Vegan Diets May Be Dangerous, Especially for Expectant Mothers and Children
July 14, 2000
Addendum completed on February
Most recent overall update on October 22, 2002
Let me say before we jump into the heart of this matter that I believe most people
who claim to do well long-term on vegan diets do so because they don't follow
their diets strictly. I believe most of those who claim to thrive long-term on
vegan diets occasionally consume animal foods containing essential nutritive factors.
I have come to this conclusion based on almost ten years of extensive postal and
e-mail correspondence sent to me by individuals who have tried to live on various
vegan programs, everything from 100% raw food to fruitarianism to Natural
Hygiene to the Hallelujah Diet preached by George Malkmus
to Arnold Ehret's Mucusless Diet.
I'm unaware of any long-term follow-up studies, anecdotal evidence for strict
vegan diets suggest they do an excellent job for many people who have used them
to overcome major health challenges. There is no question that many people with
terrible health problems have received relief by using a raw foods diet
or a Natural Hygiene diet or George Malkmus's Hallelujah Diet.
any other program, however, some of the people following these vegan diets have
had their health problems return. And, of course, some have also died, as is true
of all health programs and all medical procedures. Unfortunately, with most well-publicized
diet programs, we rarely hear negative reports involving disappointments and that
omission has always bothered me because it shades the truth.
people who find their health restored by a vegan diet usually believe they've
now found the only way to eat. I've learned from painful personal experience that
this can be a dangerous assumption long-term.
further preliminaries, let me reveal why I now believe vegan diets may be dangerous
in the long-term for those who actually follow them strictly and especially so
for expectant mothers and children.
thoughts on this topic came together for me in the summer of 2002 when I received
a Back to the Garden newsletter mass mailed by George Malkmus that
featured two articles about mothers and babies following the Hallelujah
Diet. The articles lead readers to the conclusion, on the basis of perhaps
a half dozen "testimonies," that a restrictive, low-calorie, low-fat
vegan diet is ideal for expectant mothers as well as for nursing mothers and their
babies and children.
I managed the Hallelujah Acres web site and worked with George Malkmus
for 18 months until January of 1999, some people still mistakenly associate my
name with the Hallelujah Diet.
good conscience I must make it crystal clear that I consider strict adherence
to the Hallelujah Diet as currently taught by George Malkmus, as
well as any other strict vegan diet, to be dangerous for expectant
mothers, nursing moms, babies, and children.
also now consider strict vegan diets to be
potentially deficient for teenagers who burn a lot of calories each day and whose
growing bones and bodies still require a full spectrum of nutrients. This appears
from my correspondence to be true for most adults, as well, if they follow a vegan
diet strictly for a year or two or more.
October of 2002, unequivocable evidence came in proving how
dangerous long-term adherence to the Genesis 1:29 can be. Click
here to read my review of Greg Westbrook's groundbreaking
When Hallelujah Becomes "What Happened?"
- Crashing on the Vegan Diet. Or click
here to order a copy of this must read book for
anyone on the Gen 1:29 program.]
will now specifically address the Hallelujah Diet because it is
the vegan diet most often still associated with my name, but what I have to say
holds true for all diets that prohibit eating all animal foods.
on the Hallelujah Diet are told to eat no meat, no white flour,
no dairy, no sugar, and no salt. They are told to drink carrot juice (at least
16 ounces a day) and their water should be distilled, though a filtered and ozonated
water has also been approved as a viable alternative. The diet calls for no solid
food other than fruit or salad before the evening meal, which consists of a large
salad followed by cooked, vegetarian fare. The diet also includes a tablespoon
of a blended oil each day and a recently-added B12 supplement, as well as a super
green drink three times a day.
the Hallelujah Diet helps many adults with health or weight challenges,
according to the short-term testimonies published in their print and e-mail newsletters,
I know from correspondence and my own experience with unedited and uncensored
discussion lists that many people are not able to stay on the program for more
than a few weeks or months. For those who do follow it
strictly, I believe this diet may cause serious problems long-term, particularly
for mothers, babies, and children, and most especially in neurological and skeletal
development of infants and children.
clarify my position, let me list the major areas where I agree and disagree with
the Hallelujah Diet.
dietary matters, I believe most people can attain a high level of health from
eating a predominantly plant-based, uncooked, whole food diet. I agree that sugar
and white flour and processed foods with additives contribute to disease. I agree
that having fresh vegetable juice each day is a wise thing to do. I think a super
green drink is an excellent supporter of health for many people. I agree that
one also needs a source of essential fatty acids each day. And if one is a vegan,
I agree that B12 supplementation is an absolute must, as the researcher for the
Hallelujah Diet recently recommended.
here's where I part company with the Hallelujah Diet.
I think it's important to drink some pure water each day, though as of August
2002 I have begun to seriously question the oft-heard
injunction in the natural health world to drink a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses
every day. Hallelujah Acres says to consume liquid from juices and
downplays the idea of consuming much water. Although my suspicion is that the
body does not treat water the same as it treats juice, my current thinking is
that listening to our body's requests for liquid may be the most sensible approach.
Although I abstained from all forms of salt for several years, I no longer believe
it's healthy to avoid salt for long periods. I now use Celtic sea salt
pretty regularly and now believe the human body makes good use of minimally processed
sea salt for many bodily functions. Modern medicine, as it often does, seems to
be coming full circle on the salt question, and fairly recent studies reveal that
consumption of some salt may be necessary for long-term health. See "Dietary
salt reduction in hypertension--what is the evidence and why is it still controversial?"
in Prog Cardiovasc Dis 1999 Jul-Aug; 42(1):23-38.
present understanding is that good health involves a balance of salt and potassium.
Although illnesses do develop from too much salt -- and most people on the standard
American diet use far too much highly-processed, supermarket salt -- evidence
mounts that long-term avoidance of salt can also be detrimental.
you'd like interesting reading on the value of using Celtic sea salt, check
out their web site by clicking
we're on the topic of salt, let me repeat what I've written many times before:
I consider Bragg Liquid Aminos a poor salt substitute since it is made
from soybeans, a food stuff currently receiving a lot of bad press in the natural
health field. Many use the Bragg product to improve the flavor of their meals.
I suggest Celtic sea salt will do the same thing without the possible dangers
of a soy-based product.
Instead of drinking straight carrot juice, which is extremely
high on the glycemic index and thus dangerous for diabetics, candida sufferers,
and those with hypo or hyperglycemia, I prefer vegetable juices with no more than
1/4 carrot juice as the base. When I juice these days, my juice is predominantly
composed of leafy greens, celery, zucchini, bok choy, and so on. I continue to
believe that juicing is an excellent thing to do for the serious health seeker,
and I just wish most people had enough time to do it more often. My current understanding
of juicing is that it works best when there's a balance of variously-colored vegetables
in the juice.
I think it's important for most people, especially individuals
like me who zealously followed strict vegan diets for several years, to eat some
"clean" and minimally processed animal foods as their body needs point
out to them.
currently eat health food store butter and free-range eggs as well as deep sea
don't drink milk, though I will occasionally have some organic, raw milk cheese
or yogurt made from cows that are pasture fed and not injected with antibiotics
and hormones. I try to avoid all supermarket dairy products.
In September of 2002, we added grass-fed, organic beef to our diets. I eat these
animal foods when my body tells me I need them. I'll go for days (and sometimes
weeks) without an egg, and suddenly I'll know by a strong craving that I need
some eggs, so I'll eat them until that feeling goes away. Ditto for fish. Ditto
for cheese. Ditto for beef and chicken.
ovo-lacto vegetarian diet (plants and eggs and dairy) seems to me to be
an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid eating animal flesh.
they aren't comfort-food related and generated for psychological or stress-based
reasons, food cravings often suggest your diet isn't working for you.
Listen to your body. It knows what it's talking about. Even cravings for junk
food may well be telling you that you're not getting enough concentrated foods,
or some other needed factor, in your diet.
some pundit misinterprets or tries to twist what I'm suggesting, I do not urge
you to run down to the local Dairy Queen when you suddenly crave ice cream.
Instead, entertain the possibility that your body needs some animal fat to help
utilize fat-soluble vitamins and other factors not present in strict vegan diets.
you want a Big Mac, your body's probably telling you it needs some meat.
But instead of eating the highly-processed fast food hamburger, seek out the best
quality meat you can find at a health food store and then eat it and enjoy it.
Guilt contributes nothing to human health.
I continue to believe that a predominantly plant-based and uncooked diet is the
best thing for the long- term health of most people. Personally, I would estimate
somewhere between 5% and 15% of my current diet (as of August, 2002) includes
animal foods. Animal foods probably compose closer to 20% of the diet of my wife
and sons, and they eat more cooked foods to meet their energy requirements. As
a side note, I generally find that animal foods satisfy my appetite much more
than vegan choices.
and Other Deficiencies
To return to my main reason for publicly
rejecting the Natural Hygiene, Hallelujah Diet, and other vegan programs that
I once praised so highly, I do so because I find deeply disturbing the suggestion
in the Summer/Fall 2002 issue of Back to the Garden that the Hallelujah
Diet is ideal for expectant mothers and children. I was especially concerned
because the Hallelujah Acres' researcher, Michael Donaldson, a Cornell Ph.D.,
pointed out in the same issue in his excellent B12 article: "Our
study revealed early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency in 26 of the 54 people tested,
after following the Hallelujah Diet for as little as two to four years."
Donaldson includes a list of all major sources of B12 in a vegan diet and observes,
"We see then that dietary vegan sources of vitamin B12 are very sparse since
plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 in appreciable amounts." He concludes
that all vegans must take a B12 supplement.
in my opinion, Dr. Donaldson's important conclusions about B12 deficiencies and
how they can affect infants weren't even mentioned in the two articles aimed at
mothers and babies, a particularly vulnerable group. Here's what Dr. Donaldson
reported, three sentences that should have been included in both articles about
on the published studies and our results, adequate vitamin B12 status of vegans
cannot be taken for granted. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants, and small
children are particularly vulnerable to B12 shortages. Ensuring adequate B12 is
critical for normal neurological development and maintenance, with shortages resulting
in permanent damage."
an editor, I know many readers can be expected to read only certain articles in
a publication. As an editor, I would have felt obligated to highlight these critical
three sentences in a sidebar box in each of the two articles aimed directly at
expectant mothers so there would be no chance that a mom might miss the fact that
she HAS to supplement with B12 if she's going to follow the Hallelujah Diet as
recommended and not risk causing irreparable problems for her baby.
in my opinion, a vegetarian-sourced addition of B12 supplementation will not solve
all problems of deficiency on a vegan diet, especially for mothers, babies, children,
and growing teenagers. With additional reading and corresponding on my part since
January of 1999, I now believe that deficiencies of Vitamin D, zinc, iron, and
calcium -- and probably numerous other nutritional factors that haven't yet been
identified -- can and do occur in strict vegans.
applaud Dr. Donaldson for his important work, work that has now scientifically
confirmed for the vegan world flaws that were anecdotally observed -- but widely
ignored and loudly disparaged by those who did take note of them -- in the 1950s
in the Natural Hygiene world by Dr. Christopher Gian-Cursio when many of his long-term
patients and second and third generation vegan children did not thrive.
attributed the problems to deficiencies in Vitamin B12. Cursio's student, Dr.
Stanley S. Bass, later discovered that a vegan diet was also often deficient in
Vitamin D. Apparently sunshine is not enough. Cursio's patients and their children
only regained their health when they added egg yolks and raw milk cheese to their
diet, as well as blended salads -- the Natural Hygiene equivalent of daily juicing.
You must read this important information in its entirety and you can do so by
clicking here. (This is
a pdf file, so be patient while it loads into your browser.)
reading the Cursion-Bass insights, be sure to take particular note of the information
regarding researcher Dr. Weston Price, who traveled the world in search
of an ideal diet.
can also learn a lot from long-term vegan Dr. Stanley S. Bass, who is now a convincing
advocate for the inclusion of animal foods, at his web
site. Other long-term vegans whose health and energy levels went downhill
reveal what they've learned at the excellent Beyond
Vegetarianism web site.
researching the B12 topic on Medline, I was especially troubled by an article
entitled "Persistence of neurological damage induced by dietary vitamin B-12
deficiency in infancy" which was published in Arch Dis Child 1997
Aug;77(2):137-9. The abstract read, "A case is reported of a 14 month old
boy with severe dietary vitamin B-12 deficiency caused by his mother's vegan diet.
Clinical, electroencephalography (EEG), and haematological findings are described.
Cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed severe frontal and frontoparietal
cranial atrophy. Vitamin B-12 supplements led to a rapid improvement of haematological
and neurological symptoms. Serum vitamin B-12 and urinary methylmalonate excretion
were normal 10 days after treatment began. After six weeks, EEG was normal and
cranial MRI after 10 weeks showed complete disappearance of all structural abnormalities.
Cognitive and language development, however, remained seriously retarded at the
age of 2 years. It is concluded that infantile vitamin B-12 deficiency induced
by maternal vegan diets may cause lasting neurodisability even though vitamin
B-12 supplementation leads to rapid resolution of cerebral atrophy and electroencephalographic
note the terribly important last two sentences:
"Cognitive and language development, however, remained seriously retarded
at the age of 2 years. It is concluded that infantile vitamin B-12 deficiency
induced by maternal vegan diets may cause lasting neurodisability even though
vitamin B-12 supplementation leads to rapid resolution of cerebral atrophy and
other words, some B12 deficiency damage can not be reversed in the crucial areas
of neurological development and functioning.
closing this section, I'd like to quote from The
Weston A. Price Foundation web site, a site devoted to traditional diets that
have a great deal to teach modern health seekers:
wisdom of primitive peoples is vastly superior to our own in this regard, in that
a common practice among isolated groups is the feeding of special foods to both
men and women for a period of time before conception occurs. Dr. Weston Price's
studies revealed that these foods -- including organ meats, fish heads, fish eggs,
shell fish, insects and animal fats -- were rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and
D as well as macro and trace minerals. Couples planning to have children should
eat liberally of organic liver and other organ meats, fish eggs and other seafood,
eggs and the best quality butter, cream and fermented milk products they can obtain
for at least six months before conception. A daily cod liver oil supplement is
also advised. Organic meats, vegetables, grains and legumes should round out the
diet, with a special emphasis on the leafy green vegetables rich in folic acid,
which is necessary for the prevention of birth defects like spinal bifida. (Click
here to read the complete article.)
Unfortunately, rather than reading hundreds of studies
on veganism and vegetarianism at Medline
to get a balanced view, many health seekers all-too-often wed themselves to ideas
about diet that they then want to remain loyal to for the rest of their lives,
even when their own health begins to suffer. I know this because I've been there,
and I've had my attachments to more than one idea or school of thought or so-called
expert that I didn't want to give up on.
years of correspondence on the Internet with thousands of health seekers, however,
has forced me to realize that achieving superior health is not as simple as many
gurus would have us believe.
health writers negate much of the good that their basic regimen offers because
they refuse to make improvements that conflict with their theories. Sadly, ego
often blocks the path of an honest search for the truth. From hard experience,
I now realize that ultimate health comes from balance and being open to all kinds
of information that will help you learn to interpret the signals coming from your
hope you will research diet and health carefully so you can make the best decisions
for yourself and your family. If you or your spouse or your children aren't thriving
on a strict vegan diet, doesn't it make sense to do research on your own rather
than to rely on some self-proclaimed expert who in reality doesn't have as firm
a grasp on the truth as his strong voice from the lecture of health might lead
you to believe?
not the only former vegan who feels this way. One of my colleagues here on the
Internet, who also corresponds weekly with hundreds of health seekers, has reached
conclusions similar to mine. To read the important story of an expectant mother
who realized in time that a strict vegan diet might harm her and her unborn child,
click here to
see how many well-known natural health authorities also ate and recommended eating
some clean animal foods. Sadly, several of these authorities are cited as being
strict vegans by many of the vegan gurus, when, in truth, that just wasn't the
closing, the modern Western diet sickens us with its overload of meat, salt, bad
fats, white sugar, white flour, and its deficiency of living foods. But to totally
forego all animal foods -- and salt, which I'll write about in a future article
-- can lead to trouble down the road, trouble that can sometimes remain undetected
until irreparable damage is done.
famous writer and ex-vegan by the name of Upton Sinclair, the activist
who forced the meat-packing industry to clean up its act many decades ago when
he wrote The Jungle, found he couldn't maintain his work levels on a vegan
sadly that he hated to give up veganism, Sinclair did so nonetheless because he
found his brain just wouldn't function at an optimal level on fruits, vegetables,
juice, nuts, and seeds. He turned to Salisbury steak as his answer.
Upton Sinclair was nearly crucified by his vegan friends for changing his diet
and writing about the positive results from the change, he maintained that he
went where the truth led him.
feel the same way.
increasingly disturbed by the number of letters coming in from individuals who
have had their health and well-being deteriorate after following a strict vegan
or raw food program for various lengths of time.
just a minute I'll share with you the most recent letter, this one from a woman
who ate a raw food, vegan diet for several years and who developed spleen deficiencies
and other problems.
pattern I've been monitoring in email for several years now suggests that the
longer a person stays on a strict vegan diet (with little or no "cheating"),
the more apt that person is to develop not only deficiency symptoms but potentially
even chronic health problems.
I'm not the only former vegan and raw foodist seeing this pattern, I seem to be
one of the few who actually writes about it and discusses it in public. For various
reasons, many former (and most current) vegans and raw foodists don't want to
publicly confront the problems with their idealistic diets, though many are willing
to share their observations and experiences with me in private. But that's a whole
Commonly Reported Problems and Symptoms
are the most commonly reported symptoms from long-term vegans and raw foodists
who have been forced to add some animal fat and protein back into their diets
to regain or maintain superior health, energy, and well-being?
are the symptoms and problems I hear about in mail from long-term vegans and raw
foodists on an all-too-regular basis:
milk production for nursing mothers, as well as retarded physical and mental development
in some children who are strictly on a vegan or raw food diet;
metabolism leading to a much less robust lifestyle;
general lack of vitality;
body temperature (always cold);
weak, touchy digestive system with a loss of digestive strength (unable to metabolize
food quickly, have to be careful what you eat, how much, must practice food combining
to be able to digest food, etc.);
cravings (especially among women);
weight loss because metabolism is too low (predominately in women);
to gain weight, resulting in shrunken, cadaverous-looking bodies (predominately
gains from overeating on carbohydrates;
(menstrual cycles cease), even in young women;
loss and nail problems;
cavities, tooth loss, and gum problems;
know, one of the things that disturbs and puzzles me the most about long-term
veganism and raw foodism is that so many of the above problems disappear when
a person initially goes on a strict vegan or raw food diet and begins the detox
process. I know this was true in my case, and I know it's also been true in thousands
of other instances.
and this is a very large and loud but
unfortunately these health gains don't
last for most people who stick with a strict vegan or raw food diet, especially
when we're talking about adhering to such a program for periods of years. Indeed,
all too often the old symptoms and diseases return or, just as worrisome, new
health problems begin to manifest as a result of what appear to me to be inherent
deficiencies brought about from the lack of various nutritional factors (both
known and unknown by science) that are only present in foods from the animal kingdom.
it be nice to see some truly objective research that would get to the bottom of
the relationship between long-term veganism and chronic health problems and symptoms
like the ones listed above?
that kind of research is done (and don't hold your breath waiting for someone
to fund it), we'll have to rely on the same anecdotal evidence to show veganism
and raw foodism doesn't work for everyone that the vegan and raw food gurus rely
on to "prove" their programs do work for everyone.
on to see what I mean
DIET AND RAW FOOD PROBLEMS
was wondering if you've heard anything about the association between a predominantly
raw food diet and a Chinese diagnosis called spleen deficiency?
was following the [biblical nutrition] diet for the past few years and would say
that I was faithful except for the occasional inclusion of a very small amount
of dairy and eggs and consumed approximately 50% raw instead of 80%. Every once
in a while I would eat a vegetarian burrito or pizza or pasta from a restaurant
but would usually request no dairy. I was very faithful with my juicing and consumed
a lot of BarleyLife.
the scoop. For the past 6 months I slowly developed a chronic rhinitis condition
and have felt exceptionally chilled all the time. In addition, I felt exhausted
and had difficulty maintaining my quality of life. My allergist said that I'm
suffering from non-allergic and allergic rhinitis and the only thing he could
do is prescribe drugs.
decided to go to a traditional Chinese medical doctor (licensed acupuncturist)
who diagnosed me as having a spleen deficiency that was probably caused by grief/stress
in my life and too much raw food. She explained that she's not saying that raw
food is a bad thing, just that I, personally, am not the type of person who can
handle large quantities of it. I tend to be more on the cold side (yin) and since
raw food is cooling to the body I need to limit my consumption. Of course in the
summertime, when the temperature is warmer, and thus I'm warmer, I can increase
I have dropped my raw food consumption to a minimal amount, added fish and more
eggs to my diet, while maintaining my high quality whole foods diet with lots
of lightly cooked veggies. With the diet change and acupuncture/herbal treatments
along with other tips to warm up my body like ginger tea and a hot water bottle,
I'm starting to feel better.
any of this sound familiar to you? The one size fits all attitude about diet,
I'm realizing, isn't true. Your input would be appreciated. I know you hear from
a lot of people and I'm thinking you may have run into a similar situation.
Anna, yes, what you say is all too familiar, and, at this point in my learning
curve, all I can say is that it's clear to me that most
people need -- to thrive for an entire life -- a balanced diet which includes
plenty of pure water and whole foods from both plant and animal kingdoms.
we are opportunistic omnivores by nature,
it only makes sense that our bodies will run best on the fuel we were designed
to run on: foods from both plant and animal kingdoms.
and morally, I certainly wish otherwise, but, hey, if wishing could create the
world, this old globe would be a much better place than it is in reality.
pigs would be able to fly, too.
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