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Breast-feeding by Vegetarians Linked to Health Ills in Babies

  1. #1
    rani's Avatar
    rani is offline Administrator
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    Sep 2002
    Pokfulam, Hong Kong

    Breast-feeding by Vegetarians Linked to Health Ills in Babies

    Breast-feeding by Vegetarians Linked to Health Ills in Babies
    Neurological problems traced to lack of vitamin B12

    By Amanda Gardner
    HealthScoutNews Reporter

    THURSDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthScoutNews ) -- Vegetarian women who breast-feed may be putting their babies at risk for neurological problems.
    U.S. health officials are reporting that two children in Georgia who were experiencing various neurological problems, including speech and motor delays, were diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency last year.

    The officials are blaming it on the mothers, both of whom breast-fed their children and both of whom were vegetarians.

    The cases, which appear to be part of an upward trend, are detailed in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Jan. 31.

    "The clinicians we worked with are concerned. They're seeing it more often," says Maria Elena Jefferds, Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

    Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and also is involved in making DNA. It is found primarily in animal products such as fish, meat, dairy products and eggs, putting vegetarians at a heightened risk for deficiency, the report says.

    Pregnant women, along with women who are lactating, need to be especially vigilant. According to the CDC, the most common cause of cobalamin deficiency in infants and young children is a mother who lacks this essential nutrient.

    While the damage may be reversible, that may not always be the case.

    The first child discussed in the CDC report was a girl hospitalized in August 2001 for lethargy and "failure to thrive." She was 15 months old at the time. Her mother, who had been a vegan for the preceding seven years, had breast-fed her daughter for eight months. Although the mother reported taking nutritional and vitamin supplements, it wasn't clear how much cobalamin they contained.

    The girl, now 31 months old and on cobalamin supplements, is improving. At 28 months, her fine motor skills were appropriate for a nine-month-old, her gross motor skills were at 18 months and her expressive language was at 10 months.

    The second case involved a boy who, at 30 months, was hospitalized with a diagnosis of "failure to thrive," as well as poor motor and speech development. He had been breast-fed exclusively for the first nine months of his life by a mother who had been a vegetarian for 20 years.

    After receiving cobalamin supplements every other day, he, too, is playing catch-up to his peers. About six months after beginning treatment, the 4-year-old still had delays in speech and motor skills, but his gross motor skills were appropriate for his age, the CDC says.

    "It looks like both children have bounced back pretty well," Jefferds says. "Their impairments will be resolved through time, but it's hard to know when you have this kind of impairment. You just have to see what happens as they get older."

    The message here is simple: Vegetarians, especially ones who are pregnant or lactating, need to take a cobalamin supplement or eat fortified foods. Lactating women, even more than pregnant women, are at risk for cobalamin deficiency, Jefferds says.

    "You can live a perfectly healthy life without eating animal foods as long as you consume B12, whether from supplements or another reliable source [such as fortified breakfast cereal]," she says.

    Some cereals, meat substitutes, soy and rice beverages, and nutritional yeast are fortified with cobalamin, the CDC says. Check the label and check with your doctor

    For more on cobalamin, including recommended daily allowances, visit the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center , or the Nemours Foundation.
    Founder of GeoBaby.Com

  2. #2
    Ringmaster is offline Registered User
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    Jan 2003
    Discovery Bay

    Flawed Study

    The headlines reporting this study around the world made it appear that breastfeeding was the cause of the babies' ill health. This interesting rebuttal offers some insight into some of the problems with this study. Also, when you read the study in it's entirety, the authors make a point of stating that breastfeeding was still better than any alternative in these 2 cases.

    The author of this rebuttal has his own set of biases, but his exporation of the study does reveal several flaws:

    Do Vegan Diets Result in Sick B-12-Deficient Babies?

    Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced
    the results of a two-year-old study, consisting of a
    population of only two subjects. That's a study? That barely
    qualifies for anecdotal evidence. As a matter of fact, in
    this outrageous case, the jump to conclusions was a leap of
    bad faith having nothing to do with actual details.

    Yahoo News source page

    CDC should control the release of misleading and deceptive
    headlines. In this instance, CDC's lie resulted in page-1

    According to their biased and unfounded interpretation,
    breast-fed infants of vegan mothers develop brain

    Dr. Maria Elena Jefferds of CDC reported that because vegan
    mothers eat no animal or dairy products, too little Vitamin
    B-12 reaches their growing infants.

    Jefferds was aware that one of the mothers was actually
    taking TwinLab Stress B Complex Caps, containing 250 mcg of
    cobalamin concentrate, according to the label.

    Jefferds' study includes a recommended dose of less than 1/2
    microgram per day for a child under the age of six months.
    In fact, Table number two of her paper recommends 2.4
    micrograms of B-12 for adults, 2.6 micrograms of B-12 for
    pregnant mothers, and 2.8 micrograms of B-12 for nursing
    mothers. This was clearly not a case of a mother taking too
    little B-12. This was a case of a child, or children, not
    being able to process Vitamin B-12.

    In addition to her study, Jefferds editorialized the
    negative impact that vegan diets have on infants. The
    problem is one of deception. You see, both mothers had been
    taking Vitamin B-12 supplements throughout their pregnancy
    and during their nursing periods.

    Jeffords' 2001 study was published two years after the fact,
    in the January 31, 2003 issue of CDC's Morbidity and
    Mortality report (52:61-64). The actual study:

    Remarkably, both children were treated in genetic clinics by
    physicians who specialize in genetic disorders. Apparently,
    these two infants were affected by a rare set of
    circumstances in which they were unable to adequately
    utilize existing B-12. Despite the representations made by
    headline-writers, one mother was not a strict vegetarian,
    often eating fish, chicken, and beef. The first mother had a
    difficult pregnancy, complicated by prolonged nausea and
    vomiting. How can this be blamed on B-12 deficiency, when
    she was getting more than the required amount of B-12
    through her supplement?

    Her child was born with extreme cerebral cortical atrophy,
    despite the fact that the mother was taking a B-12 enriched
    vitamin pill. Jefferds' actual publication admits that this
    mom was taking vitamins, but neglects to analyze the actual
    B-12 level. Amazing. Instead, the author jumps to her very
    biased conclusions concerning vegan diets.

    After the child was hospitalized, she was given Vitamin B-12
    orally and intramuscularly. Three days later, the infant
    experienced epileptic seizures. This was a child who could
    not process Vitamin B-12. Subsequent brain scans revealed
    cerebral cortical atrophy.

    The second child had been given cow's milk-based formula,
    with small amounts of fish, meat, and cheese. In no way
    could this be considered a vegan diet.

    His mother took Twinlab B complex vitamins during pregnancy.
    These vitamins contained concentrated amounts of B-12. She
    was vegan, and she was taking a source of B-12. On this rare
    occasion, her child, like the first one, could not process
    the exogenous B-12. Blaming this on a vegan diet is

    The prevalence of Vitamin B-12 deficiency for children under
    the age of 4 years is so rare that it is unique. No such
    studies appear in the medical literature for one very good
    reason. The theory is that the human placenta absorbs B-12
    from the lower intestinal tract. Children will store B-12 in
    their livers, so B-12 deficiencies are unheard of, because
    they are so rare. Of course, in cases of genetics, anything
    can happen.

    In 1996, Victor Herbert determined that B-12 deficiency is
    rare among vegans, even though most do not take supplemental
    B-12. His landmark work was published in the American
    Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 59(suppl), pp. 1213S-
    1222S. Herbert wrote:

    "To a great extent, B-12 is recycled from liver bile in the
    digestive system...The enterohepatic circulation of vitamin
    B-12 is very important in vitamin B-12 economy and
    homeostasis...bodies reabsorb 3-5 mcg of bile vitamin B-12.
    Because of this, an efficient enterohepatic circulation
    keeps the adult vegan, who eats very little vitamin B-12,
    from developing B-12 deficiency disease..."

    Ignoring the above evidence, Jefferds writes:

    "Persons who follow vegetarian diets should ensure adequate
    cobalamin (B-12) intake."

    This scientist is aware that both mothers did just that by
    taking supplements. Her written statement was irresponsibly

    Jefferds adds:

    "The only reliable unfortified sources are animal products,
    including meat, dairy products, and eggs."

    Pure unethical nonsense. The study and its conclusions and
    the media coverage are deceptive, at the very least.

    I reached Dr. Jefferds at her home on Saturday, a few
    minutes after the space shuttle disaster. I took careful
    notes of our conversation. Although she informed me that she
    was packing to go on a trip, we did spend about ten minutes
    on the phone, having a cordial and detailed conversation. I

    "Were you surprised about the media response to your study?"

    She said, "Very much so. We reported our findings and
    intended for them to be received in a much broader

    I commented:

    "Aren't you aware that in utero, the fetal human absorbs
    vitamin B-12 through the placenta, which in turn absorbs B-
    12 from the lower intestinal tract?"

    She responded,

    "Oh, of course I am aware of that, but the medical
    literature does not reveal the amounts that are absorbed,
    nor do we have universal standards. Our knowledge is
    lacking, and more investigation is called for."

    I asked,

    "The mothers were both taking B-12 during their pregnancies
    and during breastfeeding. Did you determine exactly what
    pill the first mother was taking?"

    Her response:

    "No, we did not determine that."

    I then asked:

    "It is clear that the second mother was taking 250
    micrograms of B-12 each day. Is it your conclusion that
    exogenous B-12 in pill form does not work?"

    Her response:

    "I am not a clinician. You should speak to one of my co-
    authors, Paul Fernhoff, MD. I will have him get in touch
    with you." Dr. Fernhoff is a clinical geneticist, practicing
    in Atlanta, Georgia. If and when Dr. Fernhoff calls, I will
    clue you in on his responses to my questions.

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    Robert Cohen, author of: MILK A-Z
    Executive Director ([email protected])
    Dairy Education Board

  3. #3
    rani's Avatar
    rani is offline Administrator
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    Thanks Ringmaster for sharing the rebuttal.

    Founder of GeoBaby.Com

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