Pregnant, Lactating, or Feeding the Kids: Why Animal Products May Be Crucial

This is page 2 of a 3-page Article. Please begin at Page 1 here, so you know what to feed vegan & vegetarian children for every essential nutrient.

Below I reprint in full Chapter 27 of Beyond Broccoli: Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work (#ad) © 2011 by Susan Schenck. Published by Awakenings Publications. All rights reserved. Reprinted with author’s permission.


To read the cites, please refer to Susan’s book Beyond Broccoli (#ad).

Note:  I do NOT agree with Susan. I am convinced you CAN raise a child vegan but ONLY with in-depth knowledge. I want you to know the dangers.

Chapter 27, part 1

“Veganism [is] a risky way to achieve normal brain development in animals as divergent as rats and humans. That is not to say it is impossible, just more difficult.”

Dr. Stephen C. Cunnane, Survival of the Fattest (#ad)

As we will see in this chapter, certain brain foods from animal products are key factors in reaching a child’s peak brain potential.

Pregnancy Increases Animal Product Needs

There are several nutrients that a pregnant woman needs that are hard to get on a vegetarian diet, let alone vegan: iron, vitamin D, and DHA are among them.

In The Live Food Factor (#ad), three women gave testimony to their successful raw vegan pregnancies. However, all three were very new to their diets when pregnant, so they would have undoubtedly held many nutritional reserves in their bodies.

Nonetheless, for assurance of a smart and healthy baby, I would never recommend that a woman remain vegan while pregnant. Raw yes. Vegan no!

Becoming pregnant after years of veganism is even riskier, as stored nutrients needed by the developing fetus may be depleted. You can compensate somewhat by taking algae with DHA, but algae contain toxins. The fact is, we don’t know enough about nutrition, a relatively new science. It is worth repeating: there could be some elements found only in animal foods that we have not yet discovered.

I am sure you may protest and say you know someone who had a successful child while vegan, but do you know for sure that the child developed his or her full brain possibilities? Defend your philosophy all you want, but is it really worth risking the greatest potential of your child’s health and intelligence? As we’ve seen, fish, shellfish, and/or eggs play a critical role in brain development and maintenance. You definitely increase your child’s odds of fulfilling his or her genetic potential with a nutrient-dense diet.

One study on rats showed that eating the long-chain omega-3 fats DHA and EPA caused their babies to have more brain cells than if they were to take those plant foods with precursors to these long chain fats. You shouldn’t count on your fat conversion rate being high enough if you want your children to have optimal intelligence.[1]

Another study on rats showed that those fed a diet high in choline (found chiefly in eggs, beef, organ meats, and fish) in utero did not experience the normally expected age-related decline.[2] The implication is that the pregnant mom’s diet can help prevent dementia in her offspring.

Stephen Cunnane, author of a textbook on human brain evolution, warns us that “there is just one chance, one critical period, to get brain development correct.”[3] Humans have big brains that need to develop in the womb and very quickly postnatally.

Dr. John Fielder doesn’t agree with veganism. He found that of his vegan patients, three percent had mentally retarded babies, and there was no environmental toxin exposure to explain this. Is it really worth the risk that your child would be mentally challenged just so that you can stick with your vegan diet while pregnant or lactating?

I had heard that low birth weights were bad, but I never knew why. Considering the obesity epidemic, I thought, wouldn’t it benefit a baby to be born thin? Now I know why low birth weights, which are often found among vegans and smokers, can be dangerous. It has to do with the baby’s brain. The baby has three ways to get DHA:

  • It is stored in his or her baby fat. (This is for infants, not adults, so don’t use that as an excuse to be overweight!)
  • Another is to make it from omega-3s.
  • The third is the DHA it gets from mom’s milk or other foods.

Cunnane cites a study by researcher and medical doctor Maureen Hack that showed the importance of a baby’s growing brain. She found that 12 percent of those with very low birth weights had abnormally small head sizes at birth. After 10 weeks, 24 percent had smaller head sizes than normal. After eight months, the figure was 13 percent. This shows how hard it is for the baby’s brain size to catch up, even given proper medical care. The study found that those with a small head at eight months old were almost guaranteed to have poor school age performance.

Her conclusion:

Head circumference during the first year of life is a good measure of quantitative features of normal neurological development: i.e., the size, volume, cell density, and DNA and lipid content of the brain.[4]

One study found that infants born to vegetarian mothers, compared to those born to omnivores, had lower birth weights, head circumferences, and lengths, as well as less DHA in their plasma and cord artery phospholipids.[5]

Michael Crawford, an anthropological expert on the influence of omega-3s and DHA, claims that poor nutrition can even affect the fetus prior to conception. Eating a poor diet reduces the size of follicle development in the mother’s ovary and affects the earliest stages of reproduction.[6]

You also need adequate protein while pregnant, or you risk that your baby’s brain will not reach its full potential. Protein restriction can decrease all the enzymes involved in producing DHA.[7]

Risks of Raising Vegan Children

Malnutrition at birth reduces the number and size of an infant’s brain cells. If malnutrition occurs before the critical period in early infancy when brain cell count is established, it is too late. Brain function will be permanently impaired. If the brain cell count is established as healthy but cell size is small due to malnutrition, proper nutrition can restore some normal brain development.[8]

While some babies can manufacture sufficient DHA from omega-3s in plants, you don’t want to risk that your baby is not good at making those conversions. Besides, don’t you want your kid to be as smart as possible and have an abundance of DHA? The way to ensure that is to give him or her food that has fully formed DHA in it. Furthermore, EPA, a fatty acid for the brain’s well-being, is pretty much only in fish, fish oil, and shellfish, not algae.

Continue to read from Susan’s book ⇨

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