There are no other kind.
My husband groaned when I pointed out a couple weeks ago, the couple who starved their baby to death by refusing to give the baby protein. Stupid. And then there's the family who starved their toddler a few years back. My husband, the chiropractic physician, knew that the news was blog-worthy and I would, eventually, blog about it. "Please don't say vegans are stupid. Can you at least put it a nice way?" he urged. Well no, I can't. Actually, I had forgotten about the stupid vegan thing, but Glenn Reynold's post reminded me. He says he had a girlfriend who came down with Kwashiorkor from her vegan diet. Amusing and unsurprising.
One of my first patients in clinic was a stupid vegan. When I pointed out her leather shoes, she shrugged. The next week, she had on some plastic shoes. I told her that there was no way to stay healthy long-term by being vegan. She was a college student, a nice girl, but she was making herself increasingly sick with severe B vitamin deficiencies typical of long-term vegans and vegetarians. Her B vitamin deficiency was already contributing to an anemia that made her very sick when she menstruated. Eventually, she'd be that sick all the time.
"Have you seen one healthy vegan in your years of practice?" I asked my husband rhetorically. He knew the answer. We had treated one healthy vegetarian. She was very meticulous about her food pairings to get proteins. And she was healthy. One lady in ten years of practice.
Because we are in the "alternative health" field, we see more "alternative" lifestyles than the average health care practitioner. We see a lot of vegetarians and vegans. To a person, they are all marginally healthy. The vegans are sickly. Their bodies lack definition. Their demeanors lack vitality. Their skin is dull.
It serves no purpose to pretend that veganism is a healthy lifestyle choice. It's not. Eventually, the stores of vitamin B12 in their livers will be depleted and they'll descend into madness. More madness. I'm only slightly exaggerating. In addition to the B12 problem, they'll have problems with folate, too. (Another B vitamin.) It is important to supplement with both, when supplementing with one. A pregnant or nursing woman should never adhere to a vegan diet.
When a patient says she is a vegan, I ask if it's for health or philosophical reasons. If it's health, we go through the science and end the nonsense. If it's philosophical, I don't even bother. I recommend the supplementation, ask the patient to look at the research, and hope for the best.
A friend of a friend came to a birthday party with her waifish two year old. She was a hostile little girl who was clearly malnourished. (I'd be irritable, too, if I was hungry and lacking nutrients.) There was no convincing this woman to add protein to her child's diet. Her husband, an executive for Exxon, caused her no end of mortification. "What can I do? He works for an oil company," she explained when I commented that their lifestyle was owed to a big American business. Anyway, she was starving her children once weaned from breastfeeding.
Nina Planck writes about parents starving their children with veganism in her "Death by Veganism" op-ed in The New York Times:
Responsible vegan parents know that breast milk is ideal. It contains many necessary components, including cholesterol (which babies use to make nerve cells) and countless immune and growth factors. When breastfeeding isn’t possible, soy milk and fruit juice, even in seemingly sufficient quantities, are not safe substitutes for a quality infant formula.A good diet is simple, really, and most people know the answer. Fresh fruits, lots of them, vegetables, and some meat. At least nine ounces of red meat a week, is a good goal to shoot for. Eggs, cheese, light on the sugar, moderate on the alcohol and good fats. Babies need breast milk. After that, they need a balanced diet including protein.
Yet even a breast-fed baby is at risk. Studies show that vegan breast milk lacks enough docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, the omega-3 fat found in fatty fish. It is difficult to overstate the importance of DHA, vital as it is for eye and brain development.
I don't know what to think of the life sentences for the parents who starved their baby. I'm assuming it was from ignorance. While I'm happy that the sentence gets them beyond their child-bearing years, I'm not sure they fall into the same category as cold-blooded murderers. But the mother said that she loved her son and, "I did not starve him." Well, she clearly starved him. At six weeks old, he died being only 3 and 1/2 pounds. And that's a crime.