Is the Standard American Diet Child Abuse?
A proposed Italian law has put the spotlight on the merits of a vegan diet for children. In four cases in recent months, Italian children have been hospitalized for micronutrient deficiencies purportedly related to the vegan diet fed them by their parents. The proposed law recommends prison sentences for up to four years for parents who provide their children with an inadequate diet which leads to illness.
The vegan community in Italy has been hitting back. Reports the Independent, "Andrea Ghiselli, president of the Italian Society of Food Science, told La Repubblica that there was no evidence that a vegan diet was healthier than an omnivorous one, or that it was a health risk. 'The western diet as it is today exposes us to much greater risks than a vegan diet,' he said, according to a translation by The Local."
John McDougall, MD, agrees. In 2012, he responded to a new Florida state law which imposes stricter criminal penalties on those who do not report cases of child abuse. Dr. McDougall saw his opportunity and responsibility to speak out on behalf of the children suffering the effects of the Western diet fed to them by their families. In the video below, Dr. McDougall tells how he fulfilled his responsibility as a mandated reporter of child abuse:
Dr. McDougall points the finger at the Western diet for causing "30 percent of the kids [to be] overweight and obese, causing them to have acne, precocious puberty, stomach aches, headaches, and so on. If it was inflicted by a brutal man with a stick," says Dr. McDougall, "it would cause that man to go to jail, and everybody would be happy about it."
Parents must protect their children from diet-related illness, regardless of the diet the family practices. High calorie, low nutrient food is just as dangerous to a child's health as is a lack of nutritious food. Malnutrition is usually associated with third world countries, but according to a report in the Guardian, more than half of all American children do not get enough vitamin D or E, and over a quarter are insufficient in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A. So while it is vital that vegan parents ensure adequate nutritional intake for their children, it is equally vital that omnivore parents ensure their children are receiving all the micronutrients necessary for optimal growth and development.
A diet including meat, eggs, and dairy is clearly no guarantee against micronutrient deficiency in childhood. The guarantee that children need is parents who are informed about the foods which will build health for their children. A whole-food diet of vegetables, beans, fruit, whole grains, plus some nuts and seeds, provides all the nutrients children need to develop strong minds and strong bodies.
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