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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE May 3, 2002

Doctors Ask Reporters to Stop Misusing the V Word in Story about Undernourished Baby

Parents Aren't Really Vegan; Well-Planned Vegan Diet Is Safe, Healthy, and Superior to Other Eating Styles, Say Physicians

WASHINGTON—In the wake of reports of a misguided New York couple who refused to breastfeed or provide baby formula for their infant daughter, many reporters have mistakenly suggested that the couple was following a "vegan" diet. Headlines have implied such a diet is not healthy. Because a vegan diet is safe, increasingly popular, and nutritionally superior to other diets, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine wants to prevent further misunderstandings.

"Vegan diets provide excellent nutrition for all stages of childhood, from birth through adolescence," says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. "In fact, vegetarian children grow up to be slimmer, healthier, and live longer than their meat-eating friends. Raising your children on a well-balanced plant-based diet is one of the best gifts you can ever give them."

"Unfortunately, the Swintons reportedly did not provide the first step in good nutrition," continues Dr. Barnard. "All infants should be breastfed. If this is not possible, then a baby formula must be used, ideally a soy-based one to avoid the allergies and other problems that can come from dairy-based formulas." The New York couple was not using a vegan diet, as they reportedly gave their child cod-liver oil which is derived from fish.

All major health authorities, including the American Dietetic Association, recognize that vegan and vegetarian diets supply solid nutrition when appropriately planned. Moreover, many studies show that a vegan diet offers nutritional advantages to growing bodies and minds. Leading baby expert Dr. Benjamin Spock embraced the use of vegan diets in the 7th edition of Baby and Child Care, the leading guide for parents.

Vegan babies, like all infants, are raised with mother's milk or formula, eventually followed by fortified infant cereal and mashed fruits and vegetables. At approximately six to eight months, parents can begin introducing vegetables, fruits, breads, and protein-rich foods such as tofu or beans that have been cooked well and mashed.

When children are old enough to rely on solid food exclusively, a vegan diet consists of a wide variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Such a diet offers plenty of protein and calcium and other nutrients. To ensure adequate vitamin B-12, any common children's multivitamin does the trick.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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