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Well-Meaning Parents Placing Their Children At Risk

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Well-meaning parents, ignorant of basic critical thinking, allow themselves to get duped by alternative medicine and questionable nutrition advice from snake-oil marketers who have shamelessly turned the general public into one big dietary experiment. Recent years has seen beleaguered parents deluged under an avalanche of amazing new health “discoveries”. They are urged to put their children on strict diets that are gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo, raw-food, vegan, or fruit-powered diets that claim optimal health and prevent almost any disease that a child can contract. Kids need chiropractic manipulation and don’t need to be vaccinated. The risks are real, and the evidence presented is for the most part unsubstantiated.


Sound advice from Karen Kuperberg, a registered dietician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto:

“Once you start restricting food groups or large chunks of food groups, you start running into problems like vitamin and mineral deficiency. In general, any diets for kids aren’t recommended. You want kids to eat a variety of foods from all food groups.”

Many physicians and dieticians have seen children harmed by these diets. Kuperberg is just one example:

“Kuperberg ….. has seen children in her clinic with everything from cognitive delays to rickets, a softening of the bones due to lack of vitamin D or calcium. One family, she remembers, had a diet that encompassed basically fruit, nuts, seeds and homemade almond milk—and the child came in with vitamin D deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and, well, ‘the list was endless,’ Kuperberg says. Some families dutifully follow Kuperberg’s advice to get their child’s diet back on track. For parents who fail to provide their kids a healthy diet, under worst-case scenarios, she says, Children’s Aid has had to step in.”

Restrictive diets like paleo, raw, or vegan can offer benefits to children. But avoiding serious dietary deficiencies takes a lot of work, and most parents are too stressed and have too little time to oversee every detail of their child’s diet. Tanis Fenton, a dietician and epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, explains:

“A child would have to consume five cups of cooked spinach to get the same amount of calcium as in two cups of milk. A couple of cups of milk is possible in a day. I’ve never met a child that would eat five cups of cooked spinach a day.”

Celebrity Influences

Sound evidence is ignored by some parents in exchange for hype and celebrity endorsements. Professor in law and public health at the University of Alberta and the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, Timothy Caulfield says it best:

“Stories and narratives always win out over the data. One good cover story in People magazine about Kourtney Kardashian (dairy and gluten-free diet) is always going to win out over a whole body of evidence ….. We need better information about what basic nutrition is. We need to have a science-literate society and a food-literate society. The best we can do is work with the best evidence available ….. We’re slipping into this ‘all knowledge is relative’ dark age. You don’t see this in other areas of science. We don’t have alternative physics or people who believe there’s a natural healing force that can be utilized to build bridges. But in health, we have this huge tolerance for this alternative, non-scientific perspective.”

Internet Rife with “Experts”

Devious medical lies and pseudo-scientific claims have found a comfortable home on the internet:

“With cherry-picked scientific evidence, it’s possible to find support for almost any argument, and medical professionals and scientists—no matter their qualifications—now compete on the Internet with alternative health proponents or bloggers who have little more than a personal success story. A claim on Mercola’s website about certain kinds of brassieres potentially causing cancer, for example, cited leaders in the alternative medical field and a 1995 study from an anthropologist. Even though cancer researchers have found no such linkage, the theory circulated far and wide—even ending up on the popular (albeit equally controversial) lifestyle website Goop, curated by Oscar-winning health authority Gwyneth Paltrow.”

No Evidence for Paleo

All glowing claims for the paleo diet are lacking in solid scientific evidence:

“There is no strong scientific evidence at this time for claims that a Paleo Diet helps prevent or treat many medical conditions. Much of what we know about 10,000 years ago is an inference, based on studies of skeletal remains and human artifacts. Our understanding on exactly what composed a true paleolithic diet, and in what quantities, is at most an educated guess…… Even if the claims of the Paleo Diet can be validated, you can't separate it from the overall lifestyle of that age. The rigorous physical demands of living outdoors, hunting, gathering and foraging for food surely contributed to the overall health of these people.”     http://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/the-paleo-diet-back-to-the-stone-age

Gluten-Free: Useless and Sometimes Risky

A gluten-free diet for kids has been gaining some popularity. Once again, important fibre and vitamins are lost or reduced. Extra sugar and salt is often added to make the product tasty for children. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University:

“It’s a restrictive diet that’s totally unnecessary. A gluten-free diet is a life-saving diet for those with celiac disease. But if you don’t have celiac disease, we don’t think it’s a healthy diet ….. If parents buy a lot of products labelled as gluten-free, often when they take gluten out of the product, they add more salt.”

From The Journal of Pediatrics:

“There is arguably no role for a GFD (gluten-free diet) for children outside of treatment of CD (Celiac disease) and wheat allergy. The likelihood of a diagnosis of NCGS (non-Celiac gluten sensitivity) in children is unclear, given the limited data available describing pediatric populations with NCGS.  Certainly there is no evidence to support a GFD for asymptomatic children without CD, or for delaying gluten introduction to infants to prevent CD. Given the substantial nutritional and quality of life risks, a GFD driven by factors apart from the treatment of specific disease or symptoms may carry more risk than benefit for children.”    http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(16)30062-2/fulltext?rss=yes

Fruit and Nut Diet Endangers 11 Month Old

Pennsylvania mom Elizabeth Hawk was a zealous vegan and wanted her eleven month old son off to a healthy start. She began feeding him small meals of only fruits and nuts. Seeing obvious signs of malnutrition, her separated husband (the child’s father) took the boy to a Children & Youth Services agency in nearby Fayette County. The agency immediately brought the child to a West Virginia hospital. According to the Washington Post

“Malnourishment had hindered the boy’s ability to develop, and ignoring the skin condition could have led to septic shock.  Elizabeth Hawk faces charges of child endangerment and was released on her own recognizance.”

The Post also cited recommendations for vegan infants in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association:

“For the first 4 to 6 months, breast milk should be the sole food with soy-based infant formula as an alternative. Commercial soymilk should not be the primary beverage until after age 1 year. Breastfed vegan infants may need supplements of vitamin B-12 if maternal diet is inadequate; older infants may need zinc supplements and reliable sources of iron and vitamins D and B-12. Timing of solid food introduction is similar to that recommended for non-vegetarians. Tofu, dried beans, and meat analogs are introduced as protein sources around 7-8 months. Vegan diets can be planned to be nutritionally adequate and support growth for infants.”

Negligent Veganism

Katya Nova placed her son on a vegan diet but wasn’t meticulous in insuring his nutritional needs:

“That’s a lesson learned the hard way. Originally from Edmonton, Nova had plans to her raise her son Zion on a vegan diet—and she had thousands of Instagram followers giving her plenty of love throughout her journey. But trouble struck when Zion’s teeth started to come in. One tooth, she recalls, had started to crumble apart by his first birthday. ‘It happened so fast,’ Nova says. ‘His teeth are just really weak.’

“She decided to introduce some animal products into Zion’s diet, such as cod liver oil and grass-fed dairy. When she announced her decision on social media, she says, ‘My Instagram followers dropped by 2,000 in 48 hours. There were a lot of angry vegans who said, ‘How dare you use your huge platform to say that a vegan diet may not be suitable to all children?’”

Parent’s Deadly Choice

This Canadian couple received two years in prison for the death of 2-year-old Matinah Hosannah:

“An autopsy concluded that Matinah, who never crawled or walked, died on Feb. 25, 2011, from complications of asthma and malnutrition. The trial heard she had a rare case of rickets, blamed on a lack of Vitamin D, which had also caused two broken bones …… ‘The evidence does not support, and certainly does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that this is a case of parents deliberately starving a child in the sense of withholding food from a hungry child over an extended period.’

“But he said the Hosannahs’ ‘vegan or near vegan’ diet lacked necessary vitamins. ‘It appears that in terms of choices of food, the Hosannahs believed they were doing the right thing, but it turned out to be horribly wrong,’ he said.”    https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/04/10/parents-jailed-in-manslaughter-death-of-2-year-old-girl.html

Another Deadly Choice

A Canadian couple’s son died of meningitis when they opted for remedies based on the pseudo-scientific philosophy of naturopathy instead of taking him to a hospital for a science-based treatment:

“The meningitis death of a 19-month-old boy who suffered for weeks while his parents treated him with home remedies is calling attention to the responsibilities of those who know about child abuse or neglect, but don’t report it.

“David and Collet Stephan were found guilty this week of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their son Ezekiel. Believing he had croup, they treated him with natural medicines such as hot peppers, onions, garlic and horseradish for two and a half weeks before he later died. The Crown said there was no doubt the Stephans loved their child, but didn’t follow the standard of care as set by criminal law.”    http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/what-we-can-learn-from-the-death-of-ezekiel-stephan/

From The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Nutrients that need to be closely monitored when feeding vegetarian or vegan children:

Vitamin B12: Vegetarians can get plenty of B12 from milk products and eggs. Vegans, both breast-feeding moms and children, need a good source of B12. Options include a supplement or fortified foods such as soy beverages, cereals and meat substitutes.

Vitamin D: The AAP recommends all breast-fed infants receive 400 IU per day of supplemental vitamin D starting shortly after birth. This should continue until your child consumes the same amount of vitamin D from fortified milk: at least one quart per day of cow or soy milk.

Calcium:  Breast- and formula-fed babies, as well as toddlers who consume milk and dairy foods, usually get plenty of additional calcium from foods including yogurt and cheese. For vegan toddlers, calcium-fortified foods and beverages or supplements may be necessary. See a registered dietitian nutritionist for advice.

From the Canadian Pediatric Society:

“A well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide for the needs of children and adolescents. However, appropriate caloric intake should be ensured and growth monitored. Particular attention should be paid to adequate protein intake and sources of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamins B12 and D. Supplementation may be required in cases of strict vegetarian diets with no intake of any animal products. Pregnant and nursing mothers should also be appropriately advised to ensure that the nutritional needs of the fetus and infant are adequately met …… Strict vegans are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because this compound is only found in animal products. Supplementation or intake of fortified food is therefore essential. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians can obtain B12 from dairy products and eggs if consumed regularly. Breast milk of strict vegan mothers can be low in B12; therefore, their infants should be supplemented.”      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912628/

Related Posts

Anti-Vaccine: Fraud, Paranoia & Vulnerable Children at Risk  http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2014/12/anti-vaccine-fraud-paranoia-vulnerable.html

21 Quick & Undeniable Facts Exposing Conspiracy Theorists   http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2013/12/conspiracy-theories.html

Liars! How Snake-Oil Doctors Use 5 Logical Fallacies  http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2015/11/liars-how-snake-oil-doctors-shrewdly.html

Pseudo-Health & Snake-Oil: 14 Examples of Faulty Thinking http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/06/pseudo-health-snake-oil-14-concise_22.html

9 Devious Ways Alternative Medicine “Doctors” Deceive Their Patients http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2015/01/9-reasons-why-some-alternative-medicine.html

Chiropractic Insider Reveals Widespread Bogus Practices  http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/07/chiropractic.html

Photo: http://www.imagefully.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Child-Parents-Kissing-You-Baby-Image.jpg

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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