until the beautiful, tasty cows come home – but I’m sort of ashamed to admit that the rationale behind feeding a toddler as if it were a pet rabbit, is just a tad intriguing.

I didn't try too hard to find some logic online, but the few links I did skim, were not entirely convincing, including one bizarre suggestion that if push came to shove, eating poo would be an option for B12 adequacy. Juicy steak or poo? Mmm, decisions.

The poor German kid in von Schenck's paper was apparently born in the 1990's, so surely that kind of stuff doesn't happen any more. But it does, as Kocaoglu et al found not too long ago:

"A 12-month old male infant from the province of Konya, Turkey, was referred to the Pediatrics Clinic of Konya Education and Research Hospital because of developmental regression and growth retardation in April 2012"

Another sad case, with the authors concluding - "To increase the dietary intake of vitamin B12, the diet should be rich in foods of animal origin, such as dairy products, red meat, egg and fish."

Whoa there, sciencey people in lab coats, you are obviously not up to date with current nutritional evidence because that is some dangerous shit right there. Vego-induced brain damage might be bad, but eating red meat and other foods of animal origin is just crazy talk.

Which sort of takes me to the point of this post (yes, there is one beyond vegan-shaming). Searching for the word "vegan" in our nutritional guidelines , there are a couple of references to Vitamin B12 supplementation. 

But there are no references to papers such as the ones I've noted here and nowhere near the alarmism as there is with animal products, red meat and saturated fat. Saturated fat is in the headlights, leaving no-one in doubt as to its danger, but a diet that can potentially lead to brain damage and delayed development in little kids is strangely not worth emphasizing.

I find this a little odd, but not totally surprising considering the people who write these things. A site dedicated to "healthy kids" is quite adamant, that cutting out whole food groups is both dangerous and unnecessary. 
paleo diet, not good for "you" heart. Kids, who can spell "literacy"?
Their page dedicated to vegetarianism (not in the fad diet page, of course), says:

"Vegetarian and vegan diets are those that cut out meat and/or animal products. The reasons for doing so differ from person to person, but may include religion, animal rights or just plain taste preference."

It seems that cutting out entire food groups is OK if that food group is animal products. Admittedly they do mention B12 and ensuring nutritional adequacy, but the two pages are like night and day. 

Time to wrap up with debatable generalisations in the form of my favourite type of questions:

Will basing your child's diet on animal products risk permanent neurological problems? No.

Will it, as one can only assume the logic of the authorities is implying, result in obesity and long term cardiovascular problems? Probably not, subject to how much refined carbohydrates they are allowed to consume.

If what you were feeding an infant in your care was clearly threatening their life and/or physical and mental well-being, would you consider compromising on your own personal beliefs,no matter how entrenched? 

There are clearly some very ignorant and idiotic people in this world, no matter what their dietary beliefs, but that last question is not debatable.