Vegan diets are not tied to birth defects
Yesterday, The Vancouver Sun published an article with a headline declaring “Vegan diets tied to birth defects”, and this got my blood boiling enough to send a letter to the Sun’s Editor, as well as the Canada & World section editor Massey Padgham. You can read the Canwest News Services article here (The Vancouver Sun webpage for the article was not opened up to comments), as well as on The Province’s webpage.
Here is what I wrote:
Re: “Vegan diets tied to birth defects”, 2nd March, 2009
This article does contain some truths, in that a deficiency in one’s diet can lead to birth defects during pregnancy. However, as published in The Vancouver Sun with the headline stating vegan diets are to blame is irresponsible.
Any person can have a B12 deficiency, even someone eating a diet based on meat and dairy products. B12 is a bacterium that is found naturally in soil, but intensive farming practices in the last few decades have depleted soils worldwide to the point that naturally occurring B12 in soil is no longer a reliable source.
B12 occurs in meat and dairy due to bacteria that forms during the processing of meat in slaughterhouses and in dairy and eggs in processing facilities. B12 is sometimes also fed to factory farmed animals if they don’t acquire it directly or indirectly from B12 bacterium from plant sources; it does not occur in meat or dairy products naturally.
As the article states, regardless of their diet all women of childbearing age should be supplementing with B12, not just vegans and vegetarians. Clearly, it’s incorrect to state that a vegan diets leads to a birth defect that could and does happen to anyone regardless of their dietary practices.
While my letter didn’t get published in the paper, here is the response I got this afternoon from Massey Padgham:
Agree. Headline writer honed in on one group that story merely suggested was “at risk”.
This article may have passed under the radar of many readers were it not for the headline used with the printed version of the article, the headline used for the online version of the article did not pinpoint vegean diets. My concern with the print publication was that, once again, misinformation about vegan diets would be spread via irresponsible feamongering by Canwest’s editors.