Vegan Diets May Be Dangerous, Especially for Expectant Mothers and
July 14, 2000
Addendum completed on February 27, 2002
Most recent overall update on October 22, 2002
My Plate resource added on April 6, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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
here to read my review of Greg Westbrook's
groundbreaking When Hallelujah
Becomes "What Happened?" - Crashing on the Vegan Diet.
here to order a copy of this must read
book for anyone on the Gen 1:29 program.]
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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 expectant mothers:
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."
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.
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
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.
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 electroencephalographic abnormality."
words, some B12 deficiency damage can not be reversed in the crucial
areas of neurological development and functioning.
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.
Unfortunately, rather than reading hundreds of scientific studies
on veganism and vegetarianism 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 body.
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?
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 case.
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.
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 diet.
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.
the same way.
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.
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.
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
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,
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
cravings (especially among women);
weight loss because metabolism is too low (predominately in women);
to gain weight, resulting in shrunken, cadaverous-looking bodies
(predominately in men);
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?
resource posted April 6, 2015:
here for The MY PLATE Resource Guide: Help Decide if
MyPlate is Helping or Hurting. This excellent web page,
which is to be updated regularly, includes a historical comparison
of past USDA recommended programs including the Food Pyramid as
well as commentary and analysis of the programs. This
resource is a useful and intelligent starting point to better
understand the often confusing subject of "healhty diets"
until comprehensive and truly objective research is done (and don't
hold your breath waiting for someone to fund that), 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
VEGAN DIET AND
RAW FOOD PROBLEMS
wondering if you've heard anything about the association between
a predominantly raw food diet and a Chinese diagnosis called spleen
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
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.
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 my consumption.
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.
would be able to fly, too.
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